Peter Brotzmann Chicago Tentet: "3 Days in Oslo"

Lloyd N. Peterson Jr. BY

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We live during a time when society needs music in boxes, connected with dots; music that can be readily explained and even more readily understood. But Peter Brotzmann tears down the walls, rips apart the boxes and completely shatters any preconceived notions of what music is supposed to be. He understands the necessity of art being able to express from the soul and spirit of the artist, and that is a freedom fought for, one that is intensely fought for. It is a simplicity found in its own complexity, a search that cannot be taught but must be carefully found through one's own sense of discovery. It is the nature of the universe in it's highest and most creative form.

There is a certain depth within artistic expression that cannot be found in music notation, the stone used for a sculpture, the color and shape used in a painting, or the words used within a poetic masterpiece. It is not from impressionism, abstraction, romanticism, nor is it from free improvisation, which is a complete misconception. It is from a wisdom that lies within the depths of the soul where few are able to create from this unique and extraordinary place—the rest is low hanging fruit that swims within the shallow muddy waters of the sea.

Importantly, Peter Brotzmann has a phenomenal capacity to express astounding complex emotions through sound, and being able to understand music at this level is fundamentally about listening. He plays each note and each sound as if it is the last time it is to be performed. And though it is impossible to hear all things as there are always more ways to listen and more areas of sound to discover, it ultimately depends on your attitude and how much you think you understand at every instant you stop and listen.

Listening begins with the right attitude in that specific moment in time and for the artist, sound itself is about discovery and the intense commitment that inspires it. Every note and every sound is unique in its own way at the moment of its inception but those of Brotzmann live on the edge between the known and the unknown and are able to elevate us to another realm of creativity. It is a rare proficiency and a distinctive aspect of his genius.

Above all, music itself doesn't assume boundaries. It doesn't understand religion; nor does it understand color, gender, genre, Palestine from Israel, nor the weak from the strong. It is man who places shackles on music and creative thought. The creativity and character of the members of the Tentet mirror the global potentialities in music and life.

When the Tentet is in harmony sharing the same energy and beauty; they are expressing the possibilities within the conceptualization of the world. Music can be the answer to the mystery and the most profound facets of life but only in music is that conceivable, and the Tentet is an inimitable example.

I have written before that there may not be a more creative group of artists anywhere within the boundaries of any art form than those within the Peter Brotzmann Tentet. I still believe that. I continued that these are individuals that comprehensively understand their responsibility to art and it is only through this level of integrity and creativity that art can, and will continue to move forward.

Thus, it is completely mystifying and disheartening that this group of brilliant artists from Germany (Peter Brotzmann & Johannes Bauer), Sweden (Mats Gustafsson & Per Ake Holmlander), Norway (Paal Nilssen-Love), Chicago (Ken Vandermark, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Kent Kessler and Jeb Bishop) and New York (Joe McPhee and Michael Zerang) remain relatively unknown outside of Avant-Garde circles. They have created their own dimensions of sound, their own sonority of power and intensity, with shapes of silence that collide and separate at varying levels of speed and measurements of time. They have not introduced a new language as much as they invent new universes within fields of time and space through intellect, passion and importantly, attitude.

Hence, these are musicians that believe in common artistic values and are willing to share the same risks. They don't look for creative safety, but rather they prefer treading on the edge of a cliff within creative spheres not frequented before. It is a noble and virtuous endeavor, especially when understanding that the appreciation for visionary work during this time is trifle at best.

In the end, I sometimes wonder why Peter Brotzmann continues down this unappreciative and lonely path. He could choose to sit within the surroundings of his home and spend more time with his other passion, his paintings. At times, I think of him as the tormented genius who sometimes wonders what it all matters. However, it is my sincere hope that he understands that every note and every emotion that he gives life, is a mirror of the human soul that creates a bridge to the spiritual universe. It is a transcendent music for future generations but perhaps even more important, its brilliance personifies the humility and discovery of our artistic and spiritual realm of existence. It is crucial.

Photo credit: Ziga Koritnik

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