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Music and the Creative Spirit

Peter Brotzmann Chicago Tentet: Bridging the Future with the Past

By Published: February 5, 2009
PB: Our music is vibrant and doesn't belong to the media cake but that doesn't mean that we don't have our own importance and our own audiences. We just have to work to find them but people have to work at finding us too. It's a process. I mean, do we want to be a part of that media cake? I doubt it. I don't want it anymore. I want to be left alone to work on my music and I'm able to find my audience and I think that what comes later is not so interesting. But we are always able to find people to work with and even when we only see each other a couple of times a year, we try to make the best out of the situation and that's a wonderful thing.

My painter friends always say, "Oh man, why did you move to this terrible music? Look at us, we are doing big exhibitions in New York and we make money." I know some of them quite well and they are fucking millionaires or professors and I sometimes get a bit jealous.

(All laugh!)

But just for two seconds. I then see what I have and that's really the best thing that you can have. It's working together and creating something together. That's a great feeling and if that works, you can be happy. It's a very good thing.

LP: The late author Edward Said, said that music just might be the final resistance to the acculturation and the commodification of everything.

MG: That applies to all art but perhaps music is more obvious. But of course, it's all about what we have been talking about. It's about sharing and searching and about all the active processes.

KV: I think that one of the problems with the kind of music we play is that it's very hard to commodify. We now live in a capitalist society which is almost everywhere on the planet today. There is an obsession with ownership of material things, but music is ephemeral. Even a recording is just an example of one thing and is not the ultimate expression; it's not the original. And with the kind of music we play, I think it's true that part of the struggle that we have in gaining more acceptance for the work we are doing is that it cannot be defined.

And from what I understand, Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
b.1930
sax, alto
is frustrated over the fact that he has been called a genius, yet he is not paid the commissions of someone like Elliott Carter and that's a valid complaint. If you are going to talk about financial compensation, the kind of work that we do isn't truly defined. So it's kind of a catch 22. How do we explain what we do? In new music circles, they say we just improvise; we just make it up.

JM: It's like throw away music; it's not important. But they should be paying us by the note.

KV: (laughs) That's the thing because many will write off what we do even though they use the developments of people that are making this music. A couple of days ago, I was talking about Paul Rutherford with Peter and Peter wastalking about how Vinko Globokar took many of the techniques that Rutherford developed in improvised music and Globokar is now this well known composer. Some of his work is even fantastic but Rutherford isn't getting a check for the royalties from that work.

So many of the people that are responsible for new innovations are not given the credit deserved. I'm mean yeah, you can credit us but it's this thing that's ephemeral in a world where that's not valued. Not to sound pretentious, but we are artists on stage making a statement that won't be that way ever again and how are you going to commodify that?

We are in a world where so much importance is placed on instant gratification. It's the realization that I have the best car, the best television set or I have the most famous painting or blah, blah, blah. And as improvising musicians, we are doing something that is completely counter to that because it won't be the same ever again if we are doing it right. And the closest thing anyone could have is a recording. But if you talk to any of the musicians working on this music, they'll tell you that they don't even remember some of the recordings that they have made because they are already onto the next thing.

So we are in an unusual place in the world because we are doing something that ideally is a life long pursuit that goes on and on and on; it's always changing so we are always bucking against these people who want to commodify us and categorize us. People decided ten years ago even what kind of music I play and they don't know anything about what I do because I don't. And I have also seen it in the short amount of time I have worked with Peter. Almost after every concert someone comes up to him and talks about Machine Gun but how long ago wasthat and what is he doing now?


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