Explorations in sound with members of the research and improvisation unit run by Eddie Prévost, known as the Workshop. This time: Matylda Gerber, Tony Hardie-Bick, N O Moore, Jordan Muscatello, Ed Pettersen and Max Louis Raugel.
Some thoughts on the Workshop from Ed Pettersen:
“What is the sound you hear in your head when you lie down to sleep? Is it the rumbling of the day? Is it everything you said and did or happened to you? Or is it everything you wished happened? Is your life well planned, down to every detail? When it comes to music, improvisors don’t worry about such matters. We just do. What if you improvised everything; every move, every thought, every action, every day? What would that feel like? Would it be out of control or would it be a massive mess? Or something in between, like maybe a beautiful mess?
It’s no wonder that the winds finally carried me to Eddie Prévost’s Friday Worskshop in London. Here, there is no fear – well maybe a touch of trepidation for newcomers – yet it’s entirely unfettered. Are there rules? Well, sure, in a sense I suppose, but none that most would recognize. The purpose is to express and understand your instrument to the fullest, whatever that may be, and find your own unique voice and its place in the communal effort. Each workshop is a struggle; internally within oneself and also between each other musician at play. You don’t want to let them down and you don’t want to look bad, of course, but none of that comes into your mind once you begin to play. It begins before I lay my hands on the strings of my instrument, as I close my eyes to absorb what my cohorts are doing, and then all thought goes out of my head as I begin to interact with them.
What was it like stepping into the workshop for the first time? Well fortunately I had done some homework and read a few books on the British improv world. However, as with most things, book learning wasn’t enough to fully appreciate it. Apart from the sometimes chaotic, feverish, numbing and volume-enhanced mileus of the American and Scandinavian scenes, the UK free improv world is somewhat hushed, deliberate, delicate and more listening-based. Knowledge of scales is not a plus, though no doubt many here are proficient. I quite prefer it as it allows you more freedom of expression, not less as you might suppose, and is more suited to group ensemble play. Silence is just as important, if not more, than the sounds themselves. The noises produced are beautiful, elegant, majestic, intoxicating and inspiring, and I dare say anyone who came to a concert might find it incredible that the music is in fact not composed beforehand, and how the intuition between the musicians can possibly be so in sync. Well, that’s the real hidden beauty here, and what’s so thrilling – not just for audiences but for the musicians themselves.
I really wish more non-musicians could experience this more often. I think they would be as quickly addicted to it as I was and am. It’s never the same and always different. Sometimes it’s mind-blowing and rarely it stinks, but it’s never boring or expected. So think about that the next time you lay your head on the pillow at night and dream about what you might want to hear echoing in your brain.”
– Ed Pettersen
Ed is an award-winning musician, producer and author, recently moved to London. He has worked in the free improv field with Giuseppi Logan, Cooper Moore, Thollem McDonas, Jessica Lurie, Jeff Lederer, Frode Gjerstad, Han Bennink, Henry Kaiser, Martin Kuchen, Tania Chen, Damon Smith, Roger Turner, Jeff Coffin and Tracy Silverman, among others. He has been a music professional for 25 years in New York, Nashville and now London, and has several albums to his credit.