Michael Vetter – Informationen. Eine avantgardistische Musikstunde für Kinder

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The title translates as: “Informations. An avantgardistic lesson in music for children”. And it’s exactly what you hear on the record – it’s a live recording, so to speak: Children chanting, humming and making lots of other noises. It’s an amazing record to listen to but little is known about it. So, where do I begin?

Michael Vetter is maybe not a household name when it comes to the music discussed within these pages and during Krautrock’s heyday he’s been away in Japan in a Zen monastery.
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In the late 60’s he recorded and worked with Mauricio Kagel and Karl-Heinz Stockhausen – with the latter he also worked every now and then until his death in 2007. Michael Vetter is living in Italy today – according to his homepage he’s not giving concerts anymore.

Vetter’s music since the late 70’s (when he returned from Japan) was all about blending Zen meditation/music from eastern parts of the world with the western classical music tradition. He released a series of five “Zen-Recordings” during the 80’s and records such as „Overtones – Voice & Tambura“ (Wergo, 1983). I recommend all of his work – if you manage to find one of his records, buy it!
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Vetter shares a deep interest for non-western musical traditions and philosophy with many of his peers (Stockhausen and Hamel, for example). In general: the generation born in the early 40’s is notoriously for having reached out for Buddha & Zen, for the Sitar & Tambura. George Harrison (born the same year as Vetter) is just the peak of the iceberg and the marriage of pop-/western-culture and eastern traditions during the late 60’s is a story often told. But something else – especially in Germany – was important back in these days:

In the early 70’s as a result of the student’s revolts in Germany thoughts and ways of raising and educating children were just as experimental as a lot of the music made at that time. The first generation post-WWII was aiming to build a new, non-fascist society and “Informationen” reads as a sign of these times and ideas. You want a free society? You gotta raise its future citizens in a non-authoritative, free way!
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“Informationen” inherits a lot of that spirit. It comes with a 16-page libretto, where Vetter’s explaining his approach towards the children and the music. He’s going into detail about the process of group-improvisation and graphic notation and is giving instructions on how to do it in class as a teacher. The record is a document rather than an artistic statement. It’s all about breaking down barriers: Avantgarde Music as Folk Music and as a polyphone and non-hierachic dialogue (mostly) without words.

So, enough of all the (important) socio-historical paraphernalia that informs “Informationen”. What about the music? Like I said before: it’s amazing! 4th grade kids humming, screaming, laughing and making all kinds of noise. Sometimes loud, sometimes quiet, sometimes creepy, sometimes funny – but always focused. I would have loved to participate in this session as a 10-year-old.
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Of course, one can hear Vetter giving directions here and there by raising his voice a little more to lead the kids, to change the music and to challenge the children. But it sounds like a lot of fun all the time and Vetter’s voice is buried under the kid’s racket for the most part.

The record could be heralded as the holy grail of non-authoritative & free-vocal-improvisation and top any Volcanic Tongue newsletter nowadays, but unfortunately it’s hard to get. And I bet Dylan Nyoukis would kill for it, and so will Dennis Tyfus. It’s weird and it’s wild and if you dig Phil Minton, Peter Fengler, Paul Dutton and the likes this is something for you!

 

 

review by Holger Adam

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