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For over thirty years the band known as The Art Ensemble of Chicago has been practicing the art of sampling. Sampling has, until very recent history, not been an accepted musical form. As a listening public, we now find general acceptance with cut and spliced sounds in popular music and television. The AEC has practiced this art form for well over thirty years. Theirs is not tape and digital sample as much as it is samples from the African experience in America. The AEC’s history is one of music, coupled with their precious performance art. Theirs is as much a visual as well as a sound experience, with costumed musicians and a musical warehouse of instruments.
These recordings, made in October 1996 in Munich with Sun Ra-ologist and musician Harmut Geerken, are dedicated to Herman Sonny Blount and philosopher/poet Salomo Friedlaender/Mynona. While not specifically scripted, disc one has the AEC reacting to audience members who (unknown to the band) were preselected to read sentences into a microphone. The back and forth adds to the flavor of the experience as well as the performance aspect. This session was pre-programmed also to include pieces of Mynona’s poetry and Sun Ra’s distinctive voice. Lester Bowie reads a poem written by Amiri Baraka and the band falls into and out of melodic passages. The inclusion of recorded spoken samples, some in German and some English, recall DADAist and Fluxus performance art. Highlights include Sun Ra-inspired sections and spontaneous call-and-response poetry between the musicians. The AEC experience is one of real time and real sound sample. Their old school is new school all over again.