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Keith Rowe: One Bird Flying Through

John Eyles By

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AAJ: Do you still regard the two of them as old friends?

KR: Yes. I can honestly say that I have nothing bad to say about Eddie. I have nothing bad or negative to say about Eddie. I understand that he did what he felt he had to do. I am sad that it was that way. I just wish he'd spoken to me.

AAJ: That sounds amazingly generous of spirit on your part.

KR: I just think it is reality. In AMM if someone did something you didn't like, whose problem was that? Just say, I'm playing away and Eddie does some rattling or some bowing or something, and I don't like it, whose problem is that? It is my problem, not his problem. Eddie is doing what he thinks is correct. That is fine. It is my problem if I don't like it. So consequently, if I'm doing something he doesn't like, it is his problem not my problem. So if you write a book saying I'm at fault, I don't buy it frankly. He obviously felt the need to do it, he felt under pressure to do it, and I would protect his right to do it. I just wish he had talked to me about it. Or said, "This is the book I'm writing. There are bits of chapters you are going to disagree with. I'd really like to hear your angle on it." At least then, maybe in the book he could have written, "I've showed this to Rowe, and Rowe came back with this response." Then people reading it can make up their own minds. Or maybe it would have stopped Eddie from actually publishing those particular sections. Or maybe he'd have seen it in a balanced light.

I just really think his negative personal opinion of me stopped him being objective. I think he twisted what he was feeling into a kind of theoretical model that doesn't hold water. I think that is the problem with it. I am really sorry that he has put himself into that position. I would have hugged him and said not to publish it. I think his first book [[No Sound Is Innocent (copula, 1995), by Edwin Prevost] is much stronger on that level. When he talks about Coleman Hawkins' "Body and Soul," and that stuff, there are very strong legitimate points he makes. All those things about you can only find yourself in the company of others, I think those ideas from the first book are very strong. In the second book, he is having a go at me and Zorn. I wouldn't go there, personally.

AAJ: It is quite a notorious rift these days. The reason I raise it is that in the past month I was talking to Karen Brookman, Derek Bailey's widow, about the rift between Derek and Evan that happened about twenty years ago. Although it has never been explored in any detail, her take on that is that it wasn't about musical differences or about business differences; she said she thought that they were like a married couple who had been together for too long. Does that chime with you?

KR: Yes, or like two brothers. Absolutely, I'd go along with that. It is a kind of marriage and sometimes it breaks down. I think the other thing is there are always two sides to a story. There is Eddie's side and my side. Someone like Lawrence Sheaff—one of the old members of AMM—would say that when something bad happens to you, then you've invited it, you've caused the conditions for it to happen. So I'm not without blame. I'm me, and me being me I'm obviously irritating to Eddie, so therefore I must accept some responsibility. But I wouldn't write it in a book.

AAJ: Sometimes tension can be a driver of creativity. Was there any sense of that?

KR: That is true. I would say that in AMM there was a chemical mismatch between me and Eddie, like two brothers who really don't hate each other but detest each other. Actually there is that sort of tension. We solved that by usually having a classical musician; we always invited classical musicians as a kind of catalyst for this relationship. As long as we controlled the relationship, everything was okay. We could have gone on for a hundred years. This one was just unfortunate.

AAJ: There is a strand running throughout this interview—the number of times you have referred to visual artists. [Picasso, El Greco, Whistler, Rothko, Degas...]

150KR: That is what I am, and that is what I do on the instrument. What I am doing on the instrument is not making music. AMM was a philosophy and the vehicle for the philosophy was music. What I do is painting, and the vehicle for it is sound. There is no painting at the end of this process. I do other kind of painting where there is a painting. In this form of painting there is no painting and it is so heavily disguised that you cannot locate the painting.

The disguise comes from Duchamp. It was extraordinary that he gives the impression that he has stopped working but actually continues producing things. Everyone thinks he has stopped but he is still producing. That was a kind of inspiration for me on the guitar to kind of adopt the process of painting and the agenda of painting but actually put it in the form of sound, which means there is no commodity; there is no painting to be traded. There are CD's but they are never going to sell for three million.

AAJ: It is not one object. The CD is just the record of the event. The event itself is the nearest equivalent.

KR: No-one can own that, not even me. It is fully transient. But painting is incredibly important. So is music, so is the world of particularly classical music.


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