Every few years some people start saying that improvised music has grown stale and is dying. Such prophets of doom should go out more. They could visit Hull – a city which gets as bad a press as improvisation: it too is supposed to be dying and have become a cultural desert. But if you choose the right weekend and can find the right art gallery amidst the city centre’s backstreets, then you might find three men sitting at tables with an assortment of electronic gizmos and general junk in front of them (one even has an old knitting machine…) It’s true that there’s not a great deal to watch as they sit twiddling knobs and switches and scraping this and that, but that’s why there’s a film being projected on the wall behind them – a documentary without its sound, which seems to be about some weird central European guy experimenting with little rockets in an artistic sort of way. And the music the three men make is captivating. It starts hushed and delicate, but switches every so often into a more assertive, even abrasive texture – which might surprise you if you’ve heard these three before. They play for an hour – they kind of have to because that’s how long the film is. But it’s unusually long for an improvisation, and that’s good because you can hear it stretching them, forcing them to open and explore areas that they might not have got to in the safety of a 30 minute set. And as the film’s credits start to roll, the musicians stop, though I can’t work out how they know to, as they don’t turn round and look at the screen. But that’s the end.
Several months later a disc arrives through my door with no label and no note in it. I receive a lot of music through the post, so I’m neither surprised nor particularly curious. But when I play it I am. What is this? It’s really good. And then I remember that Jez said he wanted me to write a few words about Tierce, and I realise that I’ve heard this before. But I’m hooked by now, and I sit through the whole hour again, wishing everything I was sent was this good. As Shakespeare nearly said, “if this music’s dying, then give me excess of it before it shuffles off its mortal coil.” I just wish that other forms of music could die so gracefully, and with such vigour and vitality.
- Simon Reynell (Another Timbre)