“In order to achieve insight, you must work.”
– Kurt Schwitters
from “The Dada Painters And Poets: An Anthology, Second Edition,” (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press: 1981), edited by Robert Motherwell, pg. xxvii.
Arrived in London from Amsterdam on the 23rd of October. In the evening I met with composer Drew Morgan for dinner and to discuss plans for the upcoming rehearsal and performance of our ongoing collaboration between his compositions and my playing. This would be the third version of the project. The first took place in London at Conway Hall two years ago, then we reunited in Chicago twelve months later to perform the second rendition at Elastic with musicians that Drew knew while he was a music student at DePaul University several years ago. It was great to be back in London to work with Drew again, a chance to re-visit the piece(s) and hear how he had further adapted it, and another opportunity to play with New Music performers who had studied at the Royal Academy- the first time we had worked together I was stunned by their musical ability and open mindedness.
The rehearsal with the ensemble wouldn’t take place until the evening of the 24th so I took advantage of having a free afternoon to visit the Tate Modern, where an “installation” by Doris Salcedo had been placed in Turbine hall, which sent an enormous crack down the length of the entire floor. Visiting the main galleries I noticed for the first time a large collection of Wols etchings, which were phenomenally beautiful; the first examples of his work I had seen since I stumbled upon some photos and paintings at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne in the summer of 2007. Also surprising was sighting a painting of Philip Guston’s called, “The Return.” I e-mailed Ab Baars about the coincidental title with of one of his pieces that we had played on our tour together in October. His response was, “Philip Guston- my man!” While further checking my e-mail before heading to the rehearsal I found a message from Evan Parker asking if I could come to a memorial concert that was being held for Paul Rutherford at the Red Rose that night, and if I wanted to join the London Improvisers’ Orchestra at the end of the concert. It was one of the few times in my life where I was actually glad I had looked at my e-mail. Evan had also contacted Drew and the two of us agreed to head to the memorial as soon as we were finished with our rehearsal, with the hope of seeing as much as we could before the concert for Paul was over.
We met with the other musicians and they were really outstanding, perhaps even stronger as a group than the initial ensemble he had brought together. One of the factors directly affecting this performance, aside from the changes Drew had made to the written material, was the fact that I would be playing Bb clarinet and tenor, instead of bass clarinet. In the first two concerts the clarinets fit the circumstances and styles of Drew’s music perfectly. Since I had to bring the tenor for the rest of the work I was doing in Europe throughout the fall, having the bass clarinet for this performance wasn’t an option, and I was concerned about the success of bringing the tenor sax into a New Music context- it has immediate associations with Jazz and both Drew and I were focused on trying to avoid the less successful aspects of the Third Stream movement. By concentrating on the non-conventional sound aspects of the instrument’s capabilities it was possible to remove unintended “Jazz” connotations from music. All of Drew’s adjustments to his “suite” of material, either through adapting parts or writing entirely new compositions for this performance, were improvements- it was certainly the most successful version of the composed aspects of the project so far.
© 2024 Ken Vandermark – musician & composer | Disclaimer