Emily Dickinson

‘very intimate and revealing’

‘If we’re interested in improvisation, then that suggests that we’re not quite sure what music is. We’ve got some idea but we’d like to find out. So every time we play, “what music is” is open to a certain freedom of discovery, open to question. The possibility of being surprised by oneself or by the situation – that is what we hope for.’ These are the thoughts of Evan Parker, eminent free improvising saxophone player since the 1960s, decades during which he practically reinvented the playing technique of his instrument and in so doing created a new language of sound.

‘For me, the great thing about music is that it’s an art that unfolds in time,’ he continues. ‘The notion of form and something that unfolds in time – those two notions don’t fit together…It’s much more to do with biology, say, than architecture. That’s the thing with music. It should be refreshing itself all the time, not repeating. The idea that it repeats and that you play the same piece note for note and that, somehow, you have a formula for a perfect composition – this doesn’t interest me at all. I’m interested in a new version of that piece. Doing it and seeing where the new stuff is and where it’s going.’

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Five Lines

‘from totally opposite parts of the musical globe’

Dai Fujikura had an early and unusual fascination with David Sylvian’s work. ‘I grew up listening to his music—which is a bit strange, as I was born in 1977. The first album I listened to was Secrets of the Beehive. At that time I was 13 years old or so, and I hadn’t listened to pop music—well, maybe I’d heard it on TV, but I’d never purchased it nor was I interested in any music other than classical. Being a classical musician was my life from the age of five! Practicing every day, doing homework, going to “juku”, which was a sort of “extra school” that lots of kids in my generation attended. So, I had no time to waste, and no time to search in other genres of music.

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Heartbeat (Tainai Kaiki II)

‘where trouble sleeps and the light is found’

In 1991, commemorations planned to mark the 100th anniversary of The Japan Society in London grew into a festival promoting the art and culture of Japan. Celebratory events included Sumo wrestling at the Royal Albert Hall, Grand Kabuki at the National Theatre and an exhibition of Buddhist sculpture at the British Museum. On Sunday 13 October, Ryuichi Sakamoto played a one-off gig at the Hammersmith Odeon. The show began with a recording of a stirring traditional chant which reverberated around the auditorium, a piece we would later come to know as ‘Nuages’ when Ryuichi’s album Heartbeat was released in the UK the following year. His set-list included tracks from his previous solo offerings B-2 Unit, Neo-Geo and Beauty, YMO’s ‘Tong Poo’, as well as exquisite themes from the soundtracks for The Sheltering Sky, The Last Emperor (for which Sakamoto had been awarded an Oscar) and his latest film-music, High Heels.

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The Other Side of Life

‘a new high mark of maturity’

There were fundamental differences in band preparations for Japan’s third LP. The material for the first two albums, Steve Jansen explained, ‘was performed extensively live before we had the opportunity to record it. Therefore, those albums serve more as a document of what we’d learnt as a group performing together. There was very little recording craft involved, just a lot of energy and influences from an eclectic mix of styles, which were all a part of our early teenage years onwards.

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Zero Landmine

‘a real hope’

‘Lt Colonel Colin Mitchell became famous in the late 1960s as commanding officer of the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders,’ explains Chris Moon, recalling his job interview with the colonel early in 1993, as he searched for the right assignment to follow his own service in the military. ‘He set up a mine clearance charity after visiting Afghanistan, where he saw farmers unable to work their land, refugees who couldn’t go home and a Red Cross hospital full of amputees.’

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