2 January 2007

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Artist statement

“One of the most common mistakes about Stravinsky is, in my opinion, the incomprehension of his final works. People write absurd diatribes, the most ridiculous things about the period when, according to them, he “embraced the serial system,” or something like that. That’s ridiculous. Stravinsky never changed. What counted for him was his “method.” The fact that he considered music as an ensemble of rhythmic intervals led him logically to that method- I don’t believe in the word “system,” twelve-tone writing was not a system but a method, that’s a much more interesting word. Stravinsky was interested in all sorts of things: mechanical, natural, human, inhuman, sacred, diabolical… He could tackle anything. He arrived very late at the serial method but in the music he composed at that point are some of his best works… What is more important for an artist than to be able to say to others: “go fuck yourselves, I’m going to do my thing in my own way.” Stravinsky understood that very young. I don’t know where he learned that but it’s fundamental, and he helped me to learn it too. It’s a matter of courage, guts, audacity; it has to do with having confidence in one’s “equipment” or with developing it to the point that one can have confidence. He was a very methodical worker. He turned his back on the critics. Sometimes he tossed off letters to answer them, but in general, at the moment they attacked him, he was already far away, elsewhere, they couldn’t reach him. That drove them crazy.”
– Steve Lacy
from “He Flew,” in Conversations (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2006), edited by Jason Weiss, pg. 253-254.†

 

 

Vandermark 5 European Tour

Things started in what must now be considered traditional fashion. The band flew from Chicago on the 22nd of November (All around, a delightful United Airlines experience: lectures about overweight instruments despite having an extra weight allowance [“We’ve put you in the system and you’re not going to be able to take that big saxophone on board again without paying a penalty for it! Have a nice flight. Next!”], food served during the trip straight from Planet X, and on the way home UA did a superb job of tearing up a brand new suitcase. Flying the friendly skies for sure.) We landed in Frankfurt because the first gig was in Vienna… For some reason this was the only flight available that fit into our itinerary, so after arriving at the airport we had a seven-hour train to catch to get us to our destination; thankfully our first concert wasn’t until the next night.

The quintet had two nights of gigs at the Blue Tomato, and both shows were sold out- a great way to start a tour. On the second night the band played exceptionally well, the new material took a strong forward leap, and we had the benefit of being in one place for more than 24 hours; though this just led us to staying up way too late (happy birthday Gunter!). Many, many thanks to the folks at the club for making such a great start to the tour possible, and for taking the chance to present the ensemble for two nights in a row.

The other benefit of being in Vienna for a couple of days was having the chance to walk around the city and visit the exhibit of Picasso’s late work at the Albertina. Paul Lovens had recommended it to me earlier in the fall, but there was no chance to see it at that time, luckily the show was still running while on this visit. The work was amazing and inspiring. Though it seems that from some quarters, Picasso was criticized at the end of his life for working “like a factory,” just painting as fast as possible to sell more, I’d have to argue against that assessment. From looking at the diversity of materials and imagery on display, my feeling was that he knew time was running out, and the clock was the last challenge for him to work against. If I understood the provided information correctly, everything at the exhibit was created in one day; Picasso’s range in those final years is really beyond belief. Walking through the museum was so exhilarating I went back the next day to look at the show a second time.

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