Tag Archives: Lindsay Cooper

June 2017 – upcoming London/German gigs – Lindsay Cooper remembered by Half The Sky (22nd June – plus Avantgarde Festival appearance on 25th June)

15 Jun
Half The Sky, 22nd June 2017

Half The Sky (photo © Jean-Hervé Péron)

Long before the knot of current pop culture wrangling over women’s control over the music they make, the late Lindsay Cooper was plugging away in her own corner, striving (and ultimately succeeding) for much the same thing in the often arid and unforgiving spaces of British art rock, improv and jazz. Later this month, the Half The Sky ensemble (led by vigorous curator/arranger /multi-instrumentalist Yumi Hara) will be bringing their showcase of her music both to London and to a small town outside Hamburg, re-animating the work she created for Henry Cow, News From Babel and Music For Films between the late ’70s and the mid-’80s.

Originally formed in 2015 for festival appearances in Japan and France, Half The Sky derive their name from the Maoist/feminist maxim, “women hold up half the sky”, as used by Lindsay as a composition title on Henry Cow’s ‘Western Culture’ album, back in 1978) and feature an impressive alliance of British and Japanese art-rock musicians. As well as Yumi on keyboards, lever harp and vocals, the ensemble features two members of Cicala-Mvta (Miwazow on koto, ching-dong percussion and voice; Wataru Okhuma on alto saxophone and clarinet), the Korekyojinn/Altered States bass guitarist Nasuno Mitsuru; Chlöe Herington (the reeds and melodica player from Knifeworld, Chrome Hoof and V Ä L V Ē) and finally two of Lindsay’s former Henry Cow/News From Babel colleagues (singer Dagmar Krause and drummer Chris Cutler). As Yumi points out, “the gender split follows Lindsay’s general practice and the example of the original bands – Henry Cow (50% female) and News from Babel (75% female).”

Yumi’s comments on the music:

“In 2013, soon after Lindsay passed away, Matthew Watkins made a call for arrangements of her mini-composition ‘Slice’ for a special edition of his podcast ‘Canterbury Sans Frontières‘. I made a transcription of the piece and recorded it for solo clavichord. Chris Cutler and I also played it in Japan and New York. A little later, inspired by the three memorial concerts Chris Cutler organised in 2014 with the original bands, I put Half The Sky together to play Lindsay’s music in Japan.

“With the exception of ‘Slice’, it was only after – and because of – the 2014 concerts that any working scores for the Henry Cow pieces became available, having been painstakingly assembled from Lindsay’s notebooks, original band-members’ surviving parts and careful analysis of the recordings. A handful of the News from Babel songs – none of which had ever been performed live – had already been reconstructed for the memorial concert by Zeena Parkins; the rest I had to work out from scratch – as well as rearranging everything for a mixture of occidental and oriental instruments.

“This programme is approached very much as a music of the present – and not as an academic reconstruction.”

In addition to Half The Sky’s performance, the London show will feature DJ sets from two of London’s more interesting musical personalities. Marina Organ’s known both for three decades of staunch work as writer/co-driving force of ‘Organ’ magazine and for her indefatigable DJ/interviewing work on ‘The Other Rock Show’. James Larcombe is the keyboard player and sometime composer with Stars In Battledress, Arch Garrison, North Sea Radio Orchestra, Zag & The Coloured Beads and the William D. Drake band; now he seems to be extending his talents (or at least his brassy neck), to disc-spinning.

Half the Sky: Music of Lindsay Cooper

  • Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England, Thursday 22nd June 2017, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Avantgarde Festival, Steinhorster Weg 2, 23847 Schiphorst, Deutschland, Sunday 25th June 2017, 2.15pm – information here and here


 
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Pinning down the nature of a woman’s work in art – or women’s work in general – is not always an easy thing, nor even desirable. Even the most positive intentions can produce more restrictive categories, more unwanted boxings and demands to conform. In the case of Lindsay, whose career always foregrounded honest effort and end product over personality showboating, and which was tinted by doubt and determination, it’s probably best to concentrate mostly on the mind behind the music: to listen to the querying voice coming through.

Operating over a set of times in which both contemporaries and colleagues had a tendency towards answers and stances, stated in both bald pronouncements and modernist-baroque ornamentations, she opted to bring a more questioning tone which nonetheless carried some of its possible answers in both action and presentation. Hers was a polymathic but purer musicality: an instrumental voice which voyaged alongside others’ often harsher pronouncements, détournements and doctrines and drew from them while never being subject to them, and which always kept a gentler, more accommodating side open to allow growing space and to consistently rebuild.

Although she also put in stints with both the cheery Canterbury fusioneering of National Health and the terrifying dark-folk band Comus during the 1970s, Lindsay was probably best known for her work with the powerful political chamber-prog of proto-Rock In Opposition ensemble Henry Cow (a creative ferment which she joined and left twice and, like most Cow-ers, never entirely left behind). Having initially brought in her toolkit of reeds, woodwind and piano skills to play on the band’s second album ‘Unrest’, she subsequently made small inroads into the writing, contributing to a number of group compositions on ‘In Praise of Learning’ and the ‘Concerts’ set. As a composer, though, she finally came into her own on the band’s final, all-instrumental statement ‘Western Culture’, on which she was responsible for most of the piled jazzy grandeur of the second side (finding previously unexplored links between the music of New York, Canterbury and Switzerland).

Lindsay Cooper

Lindsay Cooper

Perhaps more significantly, by this point in the late ’70s Lindsay had already formed the witty, subversive Feminist Improvising Group, or FIG; a project which she co-ran with vocalist Maggie Nichols in parallel with her Cow work. Generally considered to be the preoccupation and property of educated, intense, white men, the British and European free improvising of the time tended to be a little short on jokes (bar occasional pranking along the lines of the Free Art Research Trio). FIG allied Lindsay and Maggie with various other musical and performance talents – “feminist rock” trumpeter Corine Liensol (who’d played in Jam Today with a young Deirdre Cartwright), pianist Cathy Williams (who’d worked with another Cow-er, Geoff Leigh, in the Rag Doll duo), future filmmaker Sally Potter, latterday Cow cellist Georgie Born and Swiss free-jazz pianist Irène Schweizer (the last being allegedly the only European female improviser on the ‘60s and ‘70s scene). In classic feminist tradition, FIG not only enabled previously sidelined female voices onto the improv scene but deliberately upturned expectations as to what such a scene could achieve.

In comparison to the demanding and abstruse Maoist politics of Henry Cow (which, in private, sometimes resembled a brutally masculine university debating society preoccupied with games of political high-grounding), FIG were spontaneous, mutually supportive and – just as importantly – funny. With a strong and personal rooting in lesbian, class-based and feminist activism (plus parallel feelings of sidelining and denial on the part of others) but a suspicion of dogma, they expressed frustration and political challenge by drawing on a collective sense of the absurd and of the sympathetic. In addition to the music, their shows featured parodic stagings and examinations of domestic work (such as kitchenwork and cleaning) and of consumer preoccupations. Vegetables were peeled onstage; household tools such as dustpans and brooms pressed into service as props and noisemakers; oppressive or manipulative memes transformed into call-and-response singing.

Reading accounts of FIG work reveals a tale of tough gigs, audience misunderstandings and frequent frustration. Men carped, frowned and cold-shouldered; women laughed, argued and sometimes welcomed; the group members continually challenged their own sense of self and role; but the work itself sounds joyously unshackled – something I would have loved to have been around to see. It’s a shame that much improv and theatrical work is always of the moment and tends to vanish like dew in the morn. Without recorded evidence or restaging, it fades into hearsay, and in this case an important chapter in Lindsay’s work has to dwell in a kind of word-of-mouth samizdat.

Post-Cow and FIG, Lindsay ran her own Film Music Orchestra to create and record arthouse soundtracks (often working in cinematic cahoots with Sally Potter). She rejoined another former Cow colleague ((the now-mellowed Chris Cutler) for the 1980s post-Marxist art-song project News From Babel: here, Chris’ social and political musings would make a happier marriage with the pop-cabaret end of Lindsay’s music. She also contributed to the counter-cultural jazz colours of various Mike Westbrook and John Wolf Brennan bands, played with Pere Ubu ranter David Thomas, worked in theatre and (in the ’90s) composed a more formal chamber music which nonetheless retained the edge and inquiring spirit of her work in avant-rock and political art. She’d collaborate with Potter again for the Cold War song cycle ‘Oh, Moscow’ in the late ’80s, to which Chris Cutler also contributed. If encroaching multiple sclerosis (which had privately dogged her throughout her post-Cow career) hadn’t dragged her into early retirement in the late ’90s, there would have been more.

Half The Sky provide a welcome re-introduction to Lindsay’s work, performed by committed people whose sympathy with Lindsay Cooper’s music is absolute. However, they should also be viewed as a window onto the wider career of a quietly remarkable woman whose death in 2013 forced a premature coda onto the work of a mind whose personal humility had been more than balanced by its nimbleness, thoughtful and flexibility. Come along to these concerts and hear some of that mindwork and heartwork come alive again.


 

June 2016 – upcoming gigs in London – Tim Hodgkinson triple event with Zinc Trio, John Greaves, Yumi Hara, Geraldine Swayne, Guy Harries, Static Memories, Tom White and Rob Lyle (14th-17th)

7 Jun

The continued association shared by the former members of Henry Cow (and their ceaseless inspiration to work either collectively and individually) remains a gift that keeps on giving. Over the course of a single week in London this month, Henry Cow reeds-and-keyboard player Tim Hodgkinson (arguably the band’s most prolific and rigorously avant-garde member) plays at two shows at the Iklectik Arts Lab, one of which also features his old Cow sparring partner John Greaves as well as two vigorously creative women from the younger generation of the ever-broadening Cow/Faust/Rock In Opposition avant-rock circles. In between, he’s launching a book and delivering a talk on his own concept of musicality, complete with another live musical performance.

* * * * * * * *

The Horse Improvised Music Club presents:
Gus Garside/Dan Powell/Tom White/Rob Lye + Zinc Trio (Tim Hodgkinson/Hannah Marshall/Paul May)
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Tuesday 14th June 2016, 8.45pm
– more information

At this evening for Lambeth experimental night The Horse Improv Club, Tim Hodgkinson plays clarinet in spontaneous free-jazz team Zinc Trio, which also features Hannah Marshall on cello and Paul May on drums. Paul is the most recent member of the trio, which previously saw Tim and Hannah working with another drummer – English improv legend Roger Turner. The earlier trio can be seen here, scurrying and forging through a full-torrent 2009 improvisation.

Also on the bill are a new and possibly one-off quartet. Brighton duo The Static Memories, made up of Arc/In Sand/Safehouse collective member Gus Garside (double bass player, educator and National Arts Development Manager for Mencap) and Dan Powell (guitar and electronics, also a member of mischievous Brighton performance duo Nil and one of the people behind Brighton’s Spirit of Gravity experimental night) team up with the London duo of Tom White and Rob Lye (who work with electronics and reel-to-reel tape recorder). Here’s a Static Memories clip to clue you in, along with a White/Lye one: soundclash them together all on your own.

 
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Tim Hodgkinson book launch, 16th June 2016

CPAD (Centre of Performing Arts Development) at School of Arts and Digital Industries, University of East London, presents:
UEL Practice as Research event Series #1: ‘Music and the Myth of Wholeness’ talk and performance by Tim Hodgkinson (hosted by Yumi Hara and Guy Harries)
US.3.02 (Studio 3) University Square Stratford, University of East London,
1 Salway Road, Stratford London, E15 1NF, England
Thursday 16th June 2016, 7.00 pm
– free ticketed event with very limited space – tickets here

This is a launch event for Tim’s latest book, in which he “proposes a theory of aesthetics and music grounded in the boundary between nature and culture within the human being. His analysis discards the conventional idea of the human being as an integrated whole in favor of a rich and complex field in which incompatible kinds of information — biological and cultural—collide… As a young musician, Hodgkinson realized that music was, in some mysterious way, ‘of itself’ —not isolated from life, but not entirely continuous with it, either. Drawing on his experiences as a musician, composer, and anthropologist, Hodgkinson shows how when we listen to music a new subjectivity comes to life in ourselves. The normal mode of agency is suspended, and the subjectivity inscribed in the music comes toward us as a formative ‘other’ to engage with. But this is not our reproduction of the composer’s own subjectivation; when we perform our listening of the music, we are sharing the formative risks taken by its maker.”

Tim will be expounding on this in a lecture including passing examinations of “three composers who have each claimed to stimulate a new way of listening: Pierre Schaeffer, John Cage, and Helmut Lachenmann.”. In addition, there’ll be a music performance in which Tim is joined by University of East London lecturers and musicians Yumi Hara (voice, harp and found objects) and Guy Harries (flute and found objects). Both are experienced and diverse musicians – as well as being a perpetually active solo performer and serial collaborator, Yumi is a member of various Henry Cow/Faust related projects (The Artaud Beats, Jump for Joy!, Lindsay Cooper repertoire band Half the Sky), was a former Frank Chickens member, and was the driving force behind London’s ‘Bonobo’s Ark’ events (at which ‘Misfit City’ spent a number of intriguing evenings in the late ’90s); while Guy’s work spans singer-songwriter projects, experimental multimedia musicals and opera, and assorted collectives (Bodylab Arts Foundation, the POW Ensemble, Live Hazard) across multiple genres.

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'Other, Of Itself', 17th June 2016

Iklectik Arts Lab presents:
‘Other, Of Itself’: Yumi Hara + Tim Hodgkinson + Geraldine Swayne + John Greaves
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Friday 17th June 2016, 8.30pm
more info

Yumi (on voice, harp and piano) and Tim (on bass clarinet and pedal steel guitar) reunite the very next evening for another concert. For this one, they’ll be joined on keyboards, electronics and voice by Geraldine Swayne (fine artist, film maker and – as musician – a member of both Faust and …bender) and by Tim’s old Henry Cow sparring partner John Greaves (voice, bass guitar, piano). It’s a loosely-structured quartet evening during which the four musician will work in various combinations including a Hodgkinson/Hara duet and a John Greaves solo set on voice and piano (performing selections from his own song repertoire).
In addition, Marina Organ (‘Organ‘, ‘The Other Rock Show‘) will be contributing a DJ set.
 

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