A CHURCH IS ONLY SACRED TO BELIEVERS
CHRISTIAN | MILTON | PREVOST | SAADE
nicholas christian | electric bass
matt milton | violin
eddie prevost | percussion
bechir saade | bass clarinet
|1 | song one | 06.19
2 | song two | 06.19
3 | song three | 10.32
4 | song four | 15.25
5 | song five | 14.43
recorded on sunday 17th of june 2007 at atomic studio london by tim adams
mixed and mastered by marc codsi
artwork and design by mazen kerbaj
produced in lebanon by al maslakh
CD LINER NOTES
Spontaneity is not mere impulse... It does not imply undeliberated behaviour or feeling. Spontaneity is behaviour, feeling and thought that is free of external constraint, of imposed restriction. It is not an an uncontrolled effluvium of passion and action. Insofar as the individual removes the fetters of domination that have stifled her or his self-activity, she or he is acting, feeling and thinking spontaneously. [...]
Spontaneity does not preclude organization and structure... [It] ordinarily yields non-hierarchichal forms of organization.
Murray Bookchin, On Spontaneity and Organization, 1972
(quoted by Maurice Brinton in Solidarity Pamphlet 49, December 1975)
In 1999 I took part in the Guelph Jazz Festival Colloquium in Ontario, Canada. During this festival I presented a key-note talk, played some drums and presented some ideas in a music 'clinic.' After my practical demonstration and discussion with the audience, LaDonna Smith a violinist and an improviser of long-standing, enquired whether I offered this 'workshop' practice on a regular basis. To which I replied that I did not. To which she responded by saying that I should.
On the long flight home from Canada to England I began to reflect upon LaDonna's words. And, finally I resolved (given I was reaching a — let us say — maturer period in my life) that such an initiative might have some merit. I made myself the promise that I would start a workshop devoted to improvisation with an emphasis upon what I think of as an 'experimental' kind. The promise included the caveat that I would continue to do this until people stopped coming. With the initial help of the London Musicians' Collective I found a place to hold a weekly session in central London and, mostly through the grape-vine, people began to arrive. Nine years later they are still coming. And, I suppose it means that I will have to continue.
But contrary to whatever vision I had of any outcome, the experience of being involved in the Friday night improvisation workshop in London has produced innumerable, unmeasurable and unexpected outcomes. Not least being meeting with some very remarkable people. For at the date of this CD, some three hundred people have been to this workshop, representing over twenty different nationalities. So, it is not particularly surprising that half of this ensemble are non British. Bechir Saade is from Lebanon and Nicolas Christian is from France. What is surprising however, is the seriousness of the engagement. For in this most informal and fragile of musical forms, in which the musicians are searching and simultaneously reviewing new sounds and new configurations and responses, it would be a surprise if there were no doubts about this practice and numerous failures. But of course, negotiating failure (whatever that might be!) can be the route to other kinds of success (whatever that might be!).
One thing of which I do feel certain however, is that in an enquiring and open-minded engagement, of the kind that characterizes improvisations such as on this CD, requires the development of an unconventional intelligence. In the looking for new sounds and new musical (and social) relationships the mind accesses (and maybe thereby enhances) a cognitive fluidity. For to make music of meaning for the moment the musician has to go beyond what is understood as the 'musical'. Paradoxically, the 'notion of music' is perhaps an inhibiting factor in making music. Music for the world at large had perhaps become a fixed idea and often institutionalised. Possibly forms of music have become kinds of a church that is subtly alluded to in this title for the CD. Whether or not we too are creating a church may be an open question. Certainly the way we work, individually and together, suggests and encourages methods and an ethos very different from any other kind of music I know of. If it is becoming 'a church' (and co-incidently the weekly London workshop takes place in the school room of a Welsh Chapel), then it is extremely open and tolerant of all approaches. All that it seems to abhor is unthinking responses and intolerance itself.
Eddie Prévost - 30th September 2008
A little hard to type tonight because I burnt my hand twenty minutes ago on a microwaveable tagliatelle. It didn’t taste very nice either. (the tagliatelle, not my hand) If all of the laws of science and probability were suddenly turned on their head and it turned out that there really is a god after all then he is probably trying to tell me to stop eating microwaveable ready meals. Fortunately there isn’t a god or I’d have to throw the chicken jalfrezi I have for tomorrow night away.
While I am in vaguely blasphemous mood its fitting that tonight I listened to an album called A church is only sacred to believers. (Don’t you just love these opening links of mine?) The recording in question is a new release on the Lebanese Al Maslakh label, and features the quartet of Nicholas Christian, (electric bass) Matt Milton, (violin) Eddie Prevost, (percussion) and Bechir Saade (bass clarinet). It was recorded in London during the summer of 2007 when the four musicians came together after playing as a group at Prevost’s weekly improvised music workshop. Prevost’s liner notes link the performance (which was made in a studio) back to the esence of the workshop.
Following in the vein of the Close-Up album I wrote about a few days ago this release is a really solid album of improvised music that avoids easy categorisation into one popular pigeonhole or another, but just exudes the same degree of focused intensity and spontaneous creativity of that album. It is quite fitting that this disc should arrive when I am two thirds of the way through re-reading Prevost’s Minute Particulars book, in which he underlines many of his thoughts on music, outlining his need for a communitarian, completely spontaneous form of dialogue. Listening here many of the thoughts I have been wrestling with as I’ve read the book spring to mind. The liner notes though underline how spontaneity can include advanced organisation or considered structure, only that is should have none of these things imposed upon it. Certainly as I listen here Eddie Prevost’s percussion is completely recognisable. His sound is very much his own, there is no reinvention taking place here. Likewise the other three musicians probably play in similar ways to how they are used to, but it is the combination of these four elements in the moment, the amassed skill and experience of the four acoustic players that informs this improvisation and leads them to fold their contributions around each other to form what is presented here on the CD.
So what actually is presented? Well the AMM influence is hard to ignore, though more the post-Rowe form of the group as extended sounds are rarely heard and tension is built from the interplay between the four musicians, bowed and struck metal twisting around burbling clarinet and crackling, vibrating strings. The pace of the music seems to be directed by Prevost, and that slow, steady AMM rate presides, only gathering pace when the music builds in density and tension. The structure is simple yet there is always several things going on. There are lulls and dips in the undulating music, but never any silences. Many sounds cannot easily be traced back to their instrument. Whist the wind sounds tends to be recognisable its hard to tell what is violin and what is bass, and sometimes when Prevost’s bowed sounds veer towards the drier end of the spectrum they can also be hard to tell from the bowed strings. My father, who is here tonight, stopping off with my mother en route to Venice put his head around the door and told me it all sounds like a bumble bee stuck in a jam jar placed next to a disturbed cat. I swear he should write reviews rather than me.
I’m sure you are sick of me saying things like this, but this album is yet another example of the vibrant London improv community, albeit a snapshot of where things were two years ago. Even if Prevost’s sound was not immediately recognisable here I think I would probably have been able to locate this music to London quite easily. There is nothing groudbreaking here except for what takes place between the four musicians, nothing remarkable except for the degree to which the four musicians listen to each other and feed right back into the music. You can almost hear the concentration, follow the flow, add extra sounds in your head. Great improvisation pulls you along on its journey, involving the listener, making them want to join in. Prevost alludes to different kinds of music being like churches, followed by those that believe in them. He wonders whether this music is too becoming like a church, but states that if this is the case it is extremely open and tolerant of all approaches. I’m not so sure that Prevost’s writings have always suggested this to me, but his music invariably does. There is no one dominant voice on this recording, it truly is a healthy four way dialogue. There’s not much more to say really. If good, hearty improvised music is your thing you need to hear A church is only sacred to believers. Amen.
The Watchful Ear | Richard Pinnell
Eddie Prévost seems to enjoy writing about what he does almost as much as he enjoys doing it, and several recent releases, not only those on his own Matchless imprint, have come with copious and informative liner notes, this quartet outing on the splendid Lebanese Al Maslakh label with bassist Nicholas Christian, violinist Matt Milton and bass clarinettist Bechir Saade (the Lebanese connection) being no exception. Prévost's text gives reviewers like me (and others who enjoy quoting liner notes and press releases – call it laziness if you like, but I've learnt more about music from reading the backs of albums than I ever did in 14 years of music school) plenty to get their teeth into: in this case it tells the story of the genesis of his Friday night workshop, that hotbed of activity and breeding ground for new talent – including these musicians – in the already fertile field of improvised music in London, of whose importance much has been made lately.
"If it is becoming 'a church' (and co-incidentally the weekly London workshop takes place in the school room of a Welsh chapel)", the percussionist writes, "then it is extremely open and tolerant of all approaches. All it seems to abhor is unthinking responses and intolerance itself." Fair comment, though I do detect in this release – and in the series of CDR snapshots of the new London scene (I'll refrain from capitalising the "new".. we already had New London Silence and that didn't last too long) that Simon Reynell's Another Timbre released earlier this year – an emerging consensus, a search for a lingua franca. The emphasis is placed firmly on overall group sound, on fitting in, on being part of one of those communities whose virtues Eddie extols in No Sound Is Innocent and Minute Particulars, rather than in asserting an individual point of view.
I've recently been listening again, for the first time in years, to Stockhausen's Aus den Sieben Tagen cycle (prompted to do so by Richard Barrett's description of it in these pages as "one of the pinnacles of achievement in improvised music"), that rather notorious collection of hippy-trippy verbal scores dating from 1968 (when else?), and was pleasantly surprised by Kommunion the other day during a quiet lunch break at work. One of the instructions for that particular piece is "play or sing a vibration in the rhythm of the molecules of one your fellow players", but the contrast between the Stockhausen ensemble's 1969 recording and the communal activity of A Church, which, as alphabetical order would have it, was cued up to play right after it on the trusty mp3 player, was striking. While I have no reason to suspect that the members of Karlheinz's band weren't trying to follow his instructions as faithfully as possible (!), there's still a clear sense of individuals resolving (or not) their differences, a real musical argument, which is harder to find in Eddie's congregation. Not that Church is risk-free, pale and unadventurous – far from it: much of its texture is uncompromisingly rough – but one longs for more in the way of friction than Milton's scratches and Prévost's scraped cymbals. I know it's dreadfully passé and old hat these days to wax nostalgic over real notes, but the most aurally satisfying moments on this disc occur when pitch – either high-end, from the bowed metal, or low-end, from Christian's Scelsi-like bass – asserts itself, imposing a harmonic identity on proceedings and reining in Milton and Saade's coarser sonorities. At such moments one really feels the presence of a fifth member of the group: the group itself. You might call it playing in the rhythm of each other's molecules.
Paris Transatlantic | Dan Warburton
Aus dem fernen Libanon erreicht uns folgende Mitteilung: Eine Kirche ist nur den Gläubigen heilig! Das behauptet ausgerechnet eine Institution namens Al Maslakh, auf Deutsch: Schlachthof! Sehr lustig. Diesen lustigen, weil erfrischenden Säkularismus hinterfragt allerdings Eddie Prévost in den äußerst klugen liner notes insofern, als er die Ahnung/Befürchtung, die improvisierte Musik errichte ihrerseits eine nach außen geschlossene Kirche, in den Raum stellt. Eine Kirche allerdings, so Prévost, die Gedankenlosigkeit und Intoleranz kategorisch ablehne. Seit neun Jahren leitet er – unter unverminderter Akzeptanz bzw. Frequenz – wöchentliche Workshop-Sessions in London. Bis zum Erscheinen dieser prächtigen Platte nahmen nicht weniger als 300 Leute aus 20 Nationen daran teil. Allein so gesehen, versteht sich diese Aufnahme von Musikern aus England, Frankreich und dem Libanon als repräsentative Aufnahme einer Musizierhaltung, die eine nicht-hierarchische Organisationsform auf ihre Fahnen heftet. Darauf kommt’s vielleicht weltweit – in London, im Libanon, im freiStil und überhaupt – in der improvisierten Musik an: auf eine politische, gesellschaftliche Arbeit, die Bewusstsein voraussetzt und einen Mehrwert in Form der besten Musik(en) der Welt zu Tage fördert. Eines der hervorragenden Beispiele dafür ist diese Aufnahme, an der vier Musiker – im parallelen Wechselspiel von Bassklarinette, Violine, Bass und Perkussion – gleichberechtigt an neuen Sounds und Formen des Miteinanders konzentriert arbeiten. Die daraus eine faszinierende Summe von etwas lukrieren, das bei aller Faszinastion im nächsten Moment unwiederholbar verschwunden sein wird – und dennoch über die spontan gestaltete Gegenwart hinaus in die Zukunft sich auswirkt. Auf einen Himmel ohne Götter, auch und besonders für uns Ungläubige.
freiStil | (felix)
Eddie Prevost (percussions) a rencontré ses partenaires sur ce disque (Nicholas Christian à la basse électrique, Matt Milton au violon et Bechir Saade à la clarinette basse) lors de l’atelier d’improvisation qu’il anime hebdomadairement à Londres depuis 10 ans.
Comme il l’évoque dans le livret de l’album, les musiciens sont ici à la recherche de nouveaux sons et de nouvelles relations musicales, qui vont au-delà du « musical ». C’est ainsi, par exemple, que la batterie ne sera quasiment utilisée que comme pourvoyeuse de chuintements, sifflements sourds et autres déflagrations aigues obtenues par frottements. Les autres instruments répondent parfaitement à ces interventions : tantôt via de faibles larsens provoqués par la basse, tantôt par les bruissements obtenus en parcourant le violon à l’aide de l’archet.
Ce monde de turbulences vibratoires et de bourdonnements est parfois éclairé par des notes nettement perceptibles à la clarinette. Cette respiration est bienvenue, mais n’est pas indispensable tant la subtilité des échanges et la richesse sonore imprègnent l’auditeur qui veut se laisser plonger dans ces plages captivantes.
Le Son du Grizli | Jean Dezert
"A Church Is Only Sacred to Believers" stanowi pokłosie cotygodniowych warsztatów improwizatorskich odbywających się regularnie od 2000 r. w londyńskiej Welsh Chapel. W swoim krótkim eseju towarzyszącym płycie Eddie Prevost, nawiązując do tytułu, pisze, że poszczególne formy i gatunki muzyczne stały się dla artystów oraz słuchaczy specyficznym rodzajem kościołów, czymś na kształt organizacji religijnych z własną hierarchiczną strukturą i obowiązującą doktryną. Prevost ma nadzieję, że jeśli podobnie dzieje się z improwizatorami z Welsh Chapel, to im udało stworzyć się kościół otwarty i tolerancyjny.
W ciągu dziewięciu lat w warsztatach prowadzonych przez Prevosta wzięło udział niemal trzystu muzyków z około dwudziestu krajów, nie dziwi więc zbytnio fakt, że za "A Church Is Only Sacred to Believers" odpowiada kwartet francusko-brytyjsko-libański. Tworzą go grający na preparowanej gitarze basowej Nicholas Christian, skrzypek Matt Milton, perkusjonista Eddie Prevost oraz klarnecista basowy Bechir Saade. Pięćdziesiąt kilka minut muzyki, podanej w pięciu częściach, stylistycznie niczym nie zaskakuje – bo choć muzykę trudno sklasyfikować, to na pewno mamy do tu czynienia z post-AMMowską szkołą improwizacji - jednak nadzwyczaj wysoki tego dnia u tej czwórki poziom wzajemnego zrozumienia i empatii pozwolił uzyskać efekt iście synergiczny. Christian, Milton, Prevost i Saade przez cały czas uważnie słuchają tego, co dzieje się w improwizacji i reagując na grę partnerów, stopniowo rozbudowują i wzbogacają swoimi partiami jej tkankę. Akcja rozgrywa się niespiesznie, przez niemal cały czas tempo i dynamika utrzymują się na stałym poziomie, jednak muzyka nie jest pobawiona pewnej dozy stonowanego dramatyzmu, za który odpowiedzialna jest przede wszystkim sfera brzmieniowa. Muzycy chętnie sięgają po niekonwencjonalne techniki artykulacji, kreując oryginalne sonorystyczne hybrydy, w czym pomaga fakt, że poszczególne warstwy dźwięków nakładają się na siebie.
Właściwie "A Church Is Only Sacred to Believers" nie przynosi niczego nowego, ale owo nic przez cały czas utrzymuje się na bardzo wysokim poziomie, więc na pewno warto tę płytę poznać.
Diapazon | Tadeusz Kosiek
Da nove anni Eddie Prévost, decano della radical impro d'oltre Manica, uno dei padri dell'AMM, presiede, settimanalmente, un workshop di improvvisazione in quel di Londra. Church Is Sacred Only for Believers, titolo provocatorio solo in apparenza, è il frutto di una session organizzata dal percussionista con tre delle centinaia di "allievi" che hanno frequentato le "lezioni" del venerdì sera nella Welsh Chapel di Southwark Bridge Road: il violinista inglese Matt Milton, il bassista [elettrico] francese Nicholas Christian e il [basso]clarinettista libanese Bechir Saade.
Libanese è anche l'etichetta che pubblica il disco, ovvero la Al Maslakh [il mattatoio, nomen omen] di Mazen Kerbaj, avamposto d'improvvisazione radicale in una città, Beirut, dove il radicalismo, di solito, è associato ad altro.
Titolo provocatorio solo in apparenza, si diceva qualche riga fa, perchè, con mirabile metafora coniata dallo stesso Prévost, la chiesa alla quale si riferisce il titolo è la musica [anche improvvisata] basata su forme consolidate, cristallizzate, in alcuni casi persino istituzionalizzate; mentre i credenti sono i musicisti che a quelle forme [quella musica] si aggrappano. Le nozioni di musica e musicalità, spiega Prévost nelle note di copertina, possono essere addirittura un fattore inibente del fare musica. E dunque che resta? Restano il suono e l'istante, la ricerca di nuovi suoni e nuove relazioni musicali nel qui e nell'ora. Il tutto declinato secondo la formula della migliore improvvisazione di stampo elettroacustico, la stessa che, forse inaspettatamente, sta facendo nuovi proseliti di qui e di là dell'Atlantico [si veda, ad esempio, il recente incontro fra John Tilbury, altro AMM, e i Polwechsel nel bellissimo Field, uscito per Hat Hut].
Le cinque tracce in scaletta, rigorosamente titolate in modo seriale, vivono dunque di suoni sovrapposti: picchiettii, ticchettii, soffi, palpiti, sfregamenti, ronzii di vario genere. Gli strumenti sono ridotti a pura assenza di musicalità, in un libero fluttuare del tempo e dello spazio. L'orizzonte auditivo è un cupo ribollire di piccole onde e increspature ai limiti del percettibile, in un gioco di essenzialità condotto a volumi bassissimi.
Il viaggio è affascinante, ma solo per chi ci crede, ovviamente.
All About Jazz – Italia | Luca Canini
Extraordinary free improvisation (and let's face it, the word "extraordinary" is used far too often these days) tends to be sound that reinvents the significance or implications of music. These days, whenever percussionist Eddie Prevost involved in the process, the extraordinary becomes the custom.
The session in London grew out of Prévost's regular workshop for improvisers, and features fellow Brit violinist Matt Milton, plus Lebanese bass clarinetist Bachir Saade and the French bassist Nicholas Christian. While Milton and Prévost have worked together and Saade and Christian have recorded a duo, this is the first outing for this particular quartet.
At lower volumes the music can be barely perceptible as a live recording, because the four interact and work as one sound unit. No flights of soloing or noise runs are heard. Saade's breathy bass clarinet recalls Axel Dorner's trumpet vocalizations, organizing his sound around breath and the meditative implications of sound, or the absence of sound. Likewise, Prévost, Milton, and Christian are complicit in this prayer. The quartets' inconspicuous playing might be mistaken for an ambient recording.
That is at low volume.
Turn up the amplification and the listening experience changes. What was once ambient is now a flurry of activity. Like peering inside a beehive, the musicians are in constant motion. Their activity, barely noticeable on the calm surface, creates this bubble of sound. In other words, these musicians are hard at work, their seemingly ordinary sound is, in fact, extraordinary.
All About Jazz | Mark Corroto