March 25, 2013 – 4:33 am

The real aural wallpaper.

Click on the panels for a better view or to download artwork.

Play George Lewis and Jim O’Rourke [no label, 1CD]

Live at the Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, UK; December 1, 2012 and broadcast on BBC Jazz on 3, February 18, 2013. Ex FM stereo.

” ‘Trade shoes with the person on your right’ and ‘Play in the style that would be appropriate to accompany a belly dance’ - not the usual sorts of instructions to give to a big band, but Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra were certainly up to the challenges presented by Jim O’Rourke’s specially commissioned piece.

“The work was one of two new commissions by American composers premiered at the fifth edition of GIO’s annual festival. Celebrating their 10th anniversary, the orchestra’s ever-ambitious and outward-looking approach comes across in these specially composed pieces by two stalwarts of Chicago’s rich avant-garde tradition.

“Guest conductor and trombone player George Lewis first presents Tractatus - a detailed score exploring the difference between ‘artistic’ and ‘everyday’ improvisation, a distinction he explains in conversation with interviewer Brian Morton. The second commission - sent by Jim O’Rourke from his current home of Tokyo - is very different, consisting of two decks of playing cards on which are written instructions for the various members of the orchestra. The directions prompt - in the words of saxophonist and founding GIO leader Raymond MacDonald - a ‘negotiation between the individual and what’s written on the card’ and produced an exciting and unusual performance from the group. Listen out for shoes in the piano, manic trumpet fanfares, an impromptu round of drinks and a short lecture on haggis!”

- More info here BBC Jazz on 3 (click here)

The above description of Jim O’Rourke’s “composition” fits nicely with the style and works of Englishman Cornelius Cardew from 50 years ago. Cardew is best remembered for his Treatise (1963-67), a 193-page graphic score, where the music was written and drawn and it was up to the musicians to interpret. The analogy is with cooking. Imagine, not the finished dish, but the process of preparing the food, the chopping, the grinding, the boiling, the frying. The “graphic score” describes the music in words and pictures. Musicians are invited to interpret that score. The fascination, like the process of preparing a dish, is in watching them at work, blowing, fiddling, scratching, banging and so on.

Lewis’ improvisation is equally challenging. All the instruments strive to produce sounds that hover and linger like aural wall paper. This wall of sound can be both intimidating and beautiful.

In the end, Cornelius Cardew withdrew from avant garde music finding it meaningless. He spent the ’70s composing folk songs for socialist causes instead. A one-time assistant to composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, Cardew took the step to denouce his mentor with his 1974 book, Stockhausen Serves Imperialism.

Avant garde music has not died. O’Rourke now lives in Tokyo, a city that tolerates the untidy world of musicians and artists. Avant garde music is always spur of the moment, inspired and brief. Should it ever be influential, powerful and win a large audience, then the men will sit up, take notes and decide what to do with it.

Thanks to TomP for sharing at DIME and Fastone for the always excellent artworks.
- Professor Red 

Click on the highlighted tracks to download the MP3s (224 kbps). As far as we can ascertain, these tracks have never been officially released on CD.

Please Do Not Hammer The Links. Due to the size of some of the files, please be very patient when downloading the tracks. It could be that the server was very busy. The tracks should still be around. Please try again later. Kindly email us at [email protected] if you encounter persistent problems downloading the files.

Track 01. Intro and Interviews 13:30 (19.4MB)
Tractatus (George Lewis) 30:10*
Track 02. Part 1 (21.7MB)
Track 03. Part 2 (11.5MB)
Track 04. Part 3 (5.9MB)
Track 05. Part 4 (11.5MB)
Some I Know, Some I Don’t (Jim O’Rourke) 29:00*
Track 06. Part 1 (14.7MB)
Track 07. Part 2 (12.9MB)
Track 08. Part 3 (13.0MB)
Track 09. Part 4 (8.2MB)

* Arbitrarily split here for easier access.

TomP says: “Track 01 is edited to combine all the talk and can be seamlessly omitted if not wanted, although for once it is worth listening to, if only to hear why there is a lecture on haggis during the performance! Never thought you’d hear that, huh?”

Lineup - as on the BBC web page

Una MacGlone - double bass
Raymond MacDonald - saxophone
Gerry Rossi - piano
Nicole McNeilly - trombone
Emma Roche - flute
Rick Bamford - drums
Robert Henderson - trumpet

Graeme Wilson - saxophone
Neil Davidson - guitar
George Burt - guitar
Peter Nicholson - cello
George Murray - trombone
Liene Rozite - flute
Nicola MacDonald - melodica/voice

George Lyle - double bass
Armin Sturm - double bass
Stuart Brown - drums/percussion
Aileen Campbell - voice
Fergus Kerr - french horn
Anne Rankin - oboe
Jim McEwan - keyboards

Matthew Studdert-Kennedy - flute
Catriona McKay - harp
George Lewis - trombone
Maggie Nicols - voice

Sue McKenzie - saxophone

The Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra are a recording unit but with small, independent labels. Their recent recordings from last year include a teamup with Swiss Barry Guy to record the album Schweben - Ay, But Can Ye? Order  Schweben - Ay, But Can Ye? here.

The other 2012 release was Improcherto (For HB) By George Burt with Lol Coxhill and Evan Parker. You can buy the digital download here.

Their recordings are all live recordings.

We would also like to recommend Cornelius Cardew’s Consciously from 2007. This is avant garde artist Cardew’s “folk album”. It’s a compilation of his ’70s recordings. Buy it here.

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