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Events Ensemble Anomaly: The music of Derek Bailey & Paul Rutherford

Ensemble Anomaly: The music of Derek Bailey & Paul Rutherford

Fri, June 24 2016

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Simon H. Fell, double bass + direction
John Butcher, soprano saxophone
Alex Ward, electric guitar
Mark Sanders, percussion
Dan Blacksberg, tenor trombone
Tom Kraines, cello
Ron Stabinsky, piano
Ben Mulholland, mellophone
Larry Toft, euphonium
Hayley Varhol, euphonium
Dan Nosheny, tuba
Ello Shertzer, tuba
Nick Millivoi, guitar

FringeArts and Ars Nova Workshop are pleased to present an evening of compositions by Derek Bailey and Paul Rutherford, night one of hcmf//anw. (Click here for night two, John Butcher’s Tarab Cuts.)

Presented in conjunction with the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, the UK’s largest international festival of new and experimental music, Ars Nova Workshop’s two-day festival celebrates Britain’s extraordinary contributions to jazz and contemporary music. Night one brings together a remarkable ensemble of some of the finest creative musicians from the UK and Philadelphia to realize several incredible pieces by two of the music’s pioneers.

The program includes the US premiere of Bailey’s realization of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s “Plus-Minus,” which was composed while Stockhausen lived in Philadelphia; the US premiere of “Ping,” Bailey’s transliteration of the titular Samuel Beckett play, and a trio of solo guitar compositions; and the US premiere of a new version of Rutherford’s piece “Quasi-Mode” for 12 players.


Plus-Minus [US premiere of this realisation] 20’ (c. 1967-69)
Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007, Germany); realised Derek Bailey (1930-2005, UK)
The cryptic, hyper-complex yet somehow open-ended nature of Stockhausen’s ‘recipe’ score of 1963 – which was composed with Stockhausen lived in Philadelphia – has attracted many adventurous musicians, with several of them relishing the opportunity to use Stockhausen’s template to mould distinctively personal material of their own. Bailey’s interest in Stockhausen’s work at this time is evidenced by several entries in his notebooks, and this realisation must have seemed like an interesting way for Bailey to structure the very personal guitar language he was in the process of developing, without allowing his own aesthetic preferences to predominate. This performance is of one possible completion of Bailey’s unfinished realization (see note).

Quasi-Mode III 15’ (1980)
Paul Rutherford (1940-2007, UK)

The third version of Quasi-Mode was prepared in 1980, for an appearance by The London Jazz Composers’ Orchestra on BBC Radio 3’sMusic In Our Time. A virtuoso trombonist and euphonium player, Rutherford had a life-long fascination with the permutation of modes and note sequences, and this piece is an excellent example of his exploration of such material. The original score is for 18 musicians; this new version (12 players) includes all the notated material, with slightly reduced instrumentation. I’m particularly excited that one of tonight’s performers, Trevor Watts, also participated in the premiere of the original version in 1980.

No. 22 [Ping] 30’ (c. 1967-69)
Derek Bailey (1930–2005, UK)

This substantial notated work sees Bailey adopting another externally-imposed structuring device in an attempt to disrupt the habitual or comfortable responses of both composer and performers (cf Plus-Minus). The structure is a transliteration of Samuel Beckett’s Ping; Beckett’s English version of the text was published in 1967, and it’s probable that Bailey started work on this setting shortly thereafter. With a through-composed nucleus of over 300 bars, the piece is a remarkably single-minded exploration of a systematic structural experiment, making no concessions to instrumental practicality – written for a trio of legendary improvisers: Evan Parker, Paul Rutherford and Bailey himself.

No. 10 [Five Pieces for Guitar] [world premiere] 10’ (c. 1966-67)
Nos. 18-20 [Three Pieces for Guitar] 6’ (c. 1967)

No. 23 [Bits] [world premiere] 4’ (c. 1967)
Derek Bailey (1930-2005, UK)

Unsurprisingly, Derek Bailey’s archive contains several compositions for solo guitar. Although he recorded some of these at home in 1966 and 1967, only one instance of Bailey performing such compositions in public has so far been identified – a performance of Nos. 18-20 in Northampton in December 1972.

In the course of these three sets of pieces, Bailey leaves behind his early influences and gradually incorporates a language which directly reflects the discoveries he was making through improvisation. (Bailey’s own recordings of these pieces generally include extemporised interjections, although these are not specified in the score; this option has been retained for today’s performance.)

The No. 10 pieces are generally Webernian in scale, but with a surprising lushness of harmony, and sporadic references to the guitar’s flamenco heritage. (This is perhaps the nearest Bailey comes to writing ‘repertoire’ pieces.) In the 18-20 set Bailey’s compositional language has hardened into a more acerbic serialism, and these pieces have a harmonic tautness which gives them something of the intensity that Bailey admired in Webern. Bailey was now starting to lose interest in playing these pieces ‘straight’; by 1967 he was usually using such compositions as starting points for improvisations. (Nevertheless, his fair copy of the 18-20 score presents a self-contained composed suite, without improvisation.)

By No. 23 Bailey’s scores are tending to become sequences of notated gestures, each of which may provide raw material for extemporised development, rather than a fixed work in themselves. However, this is not to suggest that his interest in abstract structural questions had receded; although the score of No. 23 is not strictly serial, it uses several varied repetitions of an extended tone row, with the third of its three sections being a (slightly modified) retrograde of the opening section.

About Derek Bailey

Guitarist/composer Derek Bailey (1930-2005) was one of the towering figures of the English avant-garde and a leading pioneer of free improvisation. In mid-1960s London, Bailey began working with fellow jazz experimentalists like Evan Parker, Kenny Wheeler, Dave Holland and John Stevens. He co-founded Incus, the first musician-owned independent record label in the UK, with Parker, Tony Oxley and Michael Walters. Bailey’s long-running Company Week festival convened a wide range of improvisers annually for nearly 20 years, including, at various times, Anthony Braxton, John Zorn, Wadada Leo Smith, Henry Kaiser, Steve Lacy, Fred Frith, Misha Mengelberg, Han Bennink and Buckethead.


About Paul Rutherford

Trombonist/composer Paul Rutherford (1940-2007) was playing in a Dixieland band when he met drummer John Stevens and saxophonist Trevor Watts in 1958, laying the foundation for European free improvisation through the trio’s experiments with American jazz. He was a member of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, Barry Guy’s London Jazz Composers’ Orchestra, Globe Unity Orchestra and Keith Tippett’s Centipede during his long career, as well as playing occasional gigs with the likes of Soft Machine. He founded the group Iskra 1903, originally with Barry Guy and Derek Bailey though the line-up changed throughout the years.

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