07 aprile 2017

Esce in questi giorni un nuovo studio accademico curato da Georgina Born assieme ad Eric Lewis e Will Straw, con il contributo di una dozzina di altri relatori, incentrato sulle caratteristiche e le potenzialità dell'improvvisazione musicale quale luogo in cui si coltivano e si creano forme nuove di pratica politica e di relazione sociale. Si intitola Improvisation and Social Aesthetics (Duke University Press Books, 2017) e nel corso delle sue corpose analisi passa in rassegna numerosi esempi nei campi del jazz, del cinema, della danza e della letteratura, citando tra gli altri l'AACM, il Feminist Improvising Group, la Nouvelle vague, Billy Strayhorn e Kenneth Goldsmith.

Ancora di Georgina Born, presso i meravigliosi archivi di Academia.edu - il social network colto amabilmente indicato come il 'Facebook degli accademici' - sono disponibili due sue interviste piuttosto recenti, Temporalities, aesthetics, and the studioMy responsibility is to be bold. Quest'ultima riporta in premessa un significativo acconto della sua esperienza negli Henry Cow, tuttora indicata come la più formativa nella sua intera carriera. Perché?

"I saw an advert for a bass player in an interesting group: Henry Cow. I applied and, amazingly, I got the job, because by then they were writing complex scores, and I was the only person they interviewed who could read those scores. However, I’d never played bass guitar before! So I tuned the bass in fifths - like the cello - and then I could make it work. After a few months of rehearsal with them in the very hot summer of 1976, when punk music was breaking out all over the UK, we went on tour. I dropped my place to read composition at Cambridge, and that began two years of touring almost constantly - well, for about six months each year. Henry Cow was in a kind of turmoil, because money was short. The group had become independent of their former record company, Virgin Records, trying to manage themselves and create alternative institutions. They did manage this for several years, but it wasn’t working out economically. This experience with Henry Cow remains perhaps the most formative in my whole career. Why? Not so much because of the music, but because of the whole experience. We were working everywhere in Europe, in political ways. We went all over Italy doing tours playing at numerous Feste dell’Unità, which were the Communist Party’s summer festivals that happened in every large city and small town, all summer long. In France, we would play the circuit of Maisons de la Culture in lots of provincial cities and towns all over the country, as well as the Socialist Party’s summer festival in Paris. Wherever we played, we were doing work at the borders of new music and politics. I was 20 years old; the rest of the group was much older, and I didn’t yet really have the formation to understand fully what we were doing (remember, I hadn’t yet been to university). It left me with a lifetime of questions about the articulation between music and politics and the social, and it was full of contradictions. There’s a little paper I’ve written recently on this whole experience about politics and Henry Cow. It tells some of the stories, for instance, about turning up in a town outside Naples to play a Festa dell’Unità to effectively an audience of Italian farmers and peasants. We started late in the evening with our atonal rock, our polyrhythmic scores - we have recordings of all these gigs - and about 2 minutes in, somebody starts to boo, about 3 or 4 minutes in people start to clap in a hostile way, and then we continued to play for an hour and a half - and this noise carries on the whole time! We didn’t discuss this much in the band in my memory, but I was left thinking: “What does it mean to bring modernist rock with political lyrics to Italian peasants in a Festa dell’Unità? And to elicit hostility and antipathy from those we were putatively trying to reach, to give musical pleasure to, and to politicize with our music?” These experiences left me with an intense set of questions that have informed all my later work. What didn’t inform my later work is some kind of mindless devotion to the music we were playing at the time, or any of my later performing work. Although I still find aspects of it very interesting, I was also very troubled by our music - especially the more modernist parts and the improvising. We did a great deal of electronic improvising in Henry Cow, in between and linking pieces and songs, often 20 or 30 minute group improvisations; and these days I find those passages much more fresh and interesting than the rather awful folk-rocky interludes, of which there were plenty. I also admire these days the most austere modernist pieces; they too stand the test of time quite well and offer what remains a very original sound world. So, I am ambivalent about Henry Cow’s music and I always have been. As you can hear, I always had some doubts about what we did, but I was also fascinated by and believed in what we were trying to do. I’m very interested in the interface between music and politics, and while the group’s aspirations were tremendous, the reality was problematic in a number of ways."