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Willem Breuker

By Published: September 17, 2004
WB: I was listening to music so I like Louis Armstrong and Dizzy and I like Duke Ellington or whatever. That's more about the inventions that they did in music or the way they played and the way they convinced me in music than through their instruments. So that's more important to me. It could be somebody on a recorder or a washboard or a whatever or on a dustbin in the street. Have you heard Han Bennink playing on a dustbin? Great, man'it's unbelievable. And there is another drummer in Holland, he is called Johnny Engels and he is playing on a bar stool with brushes and you've never heard better in your life. You don't need a drumkit at all.

AAJ: Do you think compositionally in different ways for different instruments?

WB: When I think of compositions I think of people; so he or she can play this or that better or good or no good or someone can improvise on that or not. So I can write down for the trumpet players, for this one that and for that one this and so on. So you know exactly the possibilities of the musicians. That's the starting point sometime to make a piece because if you just write something down just for instruments and not for people it works the exact opposite way.

AAJ: You try to write to people's strengths?

WB: In a certain way yes. So you cannot blame a guy like Br'tzmann because he can't read notes. So if you work with Br'tzmann, its very hard because he only knows what he has with his instrument but if you give him notes, you can give him a telephone book but he cannot do anything with it. And that was the beginning years in the '60s: it was very hard to get something from the ground because no one could really read music. It was all free improvisation and in a certain way that was very nice, politically spoken. It was very good that we did that and it shocked a lot of people and made a lot of people very nervous. It was more a political action than a musical action. But after five, six years, think over what you did and then you have to continue, you have to go on, to develop yourself.

AAJ: You seemed to distance yourself from that group.

WB: I came up with my compositions and my musical ideas at the end of the '60s in the Globe Unity Orchestra and with the other groups I was playing with. But they couldn't accept it or they couldn't follow my ideas and they didn't want to do it. So then you separate yourself a little bit from the whole scene because I was not so satisfied after a while with what I was doing in that field because I can play longer, harder, higher, louder, softer, I can play on for three hours without stopping; I can play all those things and it was like a match at that time to play as loud as you could, as hard as you could and destroy as much as was possible. So I could do all these things but it gave no further information on what was going on in my mind. It was too limited for me after a while. I wanted to say "what are our experiences in the last five years?" from '66 on, and I wanted to discuss it or develop the things we knew but no one was really interested in that. Everybody wanted to continue that thing that they were doing.

AAJ: Does composition help you develop as a musician more than free improvisation?

WB: Yes because you discover things you don't know. If you just do things over and over, for instance if you tried to put it in notes or you play a composition, a composition has ideas, you do it again and again and again, you find new ways, sides to come in. To do that composition and after a while, when you play the same piece 20 times, then finally maybe you know a little bit about the piece, about the mystery of the piece. Because if you write something, you don't know what the piece is, you know maybe 70% but the rest has to come from improvisation and doing it over and over, then you know what the weakest things are and what the strong things are. That's my experience.

AAJ: How does the Kollektief's theatrics fit?

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