Monday, August 6, 2012

Improvised Music Before 1970: An Incomplete Discography

Here is the beginning of a checklist for people interested in checking out early examples of recorded improvised music. You'll notice a distinct lack of "free jazz" (Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler, etc.); There are literally hundreds of such recordings, I don't have time to compile them all. A study of the ESP-Disk discography should get you started.

UPDATE: Note also the presence of a recording by Roy Eldridge. He once said in an interview: "[Pianist] Clyde Hart and I made a [free improvisation recording] once. We decided in front that there'd be no regular chords, we'd announce no keys, stick to no progressions. Only once I fell into a minor key; the rest was free, just blowing. And, man, it felt good." (Ulanov, A History of Jazz in America, p. 239)

I have checked many jazz history books and discographies since first reading this in 2012 and I have found absolutely no leads. Clyde Hart died in 1945, and the only documented collaborations between the two happened between 1938 and 1940 or so. (They played together in Chu Berry's band, and possibly others.) So I'm assuming it had to be around that time. This would be incredibly early, predating Lennie Tristano's, and even Stuff Smith's experiments with free improvisation.

The first possibility is that it was recorded and released. But given that three major jazz discographies do not have any such entry, this seems very unlikely. If it was in fact recorded, there's the possibility that it was never released. If that's the case, the master was either discarded or it was put into storage. Eldridge and Hart recorded together with Chu Berry on Commodore records, so that may be a good starting point.

If I had the money I would offer $1,000,000 for the location of this recording. Post a comment if you have any information!!

Anyway, here's the list:

Recent additions for the following artists:

Charlie Nothing
Malachi
Gruppo Romano Free Jazz
Mario Schiano
Chico Hamilton Quintet
Paul Horn

 Improvised Music Before 1970 - An Incomplete Discography

AMM, “AMMMusic”, Elektra, 1966
AMM / Musica Elettronica Viva, “Live Electronic Music Improvised”. Mainstream Records, 1970
AMM, “The Crypt – 12th, June, 1968”. Matchless Recordings, 1978
Amon Düül, "Psychedelic Underground"
Amon Düül, "Collapsing"
Amon Düül, "Disaster"
Charles Ives, “Ives Plays Ives – The Complete Recordings of Charles Ives at the Piano, 1933-1943”. Composers Recordings, Inc. [Two, maybe three tracks improvised.]
Charlie Nothing, "The Psychedelic Saxophone of Charlie Nothing". Takoma Records, 1967.
Charlie Nothing, "Outside/Inside". De Stijl Records, 2011 [recorded in 1969]. 
Chico Hamilton Quintet, "s/t". Pacific Jazz, 1955. One track (called 'Free Form') fully improvised.
Columbia Symphony Orchestra, “Lukas Foss: Time Cycle”. Columbia, 1962 [Featuring improvised interludes by Foss' Improvisation Chamber Ensemble.]
Django Reinhardt, "In Solitaire". Definitive, 2005 [recorded between 1937-1950]
Erroll Garner, “Overture to Dawn, vol. 1”. Blue Note, 195? [recorded in 1944]
Erroll Garner, “Overture to Dawn, vol. 2”. Blue Note, 195? [recorded in 1944]
Erroll Garner, “Afternoon of an Elf”, Mercury, 1955. [One track improvised.]
Free Form Improvisation Ensemble, “The Free Form Improvisation Ensemble”. Cadence, 1998 [recorded in 1964]
Georges I. Gurdjieff, “Harmonic Development”. Basta, 2005 [recorded in 1948-49]
Group Ongaku, “Music by Group Ongaku” Seer Sound Archive, released in 1996/2011, recorded in 1960.
Gruppo Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza, “The Private Sea of Dreams” [US title]. RCA Victor, 1967.
Gruppo Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza, “Improvisationen”. Deutsche Grammophon, 1968.
Gruppo Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza, “The Feed-back”. RCA Italiana, 1970.
Gruppo Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza, “1967-1975”. Edition RZ, 1992.
Gruppo Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza, “Azioni”. Die Schachtel, 2006.
Gruppo Romano Free Jazz, "1966-67". Vedette, 1977. [recorded in 1967]
Hapshash and the Coloured Coat, "Featuring the Human Host and the Heavy Metal Kids". Liberty, 1967.
Jean Dubuffet & Asger Jorn, “Musique Phénoménale”. 4 10''-record set, 50 copies, Edizione del Cavallino, 1961.
Jean Dubuffet, “Experiences Musicales”. Finnadar, 1973.
Lennie Tristano, “Crosscurrents”. Capitol Records, 1972. [recorded in 1949]
Malachi, "Holy Music". Verve Records, 1966.
Mario Schiano, "Original Sins 1967/70 Unreleased". Splasc(h), 1992. [recorded between 1967 and 1970]
Musica Elettronica Viva, “Friday”. Polydor, 1969.
Musica Elettronica Viva, “The Sound Pool”. Actuel, 1970.
Musica Elettronica Viva, “The Original”. IRML, 1996.
Musica Elettronica Viva, “Rome Cansrt”. IRML, 1999.
Musica Elettronica Viva, “Spacecraft / Unified Patchwork Theory”. Alga Marghen, 2001. [disc 1 recorded in 1967.]
Musica Elettronica Viva, “Pieces”. IRML, 2004. [recorded in 1966/67]
Musica Elettronica Viva, “MEV 40”. New World Records, 2008. [disc 1 recorded in 1967]
New Music Ensemble, “Improvisations”. New Music Ensemble, 1963.
New Music Ensemble, “New Music Ensemble II”. New Music Ensemble, 1964.
Nihilist Spasm Band, “The Sweetest Country This Side of Heaven”. Arts Canada, 1967.
Nihilist Spasm Band, “No Record”. Allied Record Corporation, 1968.
Paul Horn, "House of Horn". Dot Records, 1957. Several solo flute tracks are apparently improvised.
The Red Crayola & the Familiar Ugly, “Parable of Arable Land”. International Artists, 1967. Free-form Freak-out tracks are improvised, also the title track.
The Red Krayola, “God Bless the Red Krayola and All Who Sail With It”. International Artists, 1968. (2, maybe 3 tracks improvised)
The Red Crayola, “Live 1967”. Drag City, 1998. [recorded in 1967]
The Red Krayola, “Coconut Hotel”. Drag City, 2005. [recorded in 1967]
Roy Eldridge & Clyde Hart, unknown title, unissued? 1939?
Stuff Smith & Robert Crum, “The 1944 Rosenkrantz Apartment Transcriptions”. AB Fable, 2002.
Stuff Smith, “1944–1946 Studio, Broadcast, Concert & Apartment Performances”. AB Fable, 2002.
Tangerine Dream, "Electronic Meditation"

Last updated August 13th, 2014

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Notes on Freeform Radio

This short essay was written in 2011 when I started my blog for my show on WCBN called Doomsday Radio. It's a concise summary of my theoretical approach to freeform radio. As such, the issues it raises need expansion, which I will provide sometime. For the time being, this suffices.

Notes on Freeform Radio

Record albums foster content- and object-based community, through the distribution and sale of plastic objects with sound encoded into them. When you listen to the radio, there are likely (at least) dozens of other people who are listening to the exact same thing, at the same time. In other words, radio fosters content- and time-based community (i.e. when you and your friend listened to the same radio show at the same time of the day). Another way of saying this is that a sound recording preserves neither space nor time of the event that it documents; radio preserves time but does not preserve the space of the event.

Despite the common joke that radio is a "dying medium", radios are ubiquitous: far cheaper than a CD player or an iPod, included in all cars, and many alarm clocks. This implies wide and easy access in our society, lending to its ability to foster a time- and content-based community. Indeed, a recent Nielsen poll has found that 56% of teenagers listen to music on the radio, and 48% of the new music people hear is first heard over the radio.

Commercial radio expresses the desires and interests of advertisers and the rather unadventurous producers who are responsible for assembling the songs we hear. Advertising dollars run commercial radio; the songs are filler in between the content: advertisements.

Freeform radio expresses the desires and interests of the individual DJ, him/herself a member of the community. The DJ's interests are filtered (though very slightly) through the interests of institutions like the FCC, and in my case, the University of Michigan.

Freeform Radio is a performance art for an unidentifiable, uncountable audience.

The radio DJ has a responsibility to his immediate community, and also to whoever may be listening via an online stream. This responsibility differs depending on the DJ's style. The freeform DJ is not free of responsibility responsibility is not to dull the senses; not to entertain; not to provoke; not to agitate; not to teach. The responsibility of the freeform DJ is to learn. If his/her audience also learns something, so much the better.

The freeform DJ plays songs like a jazz musician improvises, or like a classical pianist plays a Bach Invention: with deliberation, curiosity, humor, honesty, and taste (however tasteless). Songs are selected by direct choice, through association with another recording, or completely at random. Continuity between songs is interesting, but may not be consciously pursued. Continuity emergent from deliberate contrast is a powerful experience. Serendipity is the lifeblood of freeform. A good freeform radio show will teach everyone who hears it: the DJ and the listener alike.

Last updated: August 27th, 2012