Playing the Schoolhouse

‘sensitivity to time within space’

From 30 November to 2 December 2016 a symposium entitled On the Edge was staged in Oslo, Norway. Whilst David Sylvian was not present at the event, his influence on the proceedings was significant. The programme was created by Ivar Grydeland, a musician who works in the field of improvisation and a member of the groups Huntsville and Dans les Abres, the latter’s eponymous debut album having been released on the ECM label in 2008.

At the time of the symposium, Grydeland had recently completed an artistic research fellowship project at The Norwegian Academy of Music entitled Ensemble and Ensemble of Me – What I Think About When I Think About Improvisation. Grydeland was intrigued by David Sylvian’s use and direction of performances by improvising musicians as the core material for vocal tracks on both Blemish and Manafon, as well as his own experiences contributing to a recording session for Sylvian late in 2015, and so decided to devote the event to the theme of On the Edge – Improvisers on music and methods. Sylvian himself contributed from afar to the performances on 1 December in the capacity of a curator, selecting a group of musicians to improvise together at the Nasjonal Jazzscene venue – the line-up comprising Keith Rowe, David Toop, Rhodri Davies, Rie Nakajima and Phil Durrant.

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Like Planets – Nagarkot

The potency of the past

Alongside musical performances and live remixes at the Punkt festival there is a seminar programme embracing a wide range of topics related to creativity and innovation in the art of sound. For the fifteenth festival in 2019 the seminar curator was musician, musicologist and writer David Toop. ‘The theme of the Punkt seminars this year is Voices of Memory: sounding, listening and the sense of who we are,’ he writes in the festival programme. ‘Memory is vital to music, if only because sound is always running away from us, slipping into the air like a ghost. To understand form, relationships, the developing shape of a musical piece depends on keeping a memory alongside our immediate sense of what is happening.. ..There are many facets to musical memory, ranging from personal and cultural identity, to archival and technological memory, to the different memories involved in notation or improvisation, to the way we constantly rewrite our memory of music in relation to our changing selves.’

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There is No Love

Assuming characters

October 2016, Cafe OTO in London, and a concert to celebrate twenty years of Confront Recordings, staged by the label’s owner Mark Wastell. Cafe OTO nestles in a side street in Dalston, a gloriously unpretentious venue where a small team share duties at front of house, attending to the bar, sound and lighting, creating a space for performances from some of the leading improvisers and experimental musicians from across the world. Its vibe is part bar, part cool village hall, part vinyl and cd boutique, making it without doubt one of my favourite places in the capital.

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