21 February 2006


The 2×2 Tour (Mats Gustafsson/David Stackenas, Paal Nilssen-Love/ buy myself) began in Norway on February 16th, starting in Paal’s hometown, Stavanger. A very nice gig, the only downside being that our flights from Stockholm got held up by a snowstorm, preventing us from having a chance to see Terry Nilssen-Love’s new exhibition of paintings. From there we travelled to Oslo for a show at Blå (I may have had more gigs there during the last year than at Empty Bottle in Chicago). These evenings featured three short sets, one by each duo, then a third played as a quartet. Very interesting to work on a double bill with another total improvisation unit that performs in such a different manner (energy built from textural gestures for the duo with Mats and David, as opposed to the utilization of cutting rhythmic devices with Paal and myself). When we play as a quartet the music is not based on a superimposition of these two “methods,” it’s something else entirely and another kind of quartet music.

To supplement the budget, the group has participated in two performance worshops for students. In the first case, at a music conservatory in Stavanger; for the second, at an art college near Stockholm. There was a significant difference between the two experiences, pointing to one of the problems with college level arts programs. In both cases the students seemed extremely enthused about the music we played. At the music school there was also question & answer section during the break in our performance, the discussion about what’s possible in the music today was thought provoking for everybody, I believe. Unlike at the art school however, not one professor from the music school showed up for the workshop that was organized. Lack of interest? Lack of support? Lack of knowledge? The fact that they didn’t participate in the experience sends a message- the music that we’re working on doesn’t warrent their, and therefore their students, attention. There is no question that our approach to improvisation, individually and collectively, is not the only way to go about creating music today. However, based on personal experience I can testify that we represent a set of viable alternatives. In an academic environment shouldn’t a professor have a responsibility to do more than just allow new music to be performed? Shouldn’t they also participate in the investigation of the creative methods involved? Are these teachers more concerned with the future development of the art form, or with maintaining a system that is apparently satisfied with using standarized solutions for creative problems?

-Ken Vandermark, bus to Vasteras, Sweden, 2/21/06.

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