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Pierre Borel saxophone
Antonio Borghini bass
Christian Lillinger drums
Lucia Martinez drums
Jonas Westergaard bass
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Indeterminacy and open form
Christopher Dell’s compositional research concentrates on a specific musical form, which he calls „contemporary music with a high degree of improvisation“. His ouevre represents different modes of compositional practises within the fields of jazz, improvised music and new music. The work presented on this cd – „The Working Concert“ – reflects Dell’s various musical affiliations. As a composer Dell has an interest in notational strategies that can propel the interaction of the musicians who play his music. Using schemes from for example serialism and relationalism, Dell develops a unique and so far unheard music. It first and foremost follows a structural approach to “indeterminacy” which has a significant consequence for its form. The notion indeterminacy was introduced in the musical discourse in the 1950s by the American avant-garde composer John Cage. He defined indeterminacy as „the ability of a piece (of music) to be performed in substantially different ways“. (Pritchett 1993, 108) In Cage’s music, the difference of the performances of a single piece of music is induced rather by new material of musical sounds and new ways of measuring beats than by musical form. Dell’s work, however, is more influenced by the interpretation of “indeterminacy” by Cage’s colleague and friend Earle Brown who in his compositions developed a unique concept of open form. This concept is about inserting structures into the score in such a manner, that the structures can be reassembled in manifold ways. That opens up the musical form while determining the performance through structural processing. Every new performance is formally structured by interaction and conducting.
Dell’s compositional research on “open form” includes analyses of strategies of composition in new and contemporary music. It also includes the analysis of the embodiment of the materiality of the events taking place in the music-making itself. In „The Working Concert“ Dell assembles his knowlegde of 30 years of composing, bringing his compositional work to a new level which he calls “the non-representational playing and composing”. This is about the creation of representations of musical structures in such a way that they – in different degrees – stay undefined, non-representational. The non-representational representation becomes an instigator of the structural playing itself. Playing results in manifold polymetric and polyharmonic juxtapositions, while the inner motif remains concise, transparent and minimal.
“The Working Concert” constitutes what Dell calls „metaform“: it is the basis, the vector-field for producing formally open and structurally determined musical spaces. While its form comes into being through musical production, “The Working Concert” combines playing with co-composition in real-time. The refined and delicate interaction of the musicians results in different layers of sounds, relationscapes. While the structural approach to form-making in a group situation is put to the foreground, the musical work transcends the usual dichotomy of rhythm-section vs. solo player.
This is the first recording of “The Working Concert” and its first revision. Two CDs with the Sicilian Improvisers Orchestra (Revision II and Revision III) are already recorded and will be also be released in 2016. Although a high degree of concentration is required when listening to this music, the listener who does so will be greatly rewarded by an enlightening experience.
About Revision I
In the summer of 2014 Christopher Dell was invited by the Goethe Institute Brussels to participate in the We-Traders. Swapping Crisis for City exhibition, taking place at the Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien, Berlin. The exhibition was part of a larger project initiated in 2013 by the Goethe-Institut which connected artists, designers and activists from Lisbon, Madrid, Toulouse, Turin, Berlin and Brussels. The main aim of this project was to investigate democratic processes in European society as it is currently under pressure and in a situation of crisis.
Central to the exhibition was its scheme. It was conceived by curator Angelika Fitz, who calls the scheme “the working exhibition”. By this she means that everything that occurs within the framework of an exhibition is part of it. An exhibition is a chain of events that “collaborates.” The work of curating then consists of interconnecting and framing these events. Reflecting this scheme, the title of Christopher Dell’s composition is “The Working Concert”. For “The Working Concert” Dell assumes that such curatorial processes as mentioned above can also be applied to music. For example the framing of “The Working Concert” in event series content provides a setting that invites the musicians to become co-producers and co-authors within various parameters. Within these, various tropes of music – rehearsing, practicing, performing, negotiating, repeating, etc. – interact with socio-material aspects of the event of the performance itself – exhibition, studio, stage, forum, objects, etc. Everything that happens within the time and place staked out is an installation of the exhibition and/or the concert.
Conceptually, Dell believes that the motive of transferring Fitz’s scheme to music must be contextualized historically. Recently many event-based works of the visual arts from the 1960s have received renewed attention. Being read as “notations” or “diagrammatics” by art historians and critics, the non-representational aspects of the works has come to the forefront. For Dell it is particularly interesting that the artists who created these works often made use of the model of music and in particular of the musical score. The Working Concert now aims to transpose such notational and/or diagrammatic practices back to music in the exhibition context. The connection to the We-Traders theme thus makes experimentation with the score and conducting plausible as an investigation on the form of democratic processes.
In consequence the The Working Concert is a series of experimental works, called “revisions”. The series is method and process oriented. It explores new modes of composition and formats of the concert as an ongoing project of different practises, representations and orders.
The initial performance of “The Working Concert. Revision I” was conceived as a series of three events. At the same time, the chain of events is divided into different spatial modes. For instance, events 1 and 2 take place within Mode 1 (Trading Room) in the exhibition space and event 3 within Mode 2 (City as Stage) as an open air event. Mode 1 emphasizes the studio character, while Mode 2 takes the theatricality of the city itself as a theme and correlates it to the improvisation performance. The players, that were united for this project are all internationally renowned musicians, that have both in the past and present interacted and worked together in a wide range of combinations. Since The Working Concert demands a specific aesthetics of playing and technical as well as strategic knowledge of improvisation, these musicians have been chosen for their approaches toward the music and the way in which they play.