Improvising freely in lockdown days
Free musical improvisation has many guises. It is also one of the areas in the performing arts where the sanitary measures that were and are being imposed to prevent the ongoing spread of corona virus mutations severely hindered the working artists’ practices, often just short of bringing them to a grinding halt.
Work of musicians in one of these guises, one that is close to my heart and personal practice—the non-academic, speculative (that is how I prefer to call what usually is referred to as ‘experimental’) and ‘underground’ realms of free electro-acoustic improvisation—often depends on a largely informal and ‘unofficial’, yet vast, global network of performance hubs and residency locations. It is a network that facilitates and enables a peripatetic musical practice, a continuous moving from country to country and from city to city, while making just enough money to cover costs and buy some books here and there—along a chain of small, dedicated, venues, as well as participating in specialised festivals and events. Along the way these speculative peripateticists are lodged by locals, friends and artists, that will join them in performance, composition and recording. Being part of this action is very much like being a bee in a busy-busy, joyfully humming and hyper-creative hive. It doesn’t make one rich in the pecuniary sense (far from that), but still it’s amazingly enriching and an awful lot of fun.
Almost all of it, though, came to a sudden stop when, almost two years ago now, corona lockdown measures started ruling our lives.
The ‘unPublic’ sessions, a series of events that I started in 2013 together with Magister Rébus, play a modest role as a ‘hub’ in this global network of ‘Urfolk’ music and musicians.
With unPublic we intend to generate an endlessly evolving patchwork stitched from, now hundreds, later maybe thousands, of improvised electro-acoustic pieces, for the creation of which we have met and performed with (at the moment of this writing) over 160 artists of 28 different nationalities, mostly in Paris, but also in a lot of other places, from Brussel and Amsterdam to Tokyo, Montreal, Taipei and Daebu Island.
When together (coming together—physically—performing together—physically—recording together—physically), along with the travelling and other bodily displacements that were essential to making the unPublics happen, became a no longer do-able adverb, in the long months of strict pandemic lockdown, like many other musicians and performing artists … we sought to replace the ‘physical’ by a ‘virtual’ …
Like in: playing-apart-together…
Paris, December 2021