Saturday, October 24, 2015

Werckmeister Harmonies

Very lucky, yesterday, to see two of my favourite films in one day. I can't honestly say that seeing The Werckmeister Harmonies for the first time on the big screen (also at the BFI Southbank) was as revelatory as Mirror. This one was shown on 35mm, though it was a surprisingly ropey print: beautiful when undamaged, but particularly at the beginning and end of reels seriously scratchy and juddery in places as well. Although this did have the effect of making the film look like it was more likely to have been made 50 years ago than 15, which was perhaps not inappropriate. It's not a competition, but for sheer impact I would have to say that Mirror wins the day: the intensity of The Werckmeister Harmonies feels a little one-note when seen immediately afterwards. But it is still an extraordinary cinematic experience; what seeing it on a big screen for the first time did certainly emphasise is how extraordinarily choreographed the cinematography is, how marvellously fluid while still retaining a lightness despite the fact that any frame chosen at random, one feels, would be perfectly composed. This ought to suck all the air out of the film but it manages not to. Worth emphasising, by the way, that the film is credited at the beginning to Lásló Krasznahorkai, Ágnes Hranitsky and Béla Tarr - the shorthand of "Tarr's films" should not be allowed to obscure this.

Friday, October 23, 2015


Sometimes seeing a film on the big screen, surprisingly, really does nothing to alter the sense one has gained of it through watching it on DVD. At other times it may be enjoyable and add something here and there but not really transform one's sense of a film. Watching Mirror today on a big screen at the BFI in London - a film I know well from DVD viewings - did not exactly transform my understanding of the film, but it was a profoundly different and revelatory experience. It wasn't the size of the screen as such (though that did accentuate certain things beautifully, like the cat early on, drinking away, happily oblivious to the salt the mischievous Alexei is pouring on its head; or the military instructor's headwound, pulsing in time to his loudly beating heart), but rather the gradations it made visible. These gradations, particularly in the colour segments, and particularly of focus, of light, and of hue, are all but invisible on the small screen. They created, not a sense of hyperrealism, but of simple, beautiful, corporeality. I really did want to reach out and touch somebody's face, or shoulder. Having the sound come from a single speaker behind the screen also bound the sound to the image more than can happen at home.
Other more local touches I spotted for the first time: the way the camera seems to pass, impossibly, through the wooden fence as it pans round the mother speaking to the passerby at the beginning; the apparent allusions to suspense or even horror cinema in the music at certain points (eg the ghostly appearance of the two women in the apartment), and in the images: the final shot of the mother before they leave the doctor's wife. It also seemed to me that inside the dacha, before we exit to watch the haybarn burn, a telephone can be heard faintly, preechoing the call from the mother that follows and suggesting the way sound can insinuate itself into a dream. But I may just have imagined this...
And this was a digital print, so although I have now finally seen Mirror on the big screen, I still have yet to see it on film...

Monday, October 12, 2015

Cornell, belatedly

A few thoughts, belatedly, on the very fine Joseph Cornell exhibition (now ended) Wanderlust, at the Royal Academy.
One of the most striking things about it was the sense of how open to the world Cornell's work was. For all its apparently hermetic aspects (of which there are many), I still left with the sense that his practice was fundamentally centripetal, making connections outwards, and that too much of the work influenced by him has mistaken this for something centrifugal, making more and more connections among an ever-more tightly circumscribed set of artists and artworks. (Much of the later work of John Zorn comes to mind here.)
There was a certain frustration at not being able to interact with the objects. As wonderful as it was to see them up close, so many of them explicitly ask to be handled and manipulated that seeing them in the flesh gave the odd sense that one loses much less in reproduction than one would have thought: if you can't pick them up and move the parts around, it makes very little difference whether one is a foot away from the original object, withdrawn behind glass, or looking at a photograph or video.
Generally I found the non-box collages less striking than the boxes (with the exception of 'The Sorrows of Young Werther', which is very strong), and the films were excellent and refreshingly accentuated Cornell's sense of humour. The narratives he sometimes hints at were also intriguing. I want to know more about Berenice.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Encountering Horse Money

Juxtaposition of two excellent pieces this past weekend - Complicite's The Encounter at the Old Vic in Bristol, and Pedro Costa's film from last year, Cavalo Dinheiro, or Horse Money, at the Watershed.

The former is a genuine tour de force by Simon McBurney and his associates, moving beautifully from an introduction to the complex microphone setup involved (all the audience wear headphones) handled almost like stand-up comedy, into its narrative (which concerns the encounter between photographer Loren McIntyre and the Mayoruna people of the Amazon). Perhaps sometimes a little too credulous (it feels as if the production wants to believe in the telepathic communication with the Mayoruna chief which McIntyre himself claimed to have taken place), and I cannot claim to have been absolutely transported at every moment - but on reflection perhaps this is itself the point. McBurney begins by discussing how everything is fiction, but that we cannot draw a neat line between the real and the fictional: he tells us that when he blows into the microphone we will feel our ear, beneath the headphones, getting hot, and indeed we do. Breaking the spell is repeatedly dramatised in the production, as McBurney's daughter interrupts his narrative, but the dialectic between immersion in fiction and observation of the fiction as fiction will be different for every audience member. For me this was encapsulated by realising in retrospect how carefully a piece a fake blood must have been placed, which was needed after a sequence in which McBurney trashed pretty much the whole stage.

More quietly, Costa's film (the first by him I have seen) is equally remarkable. It also entangles the fictional and the non-fictional, but whereas The Encounter begins with a man on a stage telling a story taking full advantage of the possibilities of theatre (it could never be filmed), Horse Money could be nothing other than a film. Its apparatus, to begin with, mixes the real and the fictional: the actors are relating events based on, or at least very close to, their own lives. But this narrative - whatever it status - is then placed in a space which refers obliquely to itself. Time and space continually blur, transform & get confused. But, intriguingly, the narrative itself is not confusing: we piece it together fairly straightforwardly. What is remarkable is that there is no attempt to create a stable fictional space within which to deploy this story. If we were told that this was the afterlife, or a dream, nobody would have much trouble, but withholding such certainty allows Costa to create a sense of stability of reference simultaneous with utter mysteriousness. It is also visually extraordinary, mostly stable camera set-ups (which somewhat recall Roy Andersson) showing a collection of unforgettable faces with a palette of mostly subdued but occasionally vibrant colours embedded in utter blackness. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Syntactics PS: Interview with Peter Riley on Derek Bailey

And as a postscript to yesterday's post, here is the interview I did with poet Peter Riley about Derek Bailey (and also touching on Riley's own work) that I conducted as research for the Syntactics piece, which was also previously available at dispatx.

A Conversation With Peter Riley
conducted by Dominic Lash
The following conversation took place at Peter Riley's house in Cambridge during the morning of Wednesday 17th May 2006. I began by raising the issue of Derek Bailey's much-contested concept of 'non-idiomatic improvisation'.
PETER RILEY (PR): I thought that was a quite simple concept of Derek's about non-idiomatic improvisation because it was a question of where the music came from. It came from jazz, and you know he studied Webern for some time, and he wasn't trying to continue jazz, and he wasn't trying to continue the Webern developments. He was doing something which didn't have an antecedent, so he was quite entitled to call it that. It doesn't prevent it becoming idiomatic to later generations, I suppose, does it?
DOMINIC LASH (DL): No, when it's set . . . I mean that's what interested me in the earlier edition [of Bailey's book Improvisation] is how you get this sense of how obviously a lot of things were coming out of playing with people, but also how carefully he thought about what types of musical language he wanted to include.
PR: Yes, I don't know to what extent he did that alone or by working with others, because that was before I knew him, all the goings on in Sheffield with Tony Oxley and Gavin Bryars, of which there's a CD with a lot of chat in it, about that. I think even that was to quite a large extent to do with playing with others, to do with playing with those two. It says in there how that trio realised they were doing something unique, and how difficult it was to have guests playing with them. You remember that?
DL: Yes, I do. I mean I only know it from those recordings, but it is fascinating. On that - what do they play, Miles' Mode don't they? It does start off . . . and then in the middle more what might be recognisable Derek from later on starts to emerge in the middle of this - as you say, from playing with . . . But then there is that CD that Zorn released, where you hear the solo pieces which Derek . . .
PR: Oh the pieces, the actual pieces?
DL: Yeah, the Pieces for Guitar which is slightly after that, and you get this sense of him actually writing the pieces, but he says in the notes he was only concerned with freely improvising.
PR: It was part of his study.
DL: And he also used to write things down for himself, didn't he?
PR: I first heard Derek I suppose about 1972 or 1973, probably. I was living in Denmark before that. There's a poet called Anthony Barnett - he was a poet-musician (rather more of a poet than a musician, but he thought he was a musician - he hit drums and things) and he played with John Tchicai. I wasn't in Copenhagen so I didn't see much of this scene, but it was quite lively scene involving Tchicai and Don Cherry and people like that. Dollar Brand turned up from South Africa, and so on. It wasn't too far to go and travel for a special concert. I didn't really know any of these people, but I was asking what about the UK, what's going on there, and Tchicai reported, 'Well, you ought to listen to Derek Bailey.' And that was all Tchicai had to say about UK.
DL: He was the one.
PR: Yes. So I looked this up, and I think the first concert I ever heard him must have been about that time in Kensington Oval, and that was when I wrote that first piece about Derek, which was published in a magazine called Great Works.
DL: There's extracts from that in the Ben Watson?
PR: Yes. And probably my position on Derek hasn't shifted much!
DL: It seems to me as a piece of writing which gets to what Derek's doing, I haven't read much else that seems to . . .
PR: I don't know, I suppose I didn't get any further in understanding the music by ten years association with all these musicians! I mean, as Derek says, most of them are very unwilling to talk about music. He wasn't, hence that great interview, whatever he said in it. But most of them weren't, especially younger ones didn't seem to want to very much actually, because they were still . . . They weren't all that sure what they were doing, a lot of them. And they were very aware that they were a bit late on the scene, and that certain things had been established that they were following through, I think, or taking to somewhat other places.
DL: I suppose there was a very rapid development, was there?
PR: In London, yes. And it started to spread to other places. It's funny, I was living in Derbyshire, well North Staffordshire, through most of that, and managed to keep totally in touch with the scene I think. I couldn't afford to travel to London very often, but I was doing record reviewing for Musics, that magazine, occasional little articles and things, and knew Derek. I'd go down there and used to stay at Derek's flat, Derek and Janice in those days, when there was a concert on, and I'd stay for the whole of a Company Week, so I think I fairly kept up with what was going on. And chatted to Derek in bits and pieces, I mean there wasn't any concentrated theoretical discussion. Topics would come and . . . it would depend on who was around, and what was going on. But I remember when he was talking about the younger musicians, and what they were doing, especially people like Steve Beresford, and the Bristol group - they suddenly stopped - but he was talking about people are 'now trying to do it without vocabulary', he said, which was interesting. And he said, 'I don't think you can do that.'
DL: That's fascinating.
PR: It was tending towards silence, in certain areas. And there were these people in Bristol, they were a nice crowd. Will Menter is one of the names I can remember. And they had a little scene there, they put on quite big concerts sometimes, used the Arnolfini gallery occasionally for things. And there was a percussionist, a guitar, another sax, and various others, and they travelled round, they played in London and things. It reached the stage with them sometimes that somebody would walk on to the stage carrying a trumpet and put it down on the floor next to him and not touch it for the whole evening. And sit there and occasionally like drop a sponge on the floor or wind up a little toy, and let it scuttle across the stage, you know all that kind of thing was going on. And I suppose they did other things but they could spend quite a lot of time doing that, and at some point there'd be something a bit louder and more massive going on. I can't remember that but I suppose the! y must have done. They can't have actually spent the whole evening sitting on a chair winding up toys.
DL: I don't know!
PR: I've got some old cassette recordings of them, I'll have to listen to them sometime and check what they were up to. And Beresford was a bit like that, in that his piano vocabulary wasn't . . . Ahhh . . . Well, as Derek said it hardly really existed as a vocabulary, it was bits of memories, I mean he'd suddenly play a bit of 'Any Old Iron' or something like that.
DL: So it was just a confrontation with the instrument, with whatever it was that was there in the . . .
PR: Yes, though he listened. He played listening. I don't think Derek ever attempted seriously to play with people like the Bristol crowd, or others, but he did play with Steve, and David Toop, who was into another thing entirely. Derek was interested in more and more, later on, playing with different kinds of musicians.
DL: And I suppose there was the sort of AMM thing which carried on in parallel.
PR: Never came across that much, actually. It didn't seem to cross over. I know he liked Keith Rowe's playing very much. But apart from that, I mean he talks about it in the book a bit, doesn't he? It's a little section. I hardly ever saw them, except on tours and things like that.
DL: It is interesting, 'playing without vocabulary', because Keith has now, in the last few years, become enormously influential. There's this whole sort of scene with a lot of electronics and things, and after I think not playing much for quite a while he's become the sort of godfather of . . . Lots of people take things, there are quite a few people who play the guitar in the same kind of way he does. I don't really know them very well, but I played with some of them last week, and that's interesting because the metaphor they constantly use is 'material'. I don't know if that's more of a visual art . . . But they always talk about material all the time . . .
PR: Not 'instrument'?
DL: No. And I don't think 'vocabulary'. Whereas other people do use that.
PR: I think there was a language analogy running all the time with Derek. When he spoke of it in that way it was. And also, I always thought his rhythms were closely related to the rhythms of the spoken language. I don't think I ever said that anywhere, I don't remember anyone else saying it, but I always thought that. And I played some of him recently, and I thought 'those are spoken language rhythms, quite a lot of them'. And it's not as though he's got a regular pulse in his head, which he's diverging from - syncopation - in fact. Well, I mean sometimes it is but sometimes it's just not that, it's not dependent on that sense of a regular pulse at all, for a long time sometimes. My theory is that it's bound to be, that if it's not metricated, it's going to be related to the spoken language. It's naturally what you'll fall back on, I suppose.
DL: The other thing I suppose is the actual, the physical construction of the instrument itself. I just wonder if there's a sense that there's a kind of grammar of the guitar.
PR: Oh yeah, I'm sure he's terribly interested in that.
DL: In terms of how far your hand can move, you know.
PR: Oh yes. Which is why I prefer videos of him, more than CDs actually.
DL: Shame there aren't more.
PR: No, I've only ever seen one, I've seen a DVD of him that's fairly recently produced, from the States.
DL: From New York, yes I've got that.
PR: I think it's pretty well the only one I know. Well I've got an old DVD of him with Min Tanaka. I don't think you see him much.
DL: I've seen little bits. There are clips on the internet, from various things, but they're all short.
PR: It does make a difference when you actually see what his hand's doing. Otherwise it's just - this sound comes out and you don't really know what it is. I don't know how much that matters, but I find it a great help. It helps you to concentrate, and to get a visual equivalent of the music as it's going along.
DL: Is that in terms of how it might make sense, whatever that might mean?
PR: Umm, I suppose to some extent it is yes. I mean, there's a sound produced down there which couldn't come at a different place because of the time it takes him to get down there. And that sort of thing. And it's done in a different way and from a different angle, and all these things have got to change.
DL: There's a quote from him, some interview, where he says that atonality has this non-grammatical quality to it, so you can have a sequence which doesn't have that directed sense, which it does if you're using tonal material. And non-tonal - that's very interesting, he says that in the earlier version of the book 'my previous uses of pitch, tonal modal or atonal had been too specific and unhelpful, so pitch had to be utilised' - he's talking about when he started playing solo a lot and he felt he hadn't been using pitch before because it had seemed to be to tied to something, but then he felt that not to use pitch was to cut yourself off from a . . . 'So pitch had to be utilised but it's grammatical constituent had to be neutralised. It had to be non-tonal.' And that's still using the linguistic metaphor.
PR: When I first heard him, I couldn't hear any jazz at all, and that was 1972 or 3. And I didn't - I never realised that he was looked upon by some as a jazz musician. It just didn't seem to be there at all. Except when he was being parodic, of course. But then he wasn't in those days, very rarely anyway. There wasn't much of that jokey stuff. Which quite surprised me when I found he was looked upon as a jazz musician, or that he fell between the stools of jazz musician and classical musician, actually, in many ways. And that's because of the rhythm - it's because of that thing, it's not a syncopated rhythm, as I said before. That was I think one of the things that drew me to him, and drew me to him as a poet too, I think, because all my previous serious experience in poetry tended to be rather academic. Most of the people I was associated with as poets were in universities or getting teaching jobs in universities and that sort of thing and were working up a l! ot of theory behind what they did, so it was a kind of classical world, and I heard this which was every bit as contemporary as any other music, and you did think of Webern immediately, because there were all these sevenths and ninths going around absolutely all over the place. And yet it didn't belong in that world at all. It was somebody, I mean not an uneducated person at all, but somebody who came from a different world altogether, and that was a great help because I wasn't doing very well with my sort of poetry 'scene', really. I felt a bit of a misfit in this . . . I was aiming for an academic career myself originally, but that sort of fell through. And I realised I was obviously going to drift round for the rest of my life without ever having a proper job! This became obvious very early on, actually. And here was somebody else who was doing that really. I mean. Derek had to eke a living in various ways, which became easier for him later on when he got Incus really off! the ground, and could live off that, and had the advantage of global sales of CDs and things, because however minority an interest it is in music, you have got the world, whereas in poetry you haven't, you've got the English language zone.
DL: You said something somewhere about the craft, the sense of poetry as a craft that you . . .
PR: Yes, well that was there all along, really.
DL: This is from you, in this interview in Nate Dorward's thing: "I like to think in terms of a craft fervently pursued but within the obtaining conditions. Knowing working musicians such as Derek Bailey ... "
PR: Yes, I knew there was somewhere I'd mentioned Derek Bailey, so it was there. It's to do with . . . and also working alone, I think. Which seems odd to say of Derek, who spent so much time in company, and at one time said that he valued playing with others more than playing solo
DL: There's a quote somewhere where he says that he hates playing solo.
PR: I think it was a phase, actually. I remember him saying to me, "It's so much more rewarding when you play with somebody else." Perhaps it was a time when he'd kind of established his vocabulary, and when he played solo he didn't feel challenged in any way, so he really needed a . . . I not sure about that or how long it might have lasted, but he always wanted to play with others, didn't he? I'm not sure about latterly, in his last...
DL: Well actually, it's extraordinary, all sorts of people that you would never have thought. Again the international thing, but you know putting him together with people like Pat Metheny or Japanese DJs, all these kind of things.
PR: But nevertheless, in spite of that, I felt that he was a marvellous example of somebody working alone, independently, just not influenced by what anybody anywhere thought he might, or should be doing. No mentors to him at all really. And just working it all out for himself. And playing with other people was part of that. That was a good example, even the lifestyle was a good example of how you didn't have to depend on these preexisting structures or associations. I mean naturally when you start off, when you're young you seek like minds, you seek people that are doing something similar that you can associate with. But you don't have to depend on them. I mean the whole influence of him, whatever I've said about that, I was thinking about this recently. I can only think about it now in very general terms, of things like lifestyle and the general cultural position he was in, rather than details like rhythm and that. Though there are possible exceptions. I tried to make some! notes, but I've said most of that already. Being a working musician, that affected my whole view of music, seeing what it was like being a working musician. Not only with Derek but also subsequently when I've known working musicians in places like Romania, who are absolutely dependent on what they do for their livelihood, and wouldn't be able to eat if they didn't, cause there's nothing to fall back on in a place like that. And it makes you a bit less precious about notions of betraying cultural causes. If one of these bands is offered a quite good sum of money to play on the television as the backing to a bingo contest, they'll do it! Because you'd be daft not to. And it doesn't compromise the music, actually, because the musical area they're playing on is rich enough to incorporate that. That relates only tangentially to Derek because he would not have been asked to play . . .
DL: But it does relate to what he used to do.
PR: Oh yes. Yes I suppose so.
DL: But he managed to eke out an area of music where he could do something like that, but on his own terms.
PR: And it's interesting, the idea of having a vocabulary when you can't exactly say what the vocabulary is. Not like a language vocabulary. It was like his vocabulary. It was a personal vocabulary, and then he found others that he could talk to in it.
DL: This is what I'm interested in, how far the analogy goes and how far it doesn't. Because there's something else from him where he's talking about Company, and the way he would invite people he knew well but also wild cards.
PR: I didn't hear all of those. They seemed to get wilder as the thing went on, those casts, didn't they?
DL: Right, cause he felt it had got too cosy. There was some interview I think in the early eighties, and he says that even those people in Company who are primarily interested in working with improvisation, those type of musicians normally do like working with people who have language or material or vocabulary in common with them, whereas he had this interest in having a vocabulary and working with people who didn't share a vocabulary with him. So quite how the analogy works . . .
PR: It's not simple, is it, because there were a lot of guests around in those days. It was a very active scene in London and musicians would turn up from all over the world almost, and they didn't necessarily always appear in public. They tried to but sometimes they'd just contact Derek and they'd get together and play together. Probably about 1980 or so I remember one person, I don't know who it was, came who played the vibes and wanted to play with Derek cause he played free, like he thought. But Derek couldn't play with him. I mean they did, but Derek didn't enjoy it, and one time stopped and said "Do you think you could groove a bit less?" (laughter) Which is part of vocabulary really, because groove is idiom. And though this man was playing free there was obviously something very jazz-related about what he was doing, a bit too much for Derek.
DL: So in actual fact he did . . . Although I don't know if you've heard these things but there are more recent things where he plays over groove-type things, which is fascinating because I don't think he would have done that earlier.
PR: I don't know, is it just the steady rhythm or is it actually an idiomatic groove?
DL: Well it's sort of idiomatic, I mean there's a couple I'm thinking of . . . There's one with drum'n'bass kind of things which I think he wasn't so happy with - I think he used to like to play along with pirate radio in Hackney. It's incredibly complex and it's quick but it has got a definite rhythm. He plays with Ornette Coleman's electric rhythm section at one point; it keeps shifting but they pretty much do play funk rhythms, they do keep changing but nonetheless there's a very steady rhythm and Derek sort of on top!
PR: Perhaps his attitude towards that changed. Or perhaps it became more acceptable if it was a bit more aggressive, and more of a machine-like rhythm.
DL: I mean to my ears I'm not sure that those things are as successful - sometimes his playing sounds more like effects on top, but he was open . . . I mean I don't think he toured with those people, he was happy to go into a recording studio for an afternoon.
PR: And did he do some strange things at public events with a DJ? Doing discs and things, in London.
DL: Yes, that's right.
PR: Which he talked about to me once, and he said the whole thing was deafeningly loud, he couldn't relate to the other player at all, if it was indeed a player exactly, I don't know, but he just sat there and did his thing, and the man seemed to think it was fine! There were no complaints, whatever went on, and he went away and everybody seemed happy about it. Which was curiously like the time he reminisced to me about playing in the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool, actually. You went there and you did your thing. And you didn't relate very strongly to the audience who were a big ballroom full of people dancing shoulder to shoulder, with sometimes a metal grille that came between you and them to protect the band from flying bottles.
DL: So perhaps in actual fact, perhaps he overstated the case slightly, there is a certain element of vocabulary, at least in terms of rhythm . . .
PR: But he certainly always preferred a sort of chamber music type setting where you could hear exactly what everybody else was doing. And I think Company Week was as much to do with listening as playing, in many ways, wasn't it? He got people who he thought could listen, even if they were Lee Konitz. Actually he reckoned that Lee Konitz could listen and he was probably right. Was I at that one? I was at least at one of them, I haven't got the recording of it, but that seemed to be successful, Lee Konitz being there, making these noises. Or Gavin Bryars for that matter, latterly. Gavin Bryars' later bass playing.
DL: But that's interesting because they are very much people with a strong vocabulary, extremely strong, but then prepared to enter that situation.
PR: Well Konitz has always got a listening element in what he does. But I don't know cause [Bryars] moved into composition and sort of stayed there and didn't play as a bassist for many many years. He seemed to be able to come back, and play in a fairly limited way but successfully with Company Week.
DL: He seems to have suddenly rediscovered, after Derek's death almost, he seems to have rediscovered his interest in free improvisation. They've just released some recordings of the Joseph Holbrooke Trio but from only a few years ago, when they got together again, and he's written all these extensive notes about what they did in the sixties.
I was thinking about this thing about improvisation as the exploration of occasion - that was a phrase of yours, wasn't it?
PR: Was it? There's a phrase Derek seemed to like very much which he repeated twice in his book, I think, to do with place.
DL: Well this is what I'm interested in, place and occasion, poetry and music.
PR: Well as regards music and place that was just an echo of what Derek was saying to me, really. Because he was talking about how different it was playing in different places. And how he knew no music where the audience could so strongly influence the playing, as free improvisation. And things like that. And he was talking about, not just the acoustics of the room, though that was relevant. Especially the kind of career he had, he had to play in very weird places, I mean there were kitchen noises through a hatch at one place, constantly, and whether he played to them I don't know. I don't think he would have done - later, the younger musicians, they would have played to things like that, cash registers at the bar and kitchen noises and traffic or whatever invaded the room. But I don't think he would, he'd sort of persevere but he'd be aware of it. It would make a difference. And of course also antagonism in the audience; not necessarily strong antagonism, but just a shifty s! ort of dull bewilderment or lack of interest, and people creeping off to the bar and things like that. He would sometimes stop playing and make an announcement about what a very good bar they have here, and if you're not interested why don't you . . . "I do recommend the bar! It's a very good bar. And those who are interested in this stuff . . . " This is like when he was guest at a - I think it was some town in the northwest, which was otherwise the local modern jazz band, and then they got Derek Bailey as a sort of interlude in this. He didn't play with them, at all, he couldn't have done. So the audience just suddenly [got] confronted with this . . . this thing . . . Blackburn I think that was.
DL: But he did say something about musics that get their identity from a particular place and from a people being rooted in a particular place, like obviously folk musics, but also other types of music, "formed in the same way that a verbal accent or a speech vernacular is formed", so that's the language thing coming in, but that "in freely improvised music its roots are in occasion rather than place." So that sense of a place at a particular time.
PR: Well I suppose he would think that more and more as free improvised music did seem to be sort of spreading through the world. This was evident in the records which were suddenly turning up, sent to Musics for review. They'd start coming from places where you didn't think there was anything like this going on. And sometimes they were sort of mitigated - they weren't very free improvisation! They were freeish improvisations, sometimes. But they did seem to be getting around the place, I mean they'd start coming from Latin America, I remember, eventually. Brazil I think. Italy, of course, Greece, a lot from Scandinavia, always has been. And possibly from Asia, I can't remember. There might have been the odd thing from somewhere like that. Whereas nothing ever came from Ireland. It's quite bizarre, Ireland has always been - poetry too - sort of intensely aware of itself as a place. And that things come from that comparatively small place. Although I don't know if it's like that now. I shouldn't think there's a sense of a global free music enterprise anymore. I doubt it.
DL: Lots of musicians who fly all over the place and play all over the world - I'm not sure if that's quite the same thing.
PR: Japan of course, I'd forgotten Japan. Japan was one of the early major sources of this sense of things beginning to sprout up all over the globe, but I don't know anything about how they started in those places. Probably from jazz. I'm pretty sure, certainly in Japan's case, wasn't it? So it was to do with jazz having got there first in a lot of these places, and then leading into free improvisation.
DL: And I suppose in some cases actually hearing albums of [improvised music]. There must have been . . . which is interesting because in some ways it's more like jazz, in the sense that there might be a particular sound even if you're not necessarily trying to imitate that sound as such, hearing it as a . . . We were talking earlier about being able to see Derek playing, but there would be people who wouldn't have been able to do that.
PR: As you know, Derek was always, in spite of everything a bit sceptical about recording. And felt that recordings actually did something to the music, changed it to something different. Not just theoretically , but exponentially it did. As if it sort of pulled it back in some way or pushed it down in some way. The repeatability, for one thing. And that's it's separated from the place in which it took place. There's places in two sense actually, there's places in the sense of the actual physical location where the thing happens, and the cultural place. Whether you call that the west or whatever. I don't know if anybody's talked about this, David Toop would have been the person to talk about this, but whether the spread of free improvisation was a sort of part of the globalisation process, I don't know. I don't see that you would have to because jazz was there a long long time before it, and nobody was talking about globalisation then; much more about participation, really. ! So I think that would be fair enough to . . . I mean this is very old fashioned of me now but to talk about it in those terms still would seem quite valid to me. If somebody in Tonga, or Siberia suddenly started sounding like Derek Bailey, I wouldn't look upon that as cultural influence, or Westernisation, because there's something about the music which cuts itself off from that sort of consideration. How does it do that? By not being idiomatic. I mean there is a sense in which you're just going to start making sounds. And if you're going to have a vocabulary you'll make it from them. So it could be seen as a realisation that . . . of going back to sound, rather than note patterns, rather than scales and schemes . . .
DL: Pre-imposed ideas.
PR: Yes. Derek held back of course from that, because he would have seen that as working without a vocabulary, or with a minimal vocabulary. At one point he started doing scalar improvisation as I recall.
DL: Gosh.
PR: I don't know how that lasted; there was one point where he decided, or worked out a scale that he was using for this improvisation, and stuck to it through the improvisation. It's on one of the LPs, but I'm afraid I can't tell you which. I reviewed it at the time. I wouldn't have noticed it, I'm actually not a musician, and I don't hear things technically as well as musicians do. But he told me that was what it was before I reviewed it. He was very helpful with things like that!
DL: That is fascinating. I mean I guess it's constantly moving.
PR: John Russell did that as well, independently or something like that. No, what John Russell did was - I don't know if he still does - was an improvisation in which he would completely repeat something he'd just done. He improvised it and had instantly memorised it, and would do it again. I don't know anybody else who did that, exactly.
DL: You certainly hear certain motifs. Odd places in Derek - in fact I think one of those very last solo recordings, the first couple of pieces start from exactly the same place. [Actually tracks two and three on Carpal Tunnel, Tzadik CD TZ 7612] It's a very short little motif but they start from exactly the same thing. I don't know how much that was a specific choice to start from and then head somewhere else or whether it was just . . .
PR: One of the things I never really sorted out is what constitutes a piece in improvisation. I mean, I haven't tried much but I'd have to listen to a lot of recordings now and note what's happening to find that the piece has something about it which makes it uniquely that piece. I mean, motifs would be one, obviously, but I don't know how much he ever did that. And perhaps he wasn't interested in it being a piece. Or not very interested, lots of other people were . . .
DL: I didn't hear him live very often, but I liked that sense that he would come on stage and just start playing, without saying "Right, now we come on and sit and everyone's quiet and the music starts."
PR: That was one of the finest things in a way, especially when you realised that there was nothing unusual about it. If you listen to Indian music, they will stop and tune in the middle of a piece very very happily, you know, and then carry on, and you'd hardly notice they were doing it sometimes. You'd notice the hands on the peg suddenly instead of on the fingerboard, or whatever. And of course he did that very freely all the time.
DL: Some of that harmonic vocabulary actually comes from tuning, doesn't it?
PR: I daresay, yes. And I reckon it's even what used to go on in sixteenth century instrumental music, which got tabulated as preludes, like French harpsichord music, unmeasured preludes, but they come from people just . . . It was the custom to arrive and sit down and sort of diddle around for a bit, and present the scale, the note, in which you were going to play, and just do arpeggios on it and run up and down the scale and then a few other chords and then settle down firmly on where you were going to . . . And this just became a genre, it became a musical piece. I'm sure that's what actually happened, was that it was largely improvised. I'm thinking of things like lute players.
DL: But that, improvisation becoming settled down into a genre I suppose was what he wanted to fight against to some extent. To allow that to begin and then to shake things up.
PR: But then some of his improvisations, especially the long ones, do have a definite character, don't they? I mean that long one on the LP Aida.
DL: That's a beautiful record, I love that record.
PR: There are technical things going on there which seem to be unique to that improvisation, or almost, as far as I know. To do with the pedal, isn't it? And how the note emerges a bit after you've struck it, surging from the pedal, there's a lot of that.
DL: But that album's all acoustic, isn't it? That particular record.
PR: Is it? Ah, I don't mean that. Forget that. But things like that. There can be particular technical sound production things which will characterise - largely characterise - even a quite long improvisation.
DL: Well I suppose place and occasion - that sense of time. You're always occupying the moment but of course in terms of a given piece you have the memory of what has happened, and the sense of what might happen, and that's always there.
PR: I never knew him to talk about that actually. Perhaps because I never asked him!
DL: There is something in here [Improvisation: Its Nature and Practise in Music] about how at any time the past and the future can both act upon a given moment. The memory of what has happened and the anticipation of what might happen.
PR: Which is a bit complicated if you're playing with other people I suppose. You'll have different ideas what's going to happen.
DL: I guess that's where the fun starts!
Place is something that's been very important to you in your poetry - has it?
PR: Well, as a word, it had a sort of iconic value at one time in the kind of poetry I was involved in. There was an emphasis on the physical and geographical reality of where you were. I don't think this had much to do with the place in music thing really. It involved having a vocabulary which would include geological terms and sociological and historical knowledge. It rather came and went. I mean I was thinking about whether there was anything in Derek's actual playing which was important for the poetry and still it's in rather general terms, but one thing was progression. Like, actually not stopping! I think I learnt quite a lot from that example, which is that he didn't know how long a piece was going to be. He had a rough idea, actually, but . . . if he was given a twenty minute first half it could be two ten minutes, or one twenty minutes, or anything, it could be fifteen minutes and five minutes and so on. And how he would determinedly not sometimes carry on and progress. He'd do something which could have been an ending. You never knew when the ending . . . It would perhaps go very quiet and slow and just fade, a quite cadence-like thing as if it's got to stop now, and he would suddenly break that and introduce something completely new. That was quite interesting, and I could relate that to the process of writing in a way. Of course you're dealing with concepts all the time in writing, so it's different, but you could feel that you'd finished with a concept or an image group or something and then stop and think something more is possible, perhaps something interruptive. Something contrary, from elsewhere, could suddenly come into it. You know this selected poems [Passing Measures, Carcanet]? I was looking at the pre- and post-Derek thing in this - it's on page 96. Page 96 is about 1970, and page 97 is about 1977. And I can't see any difference! It's the same kind of writing. So there wasn't that kind of . . . there was nothing like that, it's something much slower and much more general. I did write a note saying 'there's something about space which is difficult to describe'. A kind of realism, it's to do with the tone of Derek's playing. Apart from the actual notes, which could even have a sort of melodic function, sometimes, there's often a sound area, which he did with electronics or just with reverberation behind it which often has a sort of bleak - not 'oblique', but 'a bleak'! - feeling about it. There's a somewhat dehumanised sense of space there. You know he was very keen on Beckett?
DL: I was just about to say.
PR: Yes, this ties in with that. Because it was often a discordant - like a discordant chord but not exactly, it was a discordant . . . and at the same time rather empty sounding aura which he could create.
DL: Hollow.
PR: Hollow, yes. Probably - I don't know if he did it more with the electric than with the other. It was easier with the electric, because with the acoustic he had to strike again to keep it going, though he had ways of getting round that. I think that was important. That was interesting and that probably influenced in some way a sort of general emotional attitude to what you're saying and how it's going out, what it's carrying into the world. If that's true then I think the writing of mine which was most influenced by Derek Bailey was probably the book called Excavations. Cause that's not only got that, it's got this sort of courage - things are chopped up a lot in it. You write half a sentence and the rest of the sentence either doesn't appear at all or will appear twenty pages later, or things will be taken up much later, so there's no immediate continuity, as there isn't necessarily with Derek, I think. He'd be happy to produce a motif, say, or a fragment or something and then forget it, really. And yet in the best improvisations, in the longer ones it's, I don't know, perhaps it's taken up - something about it is taken up, if not the actual chord group, but something about the tone of it or the way it was produced would be there again. Though I'd have to study . . . The whole listening thing is difficult with improvisation because if you study it, it's got to be repeated - studying rather than listening. It's the same with poetry. You either study it or you read it. They're two different things. A lot of poets write for studying these days.
DL: For their poems to be studied?
PR: Yes - rather than read. And I try not to. It seems to me that if you just read it or just listen to it you get those things, but you don't necessarily know you're getting them. And if you don't know you're getting them it's difficult to talk about them, of course, because you don't know they're there!
DL: I was wondering if there was anything early in the book [Passing Measures] . . .
PR: It's not actually chronological.
DL: No, I know, I mean early in the book, not actually early - for example pages 18, 19, 'Driving Down the Wye and Stopping', things about light and looking at a landscape - 'to see one thing clearly we distort / the entire landscape'. I was wondering whether there was anything - not an influence, but a relationship - between that what it is the audience (of course that's crucially important in The Musicians The Instruments, the relationship of the audience to improvised music), but the thing about the audient, an individual audience member for an improvisation - you have to do some kind of synthesising activity to make sense of the music, which seems to me to be different to listening to other kinds of music.
PR: It's more demanding.
DL: But in terms of the sense hasn't been . . . It's not a score that's interpreted, like we were talking about different musicians having a different idea about where the piece might go. They're all up there, and then the audience is there, especially if you're actually listening to it live, not on . . .
PR: There has to be some sort of identification. You almost see yourself as a musician when it's being improvised, because everything hinges on the next tiny little move, and you can't sit back and think 'oh there's a score and he'll do whatever the score tells him to do', however much personality and whatnot he puts into it. [Phone rings. After brief interruption conversation continues.] I mean it's not easy listening to improvised music. I mean it's easy on a record, but live it's not. I don't think I've ever got through a concert without completely losing my attention at some point.
DL: I don't think I have either!
PR: It just doesn't happen really. I've certainly got through whole quite extended pieces. But you have to work, you have to really concentrate. I think I made my definitive statement about that in that thing [Company Week]. That's a strange thing. There it is, actually . . . [shows book]
DL: [reading from book] 'Not planning ahead'. That's interesting, 'reading' as listening to the music.
PR: That's rather idealistic, but that is what it demands in a way. And it shouldn't be a difficult thing, it's just what we're used to, and this is what recording has done to us in a way. I think Buddy Bolden, in some wooden dancehall by the lake in New Orleans, nobody would have listened any other way, because . . . Well, it's complicated because it was for dancing as well, so there's a sort of non-listening, a participatory thing in it. That's it, yes, it's a participatory thing which you have to force yourself to produce as a listener. Whereas of course if it's a dance music even if you're just listening you've got that automatic, you've got it in the idiom, I suppose. But the music, for example, I go to Transylvania to listen to, that's quite a complex music but it's got a simple basis, it's got a simple rhythmic dance basis. But the stuff going on at the top can be immensely complicated, all over the violin sometimes. And you get that but you get it in a different way,! you participate because there's a kind of norm, and he's departing from it and he's doing exciting things which we haven't heard him do before. Or just little things, just sliding up to a note which we're not used to. It can be played to a particular person, like a particular dancer, and they can feed each other. Or a singer sometimes. A singer and the instrumentalist can feed each other, and collaborate in way in what they're doing, and a dancer can as well. That's different. So without all that, because it's very much a non-dance music and rejects all the dance rhythms, which linger in some of the most contemporary jazz. Not Min Tanaka, Min Tanaka's a different thing. I mean the audience is not going to start doing that.
DL: That would be great wouldn't it?
PR: It would be interesting. I've seen a number of modern dance combinations with improvised music and Min was the only one I thought was really successful, actually. I don't quite know why, because I don't know much about modern dance. The others seem to be perhaps idiomatic in some way.
DL: Butoh, yes. There's a little clip of Min and Derek on the top of some mountain, from that same film, a wooden platform, on the internet which is extraordinary.
PR: Of course there was that tap dancer.
DL: Will Gaines. There were a couple of tribute concerts for Derek at the Klinker in January which I went down for, and he was there. He's showbiz.
PR: I guess that's like the drum'n'bass idea.
DL: Is there something, listening to the music and looking at a landscape, the sense of the subjective person?
PR: I don't know. For one thing it's so long since I saw any of this stuff live. mean can be if you want it, I mean there can . . . I don't think I ever have visual images while listening. There isn't time for that. Sometimes I've had very interesting ideas while listening which I look upon the music as responsible for and when that happens I'm interested to follow them through which means detaching yourself from the music, possibly, for a while. That's full of that. [Gestures to Company Week book] Because that's a commentary on Company Week as it happened, though it's partly retrospective. Sometimes when that happens I begin to feel this is to some extent the value of the music, is making you think something, rather that just making you experience something. So it means something more for the future, how you work things out in the future, rather than just ending up at the end saying 'I enjoyed that'.
DL: 'Didn't they play it well'!
PR: Yes. I've rather abandoned that work, The Musicians The Instruments. I've just prepared a book of all the uncollected pieces that have been in little pamphlets and magazines since the sixties, and when I came to that I cut it down to six pieces, which are the six most straightforward ones. I think it's got an awful lot of involuted imagery. It's just self-indulgent and I've rather abandoned it. I kept the Derek and the Tristan Honsinger and the Lacy, simplified. The Derek one is pretty much the same. And that's just the sense of him as an example in the various ways I've been saying. Plus this sense, what I said about him creating a space there, it's like he's creating a light, as if it's a dark space and he's spreading a light in it. It's to do with that aura round his . . .
DL: In this this first section there do seem to be a lot of images, a lot of tropes, of spaces and boundaries between spaces, and facing towards or away from particular. Towards and away from, and then the Lol one, 'the skin on the heart and the skin on the cavities inside the heart' . . .
PR: That one went.
DL: The walls of the city. And rooms. The Leo Smith one, 'the walls', 'inside out becoming outside in'
PR: I don't know to what extent those came from the music or were introduced to it. With the black musicians there was a lot of thought at the time about separate places, separate communities, and how these related to each other when they came together in the music. With Braxton particularly. He had a kind of . . . there was something a bit African about Braxton's improvising. There was also the mathematics which was always a total mystery - to everybody, I think! George Lewis was the same.
DL: They're both very good chess players apparently, which is interesting. Looking at the language thing, it seems that's something you use in the second part, getting on to the instruments - 'consonants', 'phonemes' . . .
PR: Those are more divorced from the actual occasion, the actual improvisation, I mean the actual musicians. Though the kind of thing involved is still to do with free improvisation, it's to do with that kind of playing. Because the instrumentality seems to come out much more in free improvisation, especially of course at that time people were very willfully exploring all the different sounds you could make with an instrument . . .
DL: 'Extended technique'.
PR: Extended technique - like pick up your trumpet and hit it with a spoon! But also, especially wind instruments, all the different, some quite way out embouchures you could use, dreadful noises you could get to come out of a trombone.
DL: Which continues! I guess the voice . . . I hadn't really thought that through. You were speaking about the rhythms being influenced by speech rhythms, and this sense of tone. Of course tone is an accepted musical term, but of course tone of voice . . .
PR: Well it has two meanings, doesn't it, and it means note. And it means the feel in a way, which is the particular harmonic or acoustic aura round a musical production.
DL: So that mixture of engaging with the physicality of the instrument but also . . . I mean that's something that Gavin Bryars says in Derek's book when he's talking about some of the problems he had with improvising, which I guess are some of the things I appreciate in it, but that sense that you can't . . . because you can't get away from the musician actually playing it at the time, he says it's like looking at a painting but having the artist standing in front of it.
PR: I suppose in these the idea is to remove the artist from in front of the painting to some extent, though it's still his painting. There seems to be a lot that's whimsical in there that I just stuck in, actually. Like that sentence ['I once had one (a cello) which imploded in the middle of an overture by Mendelssohn.'] It doesn't take us anywhere really, although it's true.
DL: But isn't that what happens in the music? You might have a moment that doesn't take us anywhere, and it can be abandoned, or . . .
PR: Yes, I don't know whether you'd rejoice in that moment or not.
DL: No, you might not, but then you wouldn't be able to do anything about it.
PR: But then the art of free improvisation was to transcend those moments. Those moments would happen and then you'd do something with it. Which is to do with what I was just saying about progression, about continuing. There are bound to be dreadful things happening. Dreadful things happen, and then you move it into somewhere else.
DL: I think Fred Frith said somewhere that you get a sense listening to free improvisations that they tend to consist of bits that work and then bits that don't work, but that if it's been recorded and you try and get all the good bits it doesn't work like that.
What I'm trying to work out for myself is in what ways in which this whole linguistic metaphor thing is unhelpful. It has limits. It just seems that to talk about an improviser having a vocabulary is a very transparent thing to say. But I'm wondering if it's not quite.
PR: It's also what you do with your vocabulary. It doesn't become a fixed think like something in a dictionary, to improvisers. Otherwise they wouldn't be capable of surprising themselves. But obviously there's a technical sense to it; Derek had a very clear vocabulary of different methods of sound production with a guitar, quite a lot of them actually. I shouldn't think latterly at any rate he would actually discover any more of those actually during improvisation, because he'd covered the field in a way, I don't think he could possibly produce anything worth producing from a guitar.
DL: Though I think I've read things where he would talk about finding things which he might have used but then had abandoned somewhat, so that keeps the feeling of freshness.
PR: Yes, but there must be an edge to it. There can't be such clearly defined items in the improvising musician's vocabulary. But it seemed to be very clear to him when there was no vocabulary.
DL: But vocabulary in linguistic terms has always . . . Words mean specific things, whereas vocabulary in a musical sense . . .
PR: I don't know if repertoire would be a better word.
DL: Although there's also a sense that free improvised music is a music that doesn't have a repertoire.
PR: Yes, not in the large sense. No, a repertoire of pieces.
DL: Which almost every other music has to.
PR: But a repertoire feels as if it represents a smaller number of options, whereas vocabulary represents a very large number.
DL: I suppose vocabulary implies more possibilities in terms of syntax or grammar, you can combine the words, whereas a repertoire implies a longer . . .
PR: More of set items, like bricks! It's certainly not like putting bricks together, the object itself is more fluid.
DL: Part of the goal is to keep that fluidity.

The conversation concluded with a discussion of the presence of improvised music in other parts of the UK besides London.
Many thanks to Peter Riley for his time and thoughts.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Derek Bailey: Syntactics

this article was originally posted in 2006 on the sadly now defunct website dispatx
many thanks to David Stent for encouraging its composition (and, if I remember rightly, coming up with its title)


One of the most common (one might reasonably say overused) metaphors employed in discussing improvised music is the analogy with language. To talk of an improvising 'language', or of a particular improviser's 'vocabulary' is so commonplace among those involved with the music as to have come to seem almost transparent. Other terms such as 'syntax' or 'grammar' are less common but still used frequently. The great improvising guitarist Derek Bailey, who very sadly died on Christmas Day 2005, frequently employed this analogy. This essay aims to investigate and interrogate it, through an investigation of Bailey's music and writing. My enquiries have been greatly assisted by a conversation with the poet Peter Riley, held on the 17th of May 2006. Riley had a long involvement with Bailey's music as an audience member, record reviewer and writer, and provides a highly informed view on the subject from the perspective of one whose business is actually - not analogically or metaphorically - to work with language. The pun present in the title is probably too obvious to need much explanation. What I would like to emphasise, however, is how the technical resources of Bailey's guitar playing are directly linked to, or perhaps better, constitute the methods he employed to engage with other musicians. In other words, the way Bailey improvised, and the way he developed the material with which he improvised shared a common goal. His syntax was developed with his tactics in mind and vice versa.

Bailey's own statements about the development of his improvising language fall into two main categories. On the one hand he emphasises the process of improvising itself, and how his interactions with other musicians have themselves determined the nature and development of his guitar playing. In an interview in the Wire in September 2004, for example, he commented 'I have a style, yeah, but that has come out of the music'. On the other hand, he has also emphasised how when he began improvising freely he wished, quite consciously, to develop an appropriate range of devices. In an interview with Nick Cain from 2000 (published in the magazine Opprobrium) he stated 'I never thought that playing free was satisfying enough if I used conventional techniques and material. If I was using conventional techniques and material, I would sooner play conventional music'. A longer statement to similar effect can be found a statement of Bailey's from 1972, included as a note to his CD Domestic and Public Pieces: 'I don't use a lot of conventional techniques on the guitar. But then, I'm not interested to play in the areas those techniques were developed to serve. It wouldn't be any good for my purposes to do a sort of imitation of Charlie Christian or something. People can refer to that, say, as conventional guitar playing. But it isn't. It's conventional jazz guitar playing of a certain period. To certain people, the only way to play a guitar is in a flamenco style, which I think is quite beautiful, incidentally. These are taken to be sort of standard conventional techniques - but, actually, they're techniques that serve certain purposes.'
Free improvisation for Bailey was not a philosophical experiment, a plunge into a simplistic idea of 'freedom', in keeping perhaps with a generally permissive late sixties atmosphere. Rather, his first attempts to improvise freely occurred in the rather non-swinging surroundings of early-Sixties Sheffield, with the bass player Gavin Bryars and drummer Tony Oxley. Their attempt to find a new way to improvise was cool and deliberate, and involved much work with compositional devices. The only widely available extant recording of the group is a ten-minute improvisation on John Coltrane's piece 'Miles Mode', released by Incus records in 1999. This was recorded in 1965, and illustrates the first of the two quotations from Bailey above. At the beginning and end of the piece the guitar playing can be heard to come very clearly from the jazz tradition, though with the willful introduction of elements that the jazz mainstream would have found hard to understand, such as seemingly motiveless pauses. In the middle of the track, however, Bailey can be heard exploring areas that have more in common with his later work - muted sounds, scratches and scrabblings that are driven not by a compositional agenda but by the desire to improvise with his colleagues using timing and timbre more than harmony and rhythm.
Bailey could have remained in this area but it did not satisfy him. His next activity illustrates the second of my two quotations. In 1966 and 1967 he recorded some of his solo playing for his personal study, which were released by John Zorn's Tzadik label in 2002 under the title Pieces for Guitar. Here we can see Bailey exploring the resources of the guitar so as to enable him to occupy the kind of territory he discovers in the middle of 'Miles Mode' without having to begin from a jazz platform. He was, one could say, consciously attempting to develop a new language for the guitar. So, for example, 'Three Pieces for Guitar' are brief compositions using serial pitch organisation, inspired by Webern and an attempt to develop resources for playing intervallically rather than harmonically, as is usual in jazz. (The fact that Coltrane and Webern are the two musicians other than Bailey I have mentioned so far would, I suppose, support to some extent the slightly too neat, but commonly expressed, view that freely improvised music had its roots in a combination of free jazz and serial and post-serial Western composition.) He can actually be heard improvising on two of these pieces at the end of the CD. Using a method in some ways strikingly reminiscent of his return to jazz material on the 2002 CD Ballads, Bailey plays the compositions, when he reaches them, in a straightforward way, and does not attempt to improvise 'on' each section of them, but rather to use their general atmosphere to inform the way he improvises, particularly when he is directly approaching the composition. Elsewhere on the CD one can hear small motifs ('Bits') that Bailey would actually write down for himself. He continued this practice throughout his life, the aim being to develop a range a improvisational resources, but not to combine them into compositions - their use was intended to be entirely in improvisational contexts. This approach might be seen to closely parallel the writing down of vocabulary lists when learning a new language - one does not actually intend to reel off the lists in conversation, but rather to gain instant command of ones resources so that when the conversation seems to require a certain item of vocabulary it can be called upon immediately. Finally, Bailey can be heard on 'Practising: Wow and Stereo' to explore timbral aspects of the guitar using its amplification not merely to increase volume but as a musical resource. He employed both a wah-wah pedal and a stereo set-up using two amplifiers.
Bailey's work over the next few years seems to me to work its way though the implications of his discoveries in the mid-60s. Having come to be interested in the possibilities of freely improvised music making, and then become dissatisfied with the jazz based resources at his disposal, the conscious attempt to develop a more appropriate vocabulary was put to the test in a number of improvising ensembles. He found this an essential part of the process. Peter Riley told me how Bailey told him about some younger musicians who were 'now trying to do it without vocabulary', but that he 'didn't think you could do that'. [1] By the mid 1970s Bailey had arrived at his mature style, I would argue - though of course his playing continued to vary and develop over the next thirty years. (For example, he was at this time still using stereo amplification and sometimes a second guitar with additional strings, both of which he later abandoned; Riley told me that there was even a period later on where he 'worked out a scale that he was using for this improvisation, and stuck to it through the improvisation'!) It was also at this point that he stopped playing in regular groups and focused heavily on solo playing, intending to avoid what he saw as the ossifying process that begins to take place in groups that improvise together regularly. Indeed, in his book Improvisation: Its Nature and Practise in Music, Bailey introduces the idea of language by saying that 'the analogy with language, often used by improvising musicians in discussing their work, has a certain usefulness in illustrating the development of a common stock of material - a vocabulary - which takes place when a group of musicians improvise together regularly'. [Bailey, Improvisation, 2nd edn, p. 106] Though this process was exactly what had happened with Joseph Holbrooke, he came to see it as a limitation. He even argued in an interview with Jean Martin in 1996 that 'in freely improvised music its roots are in occasion rather than place'. This was in a sense not true about Joseph Holbroke. As Gavin Bryars told Bailey, 'I think the fact that we were isolated, musically, helped us. . . . Had we been playing in London, say, some area with a large musical community, most of the developments would have been nipped in the bud.' [Improvisation, 2nd edn, p. 92] But as Riley points out, 'more and more as free improvised music did seem to be sort of spreading through the world', he could begin to feel that occasion superceded place in importance.
On the Spontaneous Music Ensemble's 1968 recording Karyobin, Bailey seems to focus mainly on denaturing the guitar by using his volume pedal either to swell the sounds in (removing the attack - often using minor seconds or other close intervals to obtain a distinctive shimmering sound) or to remove any sustain, also muting the strings, so as to negate the pitch content of the sound. In this way he subverts the basic nature of the guitar - that it is plucked string with a firm attack and fairly rapid decay. The way he does this is of course also dependent on the musical context - drummer John Stevens' SME was predicated on a fast interweaving of independent but mutually acknowledging and not soloistic playing, and this way of articulating the guitar fitted in perfectly. Later, on the Incus record Solo Guitar Vol One, or with Barry Guy (bass) and Paul Rutherford (trombone) in Iskra 1903, Bailey can be heard moving even further from conventional guitar sound, using all parts of the strings (such as behind the bridge or beyond the nut), and employing his amplification to produce shrieks, metallic scratches and controlled feedback - which enabled him to sustain sounds indefinitely, something else a conventional guitar is incapable of. By the mid-seventies, however, some more identifiable guitar string sound made its way back into Bailey's playing, and it is this that I identify as the beginning of his mature period.
Bailey explained this in the first edition of his book, published in 1980. The differences between this and the second edition, published in 1992, are for the most part small, but where Bailey discusses his own playing, they are marked. They shed fascinating light on his changing attitudes to his own improvisational resources and the linguistic analogy. As I have said, it was in the mid-Seventies that Bailey turned to solo improvisation as his main focus, having for the previous decade been almost exclusively involved in group improvisation. He explained this in the first edition of his book as a very conscious attempt to examine his improvising language, analogous I take it to that he undertook in the mid-Sixties, as documented on Pieces for Guitar. I quote at some length because the original edition of Improvisation is not of course widely available any more:
'It was having to deal alone with this type of situation - the blank areas, the creative deserts, which in a group improvisation are covered by the collective impetus and dialogue character of the music - which I hoped would demand a strengthened and extended vocabulary. I looked to the enormous reduction in outside information and the increased responsibility for overall continuity to demand and 'force' the development of a more comprehensive and complete improvising language. As described earlier, for me, as for many improvisers, the tonal organisation of pitch seemed of little use in free playing. Gradually it became clear that any system which depended on systematic pitch organisation removed too much of the explorative aspect of the activity. One could approach the unknown with a method and a compass but to take a map made it pointless to go there at all. So it became necessary to reject all tonal, modal and atonal organisation in order to leave the way free to organise only through the powers of improvisation. And to facilitate this the vocabulary had to be built up from what I can only describe as non-tonal materials. Earlier I had almost discarded pitch except as a means of creating atonal effects. [I would identify this particularly with the Solo Guitar Vol. One/Iskra 1903 period discussed above.] But I found that playing solo - having to assemble a vocabulary that was complete - I needed all the help I could get. So pitch had to take a greater part in the language, for without it I didn't have sufficient resources. [One of the ways he 'forced' this was by more acoustic playing, denying himself the additional resources his creative use of amplification afforded him - such as on the beautiful 1980 album Aida.] And I had by this time realised that to deliberately eschew the use of pitch, one of the the most manipulative of musical elements, would be, for an improvisor, perverse. But all my previous uses of pitch - tonal, modal or atonal - had been too specific and unhelpful. So pitch had to be utilised but its grammatical constituent had to be neutralised. It had to be non-tonal.'
[Improvisation, 1st Edn, p. 127]

Bailey here uses the analogy with language as vocabulary extensively. But he is aware of its limitation. Language also implies grammar - sequential argument, even - and this is too deterministic for his purposes. Hence his desire for non-tonal, rather than atonal, use of pitch (a fascinating distinction and one that, for all its apparent simplicity, does not appear to have entered much into the range of analytical tools for contemporary music). Bailey has spoken of the same issue elsewhere. In Ben Watson's biography, Derek Bailey and the Story of Free Improvisation, Bailey is quoted as saying in 1987, 'Tonality is like an argument, and the answers to the questions are always the same. Play Gmin7, C13, and the next chord has to be one of three or four things. . . . Atonality is a way of moving from one point to another without answering questions - almost a series of isolated events. Atonality has a non-grammatical quality, a non-causal sequence to it.' [p. 213] (Bailey seems to have forgotten his own excellent distinction here!) Saxophonist Evan Parker made a similar point on a tribute to Bailey broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 20th January 2006, saying that Derek's avoidance of open strings (cf. Improvisation, 2nd edn. p. 94, 'the sort of electric guitar open string sound I was at pains to avoid' - this again, I think, refers more to the earlier period of Bailey's career, as they became quite prevalent later on) was partly due to the prevalence of the 5th in their overtone structure, which perhaps begins to imply tonality.
Bailey went on in a footnote in the original edition of Improvisation to actually list some of the ways he attempted to develop non-tonal pitch manipulation:
'A list of the types of measures which proved successful would include:- combining pitch with non-pitch ('preparing' it but not using a fixed preparation), constructing intervals from mixed timbres, a greater use of ambiguous pitch (e.g. the less 'pure' harmonics - 7th onwards), compound intervals, moving pitch (which includes glisses and microtonal adjustments), coupling single notes with a 'distant' harmonic, horizontally an attempt to play an even mix of timbres, unison pitches with mixed timbres - elements of this kind, and many others, proved useful. But the appearance of these elements in a list is misleading. A vocabulary only achieves whatever significance it might have through its use as part of a language.'
[Improvisation, 1st Edn, p. 128]

Most, if not all, of these devices could still be heard in Bailey's playing right up until his death. With the last sentence of the footnote, however, Bailey again highlights his sensitivity to the nature of the linguistic metaphor.

The Implications of the Vocabulary

The section in Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice in Music marked 'language' (a subsection of the chapter on solo improvising, which he admits he bases almost entirely on his own practice), begins, as we have seen, 'The analogy with language, often used by improvising musicians in discussing their work, is useful to illustrate the building up of a common pool of material - a vocabulary - which takes place when a group of musicians improvise together regularly.' [Improvisation, 2nd Edn., p 106 - 1st Edn. p. 126] This leads us to the most contentious area of Bailey's use of a linguistic metaphor, the idea of non-idiomatic improvisation. This idea was proposed by Bailey many times throughout his career, and was just as often dismissed or ridiculed. Percussionist Eddie Prevost, in his book Minute Particulars, writes: 'The general consensus [is] that once a form of music making becomes recognisable as such (for example Derek's own guitar playing) then it has developed its own idiomatic framework and references.' More pointedly, in a paper entitled "De Motu" for Buschi Niebergall, Evan Parker delivered the opinion that 'Certainly by the time a theoretical position is arrived at in which it is thought the term "non-idiomatic improvisation" is the best description of something as instantly recognisable as Derek Bailey's guitar playing we have reached what E.P. Thompson called in another context "the terminus of the absurd".'
There is clearly a commonsense truth in these observations, but what is notable is that they both refer only to Bailey's guitar playing, not to the music he made with other musicians. Originally, of course, part of Bailey's meaning was that he wished to develop a music that did not refer to existing, established genres. As Peter Riley said to me, 'he was doing something which didn't have an antecedent, so he was quite entitled to call it that. It doesn't prevent it becoming idiomatic to later generations, I suppose, does it?' Bailey was indeed conscious of developing his own 'language', or 'style', or perhaps even 'idiom', as we have seen. However, his intention in doing so was to be able to engage with musicians from whatever background that wished to improvise with him. So there is a sense in which Bailey's own playing is clearly idiomatic, even if that idiom is characterised by 'the concepts of unpredictability and discontinuity, of perpetual renewal and perpetual variation first introduced into European composition at the beginning of the 20th century.' [Improvisation 2nd Edn. p. 107; 1st Edn. p. 128] He was interested in playing appropriately for a freely improvised, malleable context. And so he was not interested in referring to other styles of music. (Going back to the earlier quote about tonality being like an argument, it is not of course quite true that Gmin7, C13 can only be followed by three or four things - one can deliberately follow them by something inappropriate, as improvisers who might loosely at times be characterisable as 'post-modern', such as John Zorn, Steve Beresford or Eugene Chadbourne might be prone to do. However, such playing relies on reference to known genres - a supplementary semantic layer to the music if you like, of the sort that Bailey had no, or very little, interest in dealing with in his own music.) But he also lost interest in improvising with the same people for a long period of time - Iskra 1903, which came to an end in the mid 1970s, was the last group of a set line-up in which Derek played for any considerable length of time. (As he said about his group Limescale in the 2004 interview: 'it's at a very interesting stage because nobody knows the music yet. I mean the people in the group don't know what the fuck it should sound like. So they're working on their ears all the time, they're reacting. That's the way it should be.') And so by using the concept of non-idiomatic improvising he was really concerned to point out features of group improvisation where the goal is not to establish an predetermined 'idiomatic' sound (as it is in most jazz, for example, or perhaps in some long-running improvising ensembles).
When interviewed by Jean Martin in 1996, Bailey commented that '[African drum music or South American music (these were the examples offered by the interviewer)] are formed by an idiom, they are not formed by improvisation. They are formed in the same way that speech vernacular, a verbal accent, is formed. They are the product of a locality and society, by characteristics shared by that society. . . .In freely improvised music, its roots are in occasion rather than place. . . . There are plenty of styles - group styles and individual styles - found in free playing but they don't coalesce into an idiom. They just don't have that kind of social or regional purchase or allegiance. They are idiosyncratic. In fact you can see freely improvised music as being made up of an apparently endless variety of idiosyncratic players and groups. So many in fact, that it's simpler to think of the whole thing as non-idiomatic.'
So Bailey acknowledges the presence of many, if you will, micro idioms, but questions whether the word is useful when it does not refer to any real shared, geographically based, musical language. 'Non-idiomatic', for all its limitations, highlights the malleable, fluid nature of the musical exchanges Bailey became most interested in. Indeed, he stated in a number of interviews that he lost interest in solo playing (he told John Eyles in September 2001 that 'Solo concerts are murder, I find; I don't like doing them'), although economic and logistical constraints meant that he continued to play solo frequently throughout his career. The reason he established Company, and the Company Week, was so that musicians who did not play together regularly - or perhaps had never even met - could improvise together and work through the process of developing something shared. He admitted in a forum on improvisation published in Perspectives of New Music that 'even those [participants in Company] who are interested primarily, in fact entirely, in working with improvisation, they'd want to be working with people who had things like language or material in common with them. So I suppose the only person for whom it's their first choice of working situation is me, and I get the others to indulge my inclinations.' Bailey had a radical drive to avoid stagnation - he even stopped arranging Company events in the last decade of his life because he felt they had become too predictable. His practice was open, but never indiscriminately so. For all his claims to wanting a clash of languages, he did wish for a certain understanding between himself and his playing partners. Peter Riley related an anecdote to me: 'Probably about 1980 or so I remember one person, I don't know who it was, came who played the vibes and wanted to play with Derek because he played free, like he thought. But Derek couldn't play with him. I mean they did, but Derek didn't enjoy it, and one time stopped and said 'Do you think you could groove a bit less?' (laughter) Which is part of vocabulary really, because groove is idiom. And though this man was playing free there was obviously something very jazz-related about what he was doing, a bit too much for Derek.' I see two main implications of this story. One is that he saw 'non-idiomatic' playing as being to some extent defined as a negative (the absence of recognisable generic forms or material) but also that he was interested in having some rhythmic language, at least, in common with his collaborators. Of course later in his life he did work in some highly rhythmic contexts (in the conventional sense), such as with drum'n'bass DJs or with Ornette Coleman's electric rhythm section of Jamaladeen Tacuma and Calvin Weston. Riley wondered whether 'his attitude towards that changed. Or perhaps it became more acceptable if it was a bit more aggressive, and more of a machine-like rhythm.' This may well be true to an extent, but another factor must surely have been the continuing desire to avoid stagnation, to prevent an over-familiarity with the rules of the game. As he said in a postscript to an Invisible Jukebox in the Wire 'The musical end product is where interest starts to flag. It's a bit like jigsaw puzzles. Emptied out of the box, there's a heap of pieces, all shapes, sizes and colours, in themselves attractive and could add up to anything - intriguing. Figuring out how to put them together can be interesting, but what you finish up with as often as not is a picture of unsurpassed banality. Music's like that.' [reprinted in Watson, p. 440]
So it seems that non-idiomatic improvisation was almost a goal of Bailey's own working practice. Having taken great care to develop an improvising language with the qualities he himself desired from his music, he then became interested to work with it. The vocabulary itself was not the focus, it was the process of improvising with others. Hence he replaced the technical information about his guitar playing in the first edition of his book, as it no longer seemed to him to get to the heart of the matter (evidence of the dialectical nature of his practice, perhaps). In the same place in the second edition, Bailey wrote:
'But this 'improvising language' was, of course, superimposed upon another musical language; one learned, also empirically, over many years as a working musician. Working musicians, those found earning a living in night clubs, recording studios, dance halls and any other place where music has a functional role, spend very little time, as I remember it, discussing 'improvising language', but anyone lacking the ability to invent something, to add something, to improve something would quickly prove to be in the wrong business. In that world, improvisation is a fact of musical life. And it seems to me that this bedrock of experience, culled in a variety of situations, occasionally bubbles up in one way of another, particularly playing solo. Not affecting specifics like pitch or timbre or rhythmic formulations (I've yet to find any advantage in quoting directly any of the kinds of music I used to play) but influencing decisions that affect overall balance and pace - judging what will work. The unexpected, not to say the unnerving, can also occasionally appear. Recently, it seems to me, some reflection of the earliest guitar music I ever heard occasionally surfaces in my solo playing; music I have had no connection with, either as listener or player, since childhood.'
[Improvisation, 2nd Edn., p. 108]

While in 1980 Bailey might have felt too close to his work as a commercial guitarist to have seen any value in it, an additional decade's perspective enabled him to see the underlying reliance on improvisation as a more important link between his activities than the difference in vocabulary was a point of contrast.

When I began this project, I intended to pursue the limitations of the linguistic analogy further than I have ended up doing. As I investigated the subject the limitations began to seem rather obvious and not so illuminating as I had imagined. A linguistic vocabulary clearly has semantic content while a musical vocabulary does not, as such. But the fundamental idea of a range of possibilities that can be chosen from is clearly conveyed. All language when applied to a subject such as music has an analogical or metaphorical aspect. What word could replace 'vocabulary', anyway? One possibility would be 'repertoire'. John Corbett has written that an improviser improvises 'by developing and employing a repertoire or possibilities in order to risk the unknown.' ['Ephemera Underscored: Writing Around Free Improvisation' in Jazz Among the Discourses] This sounds like an excellent description of Bailey's work, except that of course 'repertoire' brings a host of unhelpful associations of its own - plus it implies a longer fixed sequence than vocabulary does. Riley told me that 'a repertoire feels as if it represents a smaller number of options, whereas vocabulary represents a very large number. . . . It's certainly not like putting bricks together, the object itself is more fluid.' We have seen how Bailey deliberately developed his vocabulary at the microlevel so that it could be combined in as many ways as possible at the macrolevel. This raises the interesting question of, as Riley put it, 'what constitutes a piece in improvisation'. He wondered whether 'there can be particular technical sound production things which will characterise - largely characterise - even a quite long improvisation.' On the other hand Mark Wastell and Brian Marley, in the introduction to the book they recently edited, Blocks of Consciousness and the Unbroken Continuum, explain the origin of their title. The first part refers to Morton Feldman, but the second 'arises from something Derek Bailey said in, if memory serves, the latter half of the 1970s, during a Melody Maker interview. He described how a record producer had taken tapes of some long improvisations of his and then subjected them to radical pruning. The producer started at the beginning of each piece, and as soon as he'd heard enough of Bailey's music he cut the tape at that point. Bailey seemed remarkably unfazed by the way his improvisations were being chopped into smaller pieces. He also said, perhaps in a different interview, that he felt his improvising was continuous, broken only by the moments when he set down his guitar.' [p. 6] Bailey said he was not interested in 'instant composition' - the overall architecture of his improvisations could be left to take care of themselves. More like a conversation than an improvised soliloquy, perhaps - hence support for the linguistic analogy!
Mention of conversation turns our attention to something I have previously neglected, by considering language more in the abstract - the spoken language, the voice. This takes us straight into the realm of sound and so in immediate relationship to music. The word 'tone' becomes interesting here. There is the idea of 'tone of voice', but it is also a musical term, meaning either 'note' or the particular timbral or acoustic qualities of a sound or instrument. This is crucial to improvised music. In jazz, players aim for a personal sound (at least in theory!) - the instrumental sound as direct self-expression. Bailey had a highly recognisable sound, but not within the same framework of the subjective voice. Riley has thought deeply about this: 'there's something about space which is difficult to describe. A kind of realism, it's to do with the tone of Derek's playing. Apart from the actual notes, which could even have a sort of melodic function, sometimes, there's often a sound area, which he did with electronics or just with reverberation behind it which often has a sort of bleak feeling about it. There's a somewhat dehumanised sense of space there. You know he was very keen on Beckett? . . . Because it was often a discordant . . . and at the same time rather empty sounding aura which he could create. . . . He'd be happy to produce a motif, say, or a fragment or something and then forget it, really. And yet in the best improvisations, in the longer ones it's, I don't know, perhaps it's taken up - something about it is taken up, if not the actual chord group, but something about the tone of it or the way it was produced would be there again.' He also thought that speech might have influenced the rhythmic structure of Bailey's playing: 'I always thought his rhythms were closely related to the rhythms of the spoken language. . . And it's not as though he's got a regular pulse in his head, which he's diverging from - syncopation - in fact. Well, I mean sometimes it is but sometimes it's just not that, it's not dependent on that sense of a regular pulse at all, for a long time sometimes. My theory is that it's bound to be, that if it's not metricated, it's going to be related to the spoken language. It's naturally what you'll fall back on, I suppose.' The way Bailey uses but subverts or plays with this idea can be heard on a number of tracks (including the entirety of the Incus CDR Chats) where Bailey speaks while improvising on the guitar. His musical 'voice' is heard simultaneously with his actual voice, and the rhythmic interplay between the two is fascinating (and often very funny).
One point remains - that of grammar. I quoted Bailey earlier as arguing that atonality had a 'non-grammatical' quality. Perhaps it would be better if he had referred to a 'non-syntactical' quality. Syntax refers to the rules for sequential sentence construction; it was tonality's musical analogues to these rules that Bailey felt constrained an improviser unacceptably. Grammar, however, is a much larger linguistic concept, covering morphology as well as syntax - even phonology. To say that the improviser's material is his vocabulary and the grammatical content is solely provided by interaction with other musicians will not do - clearly there are 'grammatical' connections between different items of vocabulary; the goal of having all elements equally available at all times must remain something of an aspiration rather than a reality. While of course ones previously accumulated habits (combined with a conscious desire to escape, or at least interrogate, them) provide part of the answer, I would like to suggest that another comes in the form of the physical construction of the guitar itself.
Bailey indeed observed that this could be an important feature in idiomatic musics as well. In a 1998 interview with Richard Leigh (published in Opprobrium) he observed: 'And of course there are umpteen musics where it forms an integral part of the music - blues, flamenco, much of rock - musics where the guitar is a kind of structural part of the music'. Opposed to the idea of music as conceived by the musician, then executed on the instrument, Bailey points out that the reality is much more entangled. Much of the harmony in flamenco, for example, stems directly from the physical construction of the guitar - chords that would seem bizarre or nonsensical on the piano are straightforward on the guitar. In his freely improvised music, Bailey pushed this materialist conception of music making (what he termed 'instrumental improvisation' - using particular gestures to play a particular instrument at a particular time) much further. As he says in the 2004 Wire interview, 'I might play the guitar in a way which nobody else plays but I play guitar, I wouldn't do what I do on any other instrument. It's very specific. I like the construction of it and the basic tuning, like fourths and a major third. That plays a significant part in what I play, harmonics, open strings, fourths.' He was not alone in this focus - Steve Lacy is quoted in Improvisation as saying 'the instrument - that's the matter - the stuff - your subject'. [p. 99] Indeed in a literal way the instrument is the improviser's material, rather than the sound - one can only manipulate sound by manipulating the instrument. Peter Riley highlighted how Bailey's investigation of this physicality could contribute to the sense of the music, for a listener present at a concert (or, perhaps, watching on DVD or video): 'I mean, there's a sound produced down there which couldn't come at a different place because of the time it takes him to get down there. And that sort of thing. And it's done in a different way and from a different angle, and all these things have got to change.' The physical construction of the instrument plays a fundamental part in determining the very sequence of sounds that constitute the music. Perhaps, reductively, one could say that Derek Bailey played improvised music using a personal vocabulary he developed though an investigation of the grammar of the guitar.

[1] Riley desribed the music Bailey was referring to as follows: 'It was tending towards silence, in certain areas. And there were these people in Bristol, they were a nice crowd. Will Menter is one of the names I can remember. And they had a little scene there, they put on quite big concerts sometimes, used the Arnolfini gallery occasionally for things. And there was a percussionist, a guitar, another sax, and various others, and they travelled round, they played in London and things. It reached the stage with them sometimes that somebody would walk on to the stage carrying a trumpet and put it down on the floor next to him and not touch it for the whole evening. And sit there and occasionally like drop a sponge on the floor or wind up a little toy, and let it scuttle across the stage, you know all that kind of thing was going on. And I suppose they did other things but they could spend quite a lot of time doing that, and at some point there'd be something a bit louder and more massive going on. I can't remember that but I suppose they must have done. They can't have actually spent the whole evening sitting on a chair winding up toys.'


Bailey, Derek - Interview with Nick Cain, Opprobrium, August 2000
Bailey, Derek - Interview with John Eyles, September 2001
Bailey, Derek - Interview with Jean Martin, 16 August 1996
Bailey, Derek - Improvisation, Its Nature and Practise in Music, First Edition, 1980 Second Edition, The British Library, 1992
Corbett, John - Ephemera Underscored: Writing Around Free Improvisation in Jazz Among the Discourses, ed. Krin Gabbard, Duke University Press 1995
Keenan, David, 'The Holy Goof' in The Wire, issue 247 (September 2004), pp. 42 - 49
Marley, Brian and Wastell, Mark, eds., Blocks of Consciousness and The Unbroken Continuum, Sound 323 2005
Parker, Evan - "De Motu" for Buschi Niebergall
Prevost, Eddie - Minute Particulars, Copula 2004
Forum: Improvisation in Perspectives of New Music, Fall-Winter 1982, Spring-Summer 1983 double issue
Watson, Ben - Derek Bailey and the Story of Free Improvisation, Verso 2004

Joseph Holbrooke '65, Incus CD single 01
Derek Bailey - Pieces for Guitar, Tzadik TZ 7080
Derek Bailey - Ballads, Tzadik TZ 7607
Spontaneous Music Ensemble - Karyobin, Chronoscope CPE 2001-2
Derek Bailey - Solo Guitar Vol One, Incus Records CD10
Iskra 1903 - Chapter One, Emanem Records 4301
Derek Bailey - Aida, Dexters Cigar dex5
Derek Bailey - Domestic and Public Pieces, EMANEM CD 4001
Derek Bailey - Chats, Incus CDR
Derek Bailey/DJ Ninj - Guitar, Drums'n'Bass, Avant CD 060
Derek Bailey/Jamaladeen Tacuma/Calvin Weston - Mirakle, Tzadik CD 7603
Limescale - Incus CD56
Derek Bailey - Playing for Friends on 5th Street, DVD