“I think the destructive element is too much neglected in art.”
– Piet Mondrian
from “The Dada Painters And Poets: An Anthology, Second Edition,” (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press: 1981), edited by Robert Motherwell, pg. xviii.
Left Chicago for Europe on October 10th. Arrived in Germany on the 11th to begin work with the Territory Band-5 at the SWR in Baden-Baden. The band’s fourth album, “Company Switch”(Okka Disk), was released days before leaving, in time to bring along for the ensemble’s concert schedule. The first few days of work were in preparation for a world premier of compositions at the Donaueschingen Festival, an invitation which helped enable the possibility for a short European tour. Comparing the situation for preparing the new material to last year’s circumstances in Chicago is somewhat telling about the differences that can exist between working in the States and in Europe.
Last year the transcription of the compositions was aided by Nate McBride. I’m always behind, so the two of us worked for days and up to the last minute to get the charts done in time. This year I had to work on my own, and and needed to copy the charts throughout the flight to Germany and during the first couple of evenings after arriving in Baden-Baden in order to get the parts done. Last year the group (an eleven member version of the ensemble and Lasse Marhaug’s first work with the band) rehearsed in my basement in order to save money, this year (the same lineup as last fall in Chicago, but with Per-Ake Holmlander back on tuba, and Johannes Bauer now on trombone instead of Jeb Bishop) we worked at the SWR radio facilities which, for me anyway, was the best rehearsal situation I’ve ever had in my life. It was quite a difference from being packed together in a small room in Chicago among boxes, a laundry room, ceiling support beams, cd and t-shirt stock, with some pots of coffee on the side, to rehearsing in a large recording/performing facility with a staff of engineers to help with mic placement, recording, monitors, etc., a grand piano, with a steady supply of food and drinks supplied all day while working. Last year the Territory Band played to about 300 people at the Claudia Cassidy Theater in the Chicago Cultural Center. This year the concert was performed to a sold out audience of more than 600. On the other hand, members of the group were able to play in small formations while in Chicago (Lasse Marhaug solo and Paal Nilssen-Love and I in a duo, at the Adventures In Modern Music Festival for example). Though the project was documented at a recording studio in Chicago that was fondly referred to as “the swiming pool,” by one of the members of the group, the “Company Switch” sessions came out beautifully. Nor were they interrupted by an over zealous driver hired for the band barging into a performance while it was being Valtrex taped. And as nice as it was to perform in the large hall to so many people in Donaueschingen, having to try and record versions of the material for future broadcast while the room was being prepared (nothing like forcing yourself to concentrate while signs for the toilet are being loudly stapled to the walls and gaffer tape is being pulled up from the floor) for the evening’s concert. But in the United States you get paid what there is (not very much) and need to find creative ways to sort out rooms and travel, while the festival in Donaueschingen covered all the flights, the band’s accomodations, and paid us well.
© 2019 Ken Vandermark – musician & composer | Disclaimer