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Artist Profiles

Theo Jorgensmann: Sheep with Two Heads

By Published: June 12, 2009
Jörgensmann accepts that much of his own music is closer to 'free jazz' than to the more abstract styles of improvised music that many younger musicians are exploring. At this stage of his career, however, Jörgensmann is very aware of himself as a European, and the influence of that musical tradition on his senses as he plays. "I like it to stabilize my European roots " he says. This has led him to collaborate with musicians from a classical background. The Werkschau Ensemble, for instance, consisted of violin, cello, clarinet, bass clarinet and percussion. He believes that the combination of musicians from various different traditions within an improvisation opens up new aesthetic possibilities.



L->R: Mircea Tiberian, Marcin Oles, T. Jörgensmann + Bartlomiej Oles at "Porgy and Bess" in Vienna

"Imagine a percussionist from Africa, who usually plays only African music and is an improviser. This musician meets a classical cello player, who can not improvise, except to a small degree in the aleatoric style. They might come up with a concept and then they might even give a concert. For me, though, that is a post-modern concept, by which I mean that you can still recognize the individual components from which the music originated. What I would call "new music" would be a true synthesis with new properties. So—if the cellist could improvise with the 'new sense of time' that jazz enabled, then something new might emerge." That new sense of time has as much to do with the tension created by the intervals between the notes as the placement of the notes themselves. There is even, he tells me, a rather glorious German word for it: "Intervallspannung". Jörgensmann, however, appears to be hinting at something far more abstract than the timing of the sounds in relation to each other. It as if he believes that the trace elements of each musician's cultural background and personal life can be articulated together, in real time, so that there is a tangible sense within the music of history itself interacting with the present. This is why he is so at pains to avoid the idea of merely juxtaposing elements of style. There is something in this aspiration that is almost shamanistic, as if the past could be summoned at the moment of improvisation, like a medium calling a spirit to the table.

As a young musician in the 1970's Jörgensmann was inspired by the most radical experimenters of the day—Anthony Braxton
Anthony Braxton
Anthony Braxton
b.1945
reeds
, Art Ensemble Of Chicago
Art Ensemble Of Chicago
Art Ensemble Of Chicago

band/orchestra
, Carla Bley
Carla Bley
Carla Bley
b.1938
piano
. It might be fair to conclude that now he is less interested in radical experimentation at a formal level, and that his principal focus is to use his work to expound his notion that a 'new aesthetic' lies dormant and waiting to be discovered within the cultural roots of the music that we already have. It is a long history:

"When music began perhaps there was no audience. Someone took a piece of wood and tried to play it with a kind of rhythm. Or perhaps they carved a wind instrument and began to play. For me making music is not about money or fame. What I want to say is that I love to make music, I make it for myself."


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