Location of Repository

Spontaneous music : the first generation British free improvisers

By Andrew Edward Callingham


The British free improvisation scene originated in London and Sheffield during the\ud mid 1960s. In groups such as AMM, the Spontaneous Music Ensemble and Joseph\ud Holbrooke, a distinctive and ambitious musicality developed that still occupies most\ud of its protagonists forty years later.\ud \ud \ud Marked stylistic contrasts developed within the genre, notably the `atomistic' and\ud `laminar' methods of interaction. Nonetheless, a consistency of principle and practice\ud was also apparent that defined British free improvisation as unique. In some respects\ud the genre resembled its German, Dutch and American counterparts, and also the jazz\ud and classical avant-gardes that had inspired them. Both conceptually and practically,\ud however, clear differences remained.\ud \ud \ud The British free improvisers refined a method and an aesthetic of musical creativity,\ud which suggested an intimate perspective and a detailed analysis of that which we\ud accept as `music'. Its techniques and results were unconventional, but remained\ud consistent with music's defining concepts and experiences. As such, British free\ud improvisation suggested a more inclusive model of musicality than is common, and\ud implied a broad critique of the cultural values that define `music' at all. Though the\ud free improvisers themselves did not explicitly state the connection, their work may be\ud viewed in the context of Deconstruction: the post-structuralist analytical strategy\ud associated with philosopher Jacques Derrida.\ud \ud \ud British free improvisation culminated from innovations within the twentieth century\ud avant-garde. Referencing styles such as atonality and free jazz, it challenged the\ud aesthetic, technical and hierarchical standards of Western tradition in a form that was\ud striking and extreme, but also of logical development and focus. Free improvisation\ud owed explicit debt to a variety of other musics; its most singular achievement\ud however, was the redefinition of `rhythm' by which it disguised this fact.\ud \ud \ud The music of the first generation British free improvisers is reliant upon precise\ud conceptual and practical execution. But though this has enabled the genre to be\ud musically innovative, in the long term it has also become a logical problem. With\ud British free improvisation as its subject, the scrutiny of Deconstruction reveals\ud significant discrepancies between what `free improvisation' implies and what it\ud actually represents

Topics: ML
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.hud.ac.uk:4659

Suggested articles



  1. (1903). A later version of Iskra
  2. (1936). Bailey's Drop Me Off At 96th, Derek Bailey & Eddie Prdvost's Ore, Iskra 1903's Chapter One, Derek Bailey & John Stevens' Gig Cornelius Cardew:
  3. (2002). Confront 12 Alterations. Live Recordings 1980-83.2000. CD. IRCD 001 Alterations. Voila Enough!.
  4. (2002). Derrida and the Humanities. A Critical Reader (Cambridge:
  5. (2004). Destroy All Music. The Futurists' Art of Noises',
  6. (1930). f] `Part Six' - 8'26" Early on, Tilbury plays some high-pitched and delicate quasi-Oriental figures. Each Appendix Two: The Players The First Generation British Free Improvisers (and some representative recorded performances) Derek Bailey:
  7. (1964). Jacques Attali, Noise. The Political Economy of Music, trans. by doi
  8. (2002). Jazzactuel: A collection of avant garde/free jazz/psychedelia from the BYG/Actuel catalogue of 1969-1971.2001.3xCD.
  9. (2002). Lytton/John Stevens/Frank Perry/Eddie Prevost/Trevor Taylor. Improvising Percussionist.
  10. (1944). McLaughlin's Extrapolation, the Tony Oxley Quintet's The Baptised Traveller, the Howard Riley Trio's Synopsis, Joseph Holbrooke's Joseph Holbrooke Evan Parker: (Born
  11. (1972). Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra. Cond. Christopher Lyndon-Gee.
  12. (2002). ReR AMMCD AMM. The Nameless Uncarved Block.
  13. (1940). See AMM's AMMMusic 1966, It had been an ordinary enough day in Pueblo, Colorado and Fine, Keith Rowe's A Dimension of Perfectly Ordinary Reality and Harsh, Keith Rowe & Toshimaru Nakamura's Weather Sky Paul
  14. (1943). See AMM's AMMMusic 1966, The Crypt and Laminal Hugh Davies: (Born
  15. (1940). See AMM's AMMMusic 1966, To Hear
  16. (1939). See the Music Improvisation Company's The Music Improvisation Company 1968-1971, Hugh Davies' Warming Up With The Ice Man Leslie (Lou)
  17. (1940). See the Spontaneous Music Ensemble's Challenge and Withdrawal, Iskra 1903's Chapter One, Paul Rutherford's The Gentle Harm of the Bourgeoisie
  18. (1942). See the Spontaneous Music Ensemble's Summer 1967, Evan Parker & Paul Lytton's Three Other Stories, Evan Parker's Monoceros, Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton's At The Vortex, Evan Parker & Eddie Prevost's Imponderable Evidence Eddie Prevost: (Born
  19. (2000). The 6 String Quartets. Novak Quartet.
  20. the early gurus of electronic music:
  21. (2002). The Hidden Wiring of Modern Music, ed. by Rob Young (London: Continuum,
  22. (2000). The Howard Riley Trio. Synopsis.
  23. (2003). The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD 6`h edition (London: Penguin, doi
  24. (1995). The Spontaneous Music Ensemble. A New Distance.

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.