14 August / SUNDAY / 21.00–23.00 / Multimedia hall / Laboratory of Culture – Różana 2
Keith Rowe & Michael Pisaro – “Venerable Bede”
Photo Yuko Zama
The Venerable Bede (673)
“It seems to me that the life of man on earth is like the swift flight of a single sparrow through the banqueting hall where you are sitting at dinner on a winter’s day with your captains and counsellors. In the midst there is a comforting fire to warm the hall. Outside, the storms of winter rain and snow are raging. This sparrow flies swiftly in through one window of the hall and out through another. While he is inside, the bird is safe from the winter storms, but after a few moments of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the wintry world from which he came. So man appears on earth for a little while – but of what went before this life, or what follows, we know nothing.” – Venerable Bede’s History of the English People:
The Venerable Bede was born, plain old Bede, in AD 673. The name Venerable – meaning ancient and worthy – was added later as his fame as a scholar spread. He was born on the grounds of the monastery he was later to make famous and in which he was to serve as a monk for over 50 years. Little is known about his very early life until at the age of 7 he was entrusted into the care of Benedict Biscop, the founder of the monastery. When plague struck in 685 Bede, then aged 12, was one of only two survivors from the devastated congregation. He was to spend the rest of his life in Jarrow on the banks of the Tyne river where linguists can trace the modern day “Geordie” accent directly back to the dialect of Old English that Bede and his kinsmen would have spoken all those years ago
(born 16 March 1940 in Plymouth, England) is an English free improvisation tabletop guitarist and painter. Rowe is a founding member of both the influential AMM in the mid-1960s (though in 2004 he quit that group for the second time) and M.I.M.E.O. Having trained as a visual artist, Rowe’s paintings have been featured on most of his own albums. After years of obscurity, Rowe has achieved a level of relative notoriety, and since the late 1990s has kept up a busy recording and touring schedule. He is seen as a godfather of EAI (electroacoustic improvisation), with many of his recent recordings having been released by Erstwhile Records. Rowe began his career playing jazz in the early 1960s—notably with Mike Westbrook and Lou Gare. His early influences were guitarists like Wes Montgomery, Charlie Christian and Barney Kessel. Eventually, however, Rowe grew tired of what he considered the form’s limitations. Rowe began experimenting, slowly and gradually. An important step was a New Year’s resolution to stop tuning his guitar—much to Westbrook’s displeasure. Rowe gradually expanded into free jazz and free improvisation, eventually abandoning conventional guitar technique.
This change in his approach to guitar, Rowe reports, was partly inspired by a teacher in one of his painting courses who told him, “Rowe, you cannot paint a Caravaggio. Only Caravaggio can paint Caravaggio.” Rowe reports that after considering this idea from a musical perspective, “trying to play guitar like Jim Hall seemed quite wrong.” For several years Rowe contemplated how to reinvent his approach to the guitar, again finding inspiration in visual art, namely, American painter Jackson Pollock, who abandoned traditional painting methods to forge his own style. “How could I abandon the technique? Lay the guitar flat!”
Rowe developed various prepared guitar techniques: placing the guitar flat on a table and manipulating the strings, body and pick-ups in unorthodox ways to produce sounds described as dark, brooding, compelling, expansive and alien. He has been known to employ objects such as a library card, rubber eraser, springs, hand-held electric fans, alligator clips, and common office supplies in playing the guitar. A January 1997 feature in Guitar Player magazine described a Rowe performance as “resemble a surgeon operating on a patient.” Rowe sometimes incorporates live radio broadcasts into his performances, including shortwave radio and number stations (the guitar’s pick-ups will also pick up radio signals, and broadcast them through the amplifier).
AMM percussionist Eddie Prévost reports that Rowe has “an uncanny touch on the wireless switch”, able to find radio broadcasts which seem to blend ideally with, or offer startling commentary on, the music. (Prévost, 18). On AMMMusic, towards the end of the cacophonous “Ailantus Glandolusa”, a speaker announces via radio that “We cannot preserve the normal music.” Prevost writes that during an AMM performance in Istanbul, Rowe located and integrated a radio broadcast of “the pious intonation of a male Turkish voice. AMM of course, had absolutely no idea what the material was. Later, it was complimented upon the judicious way that verses from The Koran had been introduced into the performance, and the respectful way they had been treated!” In reviewing World Turned Upside Down, critic Dan Hill writes, “Rowe has tuned his shortwave radio to some dramatically exotic gameshow and human voices spatter the mix, though at such low volume, they’re unintelligible and abstracted. Rowe never overplays this device, a clear temptation with such a seductive technology – the awesome possibility of sonically reaching out across a world of voices requires experienced hands to avoid simple but ultimately short-term pleasure. This he does masterfully, mixing in random operatics and chance encounters with talkshow hosts to anchor the sound in humanity, amidst the abstraction.”
Some accounts report that Rowe’s guitar technique was an influence on Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett: “Taking his cues from experimental guitarist Keith Rowe of AMM, Barrett strived to push his music farther and farther out into the zone of complete abstraction.”
Rowe has worked together with numerous composers and musicians, including Cornelius Cardew, Christian Wolff, Howard Skempton, Jeffrey Morgan, John Tilbury, Evan Parker, Taku Sugimoto, Otomo Yoshihide, Sachiko M, Oren Ambarchi, Christian Fennesz, Burkhard Beins, Toshimaru Nakamura, David Sylvian and Peter Rehberg.
MICHAEL PISARO was born in Buffalo in 1961.
He is a composer and guitarist, a member of the Wandelweiser Composers Ensemble and founder and director of the Experimental Music Workshop, Calarts.
His work is frequently performed in the U.S. and in Europe, in music festivals and in many smaller venues. It has been selected twice by the ISCM jury for performance at World Music Days festivals (Copenhagen,1996; Manchester, 1998) and has also been part of festivals in Hong Kong (ICMC, 1998), Vienna (Wien Modern,1997), Aspen (1991), London (Cutting Edge, 2007), Glasgow (INSTAL 2009), Huddersfield (2009), Chicago (New Music Chicago, 1990, 1991) and elsewhere.
He has had extended composer residencies in Germany (Künstlerhof Schreyahn, Dortmund University), Switzerland (Forumclaque/Baden), Israel (Miskenot Sha’ananmim), Greece (EarTalk) and in the U.S. (Birch Creek Music Festival, Wisconsin). Concert length portraits of his music have been given in Munich, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, Vienna, Merano (Italy), Brussels, New York, Curitiba (Brazil), Amsterdam, London, Tokyo, Austin, Berlin, Chicago, Düsseldorf, Zürich, Cologne, Aarau (Switzerland), and elsewhere.He is a Foundation for Contemporary Arts, 2005 and 2006 Grant Recipient. Most of his music of the last several years is published by Edition Wandelweiser (Germany).Several CDs of his work have been released by such labels as Edition Wandelweiser Records, Compost and Height, confront, Another Timbre, Cathnor, Nine Winds and others, including most recently “transparent city, volumes 1–4”, “an unrhymed chord”, “hearing metal 1”, “A Wave and Waves” and “harmony series (11–16)”. His translation of poetry by Oswald Egger (“Room of Rumor”) was published in 2004 by Green Integer. He is Co-Chair of Music Composition at the California Institute of the Arts near Los Angeles. He has performed many of his own works and those of close associates Antoine Beuger, Kunsu Shim, Jürg Frey and Manfred Werder, and works from the experimental tradition, especially John Cage, Christian Wolff, James Tenney and George Brecht.
Concert takes place as part of the A-I-R Sanatorium of Sound Sokołowsko implemented in cooperation with the Artist-in-Residence Programme A-i-R Wro. The A-i-R Wro Programme is a part of the European Capital of Culture Wrocław 2016 and is subsidized by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of Poland.