“This record contains various examples of ‚musical group-improvisations”. Yes it does. The self-explanatory title of the record and the first sentence of the accompanying notes are as precise as demystifying. It’s a bunch of people (not trained musicians, necessarily) improvising on various (non-)musical instruments. Or, to quote Andy Warhol (according to Lou Reed): “It’s work.”
In fact, the ten examples of improvised music compiled on this record are selected from workshops that were organised and held by the Landesarbeitsgemeinschaft Nordrhein-Westfalen to inspire the participating music therapists, students, social workers and nursery school teachers (and a few musicians, too – from Annexus Quam, Kollektiv and Bröselmaschine) to work with the concept/idea of musical group-improvisations in their own field of work.
In theory these musical group-improvisations were thought of as a way to experience yourself within a group of people and as a human being that is capable to develop and extend its musical and social possibilities, so to speak. Furthermore: to exercise these improvisations was meant to improve your understanding of yourself and your relationships to others: “Through music to the self” (Peter Michael Hamel).
Everybody attending the workshops was encouraged to bring things to make music with, not necessarily musical instruments. And of course you didn’t need to have any experience in playing an instrument. Every attendant was considered to be a musical person anyway and that was all it took: Stuff to make noise with and the courage to just do it.
Of course, it’s mostly regular musical (acoustic and electric) instruments that can be heard during these sessions, but there’s also some dogs barking, birds singing, hands clapping and some empty bottles and a fiddle made out of a clabbered milk mug for good measurement.
One half of the sessions recorded are free improvisations, the other half was inspired by something that all the attendants were asked to use as a collective inspiration for their group-improvisations: a graphic artwork, a projection of a landscape, a surrealistic painting or the surrounding environment (one session was recorded open air, that’s were the dogs and birds can be heard).
All in all: it’s a great concept and judging from the collage that shows some of the people that participated in these workshops it must have been fun to do it and I could go on and on about theoretical assumptions, presumptions, further implications and contradictions that lie within the whole thing – but what about the music actually?
It’s great. Not unlike Michael Vetter’s recordings with/of children doing vocal-improvisations this is another fine example of folk-music that (at first) may sound like it was recorded by academically trained improvisers – but it isn’t. It’s the sound of people listening to each other. And that’s a good definition for music in general, maybe (and maybe that’s old news to some bookish musicologist, but anyway…).
By its approach and in its results “Musikalische Gruppenimprovisation” can be compared to Anima Sound recordings like “Stürmischer Himmel” and it can also be seen and heard like the blueprint to the whole discography of music-collectives like Sunburned Hand Of The Man, the No-Neck Blues Band or Wooden Wand & The Vanishing Voice. Yeah, why not – let’s call it the German Forebears Of Free Folk!
Review by Holger Adam