Teaching 4’33”

This post is an expanded version of a Facebook post I wrote yesterday, and is informed by replies I received from Elliott Schwartz, Chas Smith, and James Pease. Thanks all.

Reading Andy Costello’s recent article on NewMusicBox (the website for New Music USA), “What 4’33” Teaches Us,” http://www.newmusicbox.org/articles/what-433-teaches-us/ , is a mixture of the appealing and the depressing. Appealing, because Costello launches his discussion (after some personal background) with the statement that “all performative acts are pedagogical in nature.” In order to introduce what 4’33” “teaches”, he introduces the idea of silence as a potent and educative statement.

The heroes and heroines of these performative lessons include: 1) House democrats in a moment of silence for the victims of the Orlando shooting, 2) Black Lives Matter activists at a Bernie Sanders rally, 3) Muhammad Ali’s famous protest of the Vietnam War, and 4) my personal experience as a middle school music teacher.

The first three examples, of silent protest as a strong (and “loud”) statement, are one thing. The fourth point, Costello’s teaching experience, is entirely another thing. Here Costello describes his “lesson” on 4’33”.

Now, in 2016, I taught a general music class to middle school kids at a private school in Chicago. In one class, I thought it important that they watch a performance of 4’33”. It failed miserably—the kids laughed at the performer and found nothing of value in the work. I explained to them that they were criticizing the piece before truly hearing it, so I offered them the challenge of performing 4’33” together as a group before they offer any critical feedback, and they unanimously agreed to the challenge. So, I told them we would officially begin the performance of 4’33” when I give them the cue. I set the timer for 33 seconds (the duration of the first movement), started the timer, and gave the cue to begin. Several of the students laughed and made silly noises within the first ten of those seconds, but I let the movement go on without reprimand. I then went on to the second movement, 2’40” in length, during which the students began to hit the desk loudly, throwing pencils and other small objects at one another. They were having a great time. Still, I said and did nothing to sway their sounds and actions. I then gave the last movement of 1’20”, during which the bravest of students stood up and began roaming around the classroom, sometimes running, sometimes crawling underneath the desks. One student narrated their actions to the rest of the class in a voice somewhat akin to the late Steve Irwin. At this point, six of the 15 kids left their seats, at least 10 of the 15 were audibly laughing and/or talking, and not a single one of them was looking or listening to me. This is how this performance of 4’33” came to an end.

Costello let his students run riot over the piece. He didn’t teach them what the piece means and how it works in performance. And this is where the quality and care of presentation comes into pedagogy. In teaching 4’33” (and I’ve done this lots of times over the years) I’ve often started with the 33″ opening movement without comment. The students will have some idea of why I’m doing it, though, as I will introduce it in a unit about time and performance, or some other related topic. Context and setting is all important in education, if the students are to be receptive to the information they are given. Anyway, my first go has, quite often been accompanied by laughter, texting, and the other joys of large classroom life, particularly in groups of mixed arts students, or younger students, such as Costello’s. Then — and this is where Andy Costello failed miserably — I begin to talk about what a performer can do, and must do, to perform 4’33”. Do we choose and instrument? Do we follow David Tudor’s use of closure in some way? If so, how? Which version of 4’33” do we use? How do we as performers bring across 4’33” as a piece (because performance is, like the culinary arts, about presentation and service)? What will the audience get from our performance if we just fidget around, or make funny faces? (I often tell students that the most effective way of performing even the most silly Scratch Orchestra or Fluxus pieces is with an air of serenity, letting the audience interpret the silliness for themselves). I tell them about the presenter at the Royal Musical Association conference whose paper, entitled (as I remember it) “Is 4’33” Music?”, was based on his fidgeted performance. We talk about whether there can be good or bad performances, and what the students might do to perform 4’33” in an effective manner. We talk about indeterminate instrumentation: how would a band perform this (I directed a really great band performance). What will the performance space give us (the 2005 Barbican performance, in an acoustically dry room, was dull)? How about an al fresco performance? What about changing the timings? How to we act between movements? And so on. We then try a group performance, first of the 33″, and then, should we have the time, we’ll definitely move on to a whole performance, though after squeezing all that goodness out of the performance aspect alone, we rarely have that time. That’s how I’d show that performative acts are pedagogical. And in the past, some of these students have taken the questions and moved into demonstrating what they’ve learned by performing 4’33” themselves. There will always be a few students who are resistant to the combination of opportunity and responsibility that 4’33” gives the performer — they just don’t get it — but then again, we all receive information differently, and that in itself is part of the pedagogical process.

And that’s where Costello’s other claim about 4’33” falls absolutely flat: “all art says something, even when that something happens to be nothing.” Like the minority of students in my classes, Costello just doesn’t get it. Looking at all of the considerations surrounding the performance of 4’33”, plus a whole host of political, social, and philosophical implications, and what 4’33” says is patently not “nothing”. It pretty much says almost everything.

In the Silent Void

We have a new archival recording out on the EMC Bandcamp page: Chris Hobbs’ In the Silent Void. Written in November 1981, and recorded in a live concert performance at Royal Holloway College, Egham, Surrey, this is an amazing recording of Chinese texts in translation by Arthur Waley, from his collection Chinese Poems (George Allen & Sons, 1946). This performance is by three composer/performers at the top of their game: the late Brian Dennis, whose vocal performance has not been bettered; Andrew Jones, with a great viola performance; and Christopher Hobbs, playing piano, keyboards, and percussion.

It’s here: http://bandcamp.experimentalmusic.co.uk/album/in-the-silent-void

This is well worth a listen. It’s certainly not minimalism, nor is it your daddy’s experimental music. But it is a lovely, reflective, and gorgeous performance of a piece from Chris Hobbs’ eclectic period. One of our favourites.

Happy birthday, Erik Satie!

Today, 17 May 2016, is Erik Satie’s 150th birthday. An amazing composer, far more radical than the soft-core performances of Gymnopedies would suggest. The EMC has two ways to celebrate, and of course, we’ve chosen the longest works (if it’s a party, make it a long one!):


The first is to read Gavin Bryars, “Vexations and Its Performers,” a reprint on our Journal of Experimental Music Studies page. You can find the article here: http://www.experimentalmusic.co.uk/emc/Jems_files/Bryarssatievexations.pdf . In it Bryars relates all known performances of this piece (a short piece which can be played 840 times if one adopts the right attitude) up to the article’s publication in the early 1980s.

Then — and this is an unusual request, because we at the EMC tend to avoid advertising once an item has been announced — you might think about studying and listening to Satie’s longest through-composed piece, Le fils des étoiles, which we have both in a critical edition of the score by Christopher Hobbs, and in a CD by Chris Hobbs, who gave what is thought to be the first performance in its entirety in 1989.

Le fils des étoiles (1891), lasting over 60 minutes, is Satie’s longest work for piano (Vexations, c.1893, is longer only by dint of being played 840 times), and was originally intended to accompany a drama by Josephin Péladan, founder of the Order of the Rosy Cross, the Temple and the Grail. The three act-preludes are well known, having been published in various editions and recorded several times, but the act-music is unfamiliar even to Satie enthusiasts. This strange hieratic music, built like a mosaic out of repeating motives, some up to sixteen bars long, some only a few beats, is quite unlike any other being written at the time except by Satie himself in contemporaneous works such as Salut Drapeau!  and Trois Sonneries de la Rose+Croix.

This first-ever critical edition of the score includes the two texts which Péladan wrote describing the action of the drama (in the original French and in English translation by Andrew Hugill), together with Satie’s Dedication. The CD includes a programme-note by the distinguished Satie scholar Robert Orledge.

To get either, or both, the score and CD, see our Le fils de étoiles page: http://www.experimentalmusic.co.uk/emc/EMC_103.html . Or contact us here — and have a little drink to Satie!

The Politics of New Music, then and now

One of our favourite independent new music magazines of the classic era of experimental and minimal music (along with Soundings and Contact) was SOURCE, founded by Larry Austin and Stanley Lunetta, in the 1960s. Here is an absolutely excellent extract from SOURCE 6 from 1969, in which twenty composers were asked, “Have you, or has anyone ever used your music for political or social ends?” Harold Budd, Robert Ashley, Robert Moran, Daniel Lentz, David Tudor, Jerry Hunt, Barney Childs, Dick Higgins, Phil Winsor, Roger Reynolds, Terry Riley, John Cage, David Behrman, Charlotte Moorman, Steve Reich, James Tenney, Andrew Stiller, Lukas Foss, Morton Feldman, and Frederic Rzewski were included.

In 2015, the exercise was repeated for Leonardo Music Journal with the title, “Politics of Sound Art”. Artists included Pauline Oliveros, Annea Lockwood, Kristin Norderval, Rinde Eckert, Billy Martin, Jon Hassell, Anne LeBaron, Elliot Sharp, Brenda Hutchinson, Stuart Dempster, John King, Rhys Chatham, Pamela Z, Ben Neill, Alvin Curran, Ben Barson, Christian Wolff, Laurie Spiegel, and, updating their responses, Frederic Rzewski and Terry Riley. We would have liked it if the new survey didn’t just follow the current interests of Leonardo Music Journal editors, but had instead followed the people who had originally answered. For example, although Daniel Lentz and Harold Budd were on the original survey, there are no composers/artists in the Los Angeles pretty music tradition on the present survey. Perhaps this is reflected in the new title, focusing on “sound artists”. However, the present editors have added someone who might have appeared on SOURCE: Christian Wolff. Wolff’s answer is of particular interest — well worth reading.

Thanks so much to Douglas Kahn, who with Larry Austin edited the SOURCE Anthology, published in 2011, for notifying us of this questionnaire, which is normally behind a paywall on the LMJ site. You can find it here: http://www.alycesantoro.com/politics_of_sound_art.html

The joy of good writing

Having lived around academia for so many years, I’ve had to read many technically specialist books and articles, not only on experimental music, but on most aspects of musicology. And to be honest, that reading is more often than not a chore rather than a joy. Much analytical literature is written only for those devotees of the analytical system used (Schenker, Forte, Perle). Musicology has suffered from the application of critical theory to subjects, often with no particular understanding how critical theory works. In my readings, I can dig down through the jargon only to find that the whole argument either crumbles to meaningless dust, or else it is just plain wrong. Even if the author manages to write clearly about the subject, the writing may well be just pretty dull, or even patently bad.

What fires me up are the good writers who present their subject with clarity and grace; the writers who present their history as a real page-turner; the analytical or philosophical writers who write about their search for details as if they were writing a detective story. Or the writers who are so clear that it is simple to follow their logic and to see their proofs, even if the logic and proofs themselves need much thought. And (this is not always possible) the writers who are able to reach not only specialists, but also interested amateurs. And sometimes the best writing does not happen in peer-review publications; it can happen on blogs.

Here’s a great example of fine writing:  James Pritchett’s continuing series of short blog entries on Morton Feldman’s 1981 piano piece Triadic memories. Pritchett employs analytical and philosophical rigour with a great read. As the index, or ‘landing pad’ for the three posts thus far states, Pritchett is interested in looking at Triadic memories at local levels: “The series has no overarching structure, but instead takes up individual moments, images, and questions about the piece and follows them where they lead.” It is here: http://rosewhitemusic.com/piano/triadic-memories/.

Students of the aesthetics and utility of music notation will especially like his first post, on the way that Feldman’s published scores in manuscript tell us more about the music than typeset versions: http://rosewhitemusic.com/piano/2015/09/26/hand-made-music-feldmans-scores/. It’s something I’ve seen in all sorts of music for some years. Having been told by a pianist many years ago that he didn’t play music in manuscript, I thought, well then you’re really missing the music. Typeset versions can suffer from errors, of course, but in the case of Feldman’s music (like much postwar experimental music), it’s the layout that provides the musician with insight into the space, control — the “breath” — of the piece being played.

The second post examines a practical feature of Feldman’s manuscript spacing and the actual durations of the notes as written — http://rosewhitemusic.com/piano/2015/10/07/a-question-about-rhythm-in-triadic-memories/. Pritchett uses sound files to demonstrate the difference between his “accurate” performance of a section of Triadic memories and the “Feldman-approved” version by Aki Takahashi, which she had developed under Feldman’s supervision. If you find the time to read it, do so, as it’s fun.

However, Pritchett shared his third post on this subject, today— http://rosewhitemusic.com/piano/2016/04/18/triadic-memory-figure-memory/ — which is the reason I began musing on good writing. Good writing not only explains the point that is to be made, it also draws us into the world it inhabits. I like the pace of Pritchett’s prose, his word use, and the way he presents an analysis as both a philosophical meditation and investigative narrative. He begins with one small event: a two-sound chordal grace note figure. This figure is significant to Pritchett as a listener: “it is a signal that something is changing.”

Pritchett moves out from this event to the passage six minutes before, then outward farther into memory, into the experience and limitations of listening to music in real time, of what follows, and how the figure affects him as a listener when it reappears. Prichett uses metaphor and similes (“like a ghost whose name has been spoken”), but this refers aptly and only to the music and his experience as an experienced listener.

I won’t go on; it’s much better to read these posts on Triadic memories for yourself. Pritchett illustrates this post with clear musical examples, accompanied by relevant sound files, so that I think that anyone, regardless of musical literacy, could follow him. Although Pritchett is subjective, he never makes the story about himself. He focuses on Feldman and, by extension, on the way we listen to music of such concentration.

Happy Birthday, John White!

For John White’s birthday, the EMC has uploaded two of his pieces by the Hartzell Hilton Band, here: http://bandcamp.experimentalmusic.co.uk/album/wut-again-not-wut-again . But here’s some background information:

John White, now eighty, is a composer whose musical styles and interests are constantly entertaining. Born in Berlin, John was originally considering a career in the visual arts when he attended a performance of Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphonie and devoted himself to music. “Devoted” is a rather mild term. John thinks musically and works out those purely musical thoughts in a series of piano sonatas which he has kept, like a diary, since 1956. Most of the nineteenth and early twentieth-century piano composers (Medtner, Alkan, Busoni, Schumann, Satie, Reger) make appearances in his sonatas, but so too do experimental techniques, folk and pop music. This body of music alone is astounding — a marathon performance of many of these sonatas formed his seventieth birthday party at Wilton’s Music Hall in 2006 [see poster].

Postcard for John White’s seventieth birthday celebration.

But wait, there’s more: for example, his theatre music, ballet and modern dance music (as music director of the Western Ballet Company and Head of Music at Drama Centre, London). John was one of the early influential composers of indeterminate experimental music; he invented systems minimalism; he was an early adopter of small digital synthesizers and computer music. Being an amazingly gifted pianist was not enough; hired by the Royal College of Music to teach composition when he graduated, John soon tired of the systems of exams and quit, teaching himself tuba to a professional standard in six months. On a pre-publication performance of Cardew’s Treatise, John chose a “perverse” interpretation, playing all rising lines as descending notes, and so on, an act that changed Cardew’s thinking about Treatise and notation. This experience led to the Machine Letters, a correspondence between John and Cardew before the premiere of John’s Cello and Tuba Machine (1968), which took up much of the first meeting of Cardew’s Experimental Music class at Morley College, London, a course that led to the formation of the Scratch Orchestra. Machines? John White invented these process systems of repetitive minimalism, using all sorts of random means — knights’ moves, dart throws, random number tables, telephone books. And if one were looking for early repetitive process music, John wrote a carillon piece using such a system in 1962. He was an innovator in several unique genres, including “Gothic” music (heavy, pounding minimalism), and, with Chris Hobbs, strict systems, in which number systems determined the note-to-note procedure in repetitive minimalism. John founded numerous ensembles: the Composers’ Ensemble, with his former students, William York and Brian Dennis; the Promenade Theatre Orchestra (PTO), with Chris Hobbs, Alec Hill, and Hugh Shrapnel; the Hobbs-White Duo; the Garden Furniture Music Ensemble, with Dave Smith, Gavin Bryars, and Ben Mason; and more, including the Farewell Symphony Orchestra, Live Batts!!!!, and Lelywhites (with John Lely).

John White is perhaps the greatest musical thinker, and the most inventive, arguably the greatest composer I have ever known. Any time spent with him is an education; any time spent with his music is a revelation. So why isn’t John White celebrated more in British music, in the world? For one thing, John never advertises himself or “bigs up” his music for career purposes. For another, his work goes against all the standards for being a big-name composer. Rather than always sticking to serious, weighty issues like most careerist composers, John’s pieces are often laugh-out-loud funny. Rather than writing the great opera or, as John called it, the “cosmological symphony”, John’s pieces can be short. He quite happily will write for instruments that are, let us say, not noble: bottles, jaw’s harps, toy pianos, tenor horn, tuba, viola, and well, my favourite, E-flat clarinet. Instead of a major university electronic studio, Live Batts!!! used the cheapest portable battery-operated synths and amps. This is one of the joys of listening to John White’s music—you will often hear instruments and instrumental combinations that “square” concert music composers would never consider. In 1985, his more formal fiftieth birthday concert had been panned by the critic Paul Griffiths, in part for what Griffiths called the “appalling instrumentation” in the Garden Furniture Music Ensemble (tenor horn, tuba, viola, and piano).

White Event flyer final 3
Poster for John White’s 78th birthday celebration, 2014.

Much of John’s music recalls Satie in this respect: little pieces working out some kind of musical problem, often in the quirkiest manner. The Institutum Pataphysicum Londiniense—the Institute of ‘Pataphysics—mounted a celebration of John’s life and work for his 78th birthday, at Charlie Wright’s International Bar in London [see poster]. They also put out two issues of their journal, the Albus Liber I and II, edited by Dave Smith, to celebrate. Somehow, the venue suited John’s temperament better than the typical South Bank celebration, and the fact that they chose 78, rather than 80, for the big party was also fitting, because John does things differently. And in being different, there lies what is interesting, fascinating, thought-provoking, and fun.

White compere
John White at 78th birthday concert.


In celebration of his eightieth birthday, we have uploaded two pieces onto our Bandcamp page that John White wrote for the Hartzell Hilton Band: WUT Again? and NOT WUT AGAIN! (no way, shitface!). And here’s a story. The Hartzell Hilton Band came about when I met Jane Aldred, when she was playing E-flat clarinet at the South Bank for a birthday celebration for the composer Paul Patterson—just the kind of “normal” birthday concert a “serious” composer should have. We got to talking about how we loved playing E flat, and the way that it wasn’t featured on this concert for its unique timbre. Two friends, Michael Newman and Karen Demmel, played viola. I really wanted to go one step farther. E flats and violas: they seemed like the perfect chamber music ensemble, the next step forward from the string quartet! We added Chris Hobbs on piano, and Simon Allen on vibes and other percussion. We asked a bunch of composers to write for our group, including Michael Parsons and John White.

John had already written two pieces, called WUT? and Not WUT. In those days I talked to John a lot on the phone and in person and house-sat when he and his then-partner, Pat Garrett, went on holiday, so I heard quite a bit about John’s music and musical thinking. The WUT actually came from a direction in Mahler, “mit wüt”, or “with rage”. But at the time a variant of the Los Angeles “Valley Girl”, the “Essex Girl”, had sprung up, a forebear to most current reality shows. I cannot remember whether John had imagined what such a creature would make of “mit wüt” in her Estuary English, or whether he had such a student, but the response to this direction was, “with WUT?”, pronounced, as we put on the programme, to rhyme with “butt”. WUT Again? has elements that are consistent with WUT?; NOT WUT AGAIN! is, like Not WUT, an un-WUT-like piece. But there is more to this wordplay. The exclamation point and all-caps in NOT WUT AGAIN! arose from a conversation we had while John was writing the piece. I thought that it could be a cry of exasperation at yet another WUT piece: “WUT…again?” and “Oh, not WUT again!!”. This name then somehow got entangled with another topic of our conversation, American slang. John liked American slang. We had gone through some of the intricacies of certain phrases (Jack Shit? Does anybody have any, if you ain’t got Jack Shit?). One of them was the incredulous interjection, “No way, shitface!”, so John tagged that onto the title. John generously dedicated these two pieces to me and the Hartzell Hilton Band.

And that’s what we’ve uploaded, the 4th of July concert at Lauderdale House in 1988. I had advertised the concert with the fake-cowgirl promise that yee-haw, we’d be celebrating Independence Day by not playing any American music (we played a piece by Barney Childs, but he was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, so he didn’t count as American for the day). You can hear the pieces, so there is no need to go into them in detail, other than they are really lovely, and fun to play. WUT Again? has an unusual eight-bar rest — the track hasn’t dropped out, before recommencing with what turns out to be the coda. This rest is performed, or was performed by us being still and in performance mode, before the cue to resume. It’s deeply effective. Just after John wrote this piece, the earlier of the two Hartzell WUTs, I attended a composition workshop at the Huddersfield Music Festival. The leader of the group berated a composer for putting in a three-bar rest for the whole ensemble. I found this amusing and, in the general discussion of the piece, offered the example of WUT Again?, suggesting that perhaps the composer should put in a longer rest in his piece as well. NOT WUT AGAIN! (no way, shitface!) opens with the kind of action music that John had equated with radio serials such as Dick Barton, Special Agent (there is one such passage in one of his little Symphonies). This is absolutely one of the loveliest things for an E-flat clarinet to play, and is followed by a shift to the most gorgeous aspirational passages in John White’s work. It’s like the sun rising. Is this ironic as well? I prefer not to ask and instead enjoy the irony that something as beautiful as this has such a silly title. Now go listen to these pieces, here: http://bandcamp.experimentalmusic.co.uk/album/wut-again-not-wut-again  Transferred from a cassette recording, they are not as “clean” as the pieces deserve, but they represent the occasion very well. And, speaking of occasions, Happy Birthday, John! and many, many more!

New Michael Parsons album

Levels editContinuing our Bandcamp theme, and continuing our Michael Parsons celebration, we’ve just uploaded a short album, called Levels. This set of three pieces were performed on Michael Parsons’ seventieth birthday concert in 2008. They consist of the title track, Levels (2007), a piece for retuned string quartet featuring the Post Quartet (Mizuka Yamamoto, Jennifer Allum violins, Richard Jones viola, Becky Dixon cello); Syzygy Duets (1991), two duets performed by Nancy Ruffer, flute, and Andrew Sparling, clarinet, arranged and extracted from an original set of eight short pieces for pairings of oboe, clarinet and two trombones; and Barcarolle (1989), a piece written for Ruffer’s alto flute, and played by her on this recording.

One of the really consistently fascinating things about Michael Parsons as a composer is his thorough, microscopic investigation of musical elements. These three pieces share that fascination. Really lovely, lovely music. You can get it here on the EMC Bandcamp page: http://bandcamp.experimentalmusic.co.uk/album/levels. And if you find that you like the EMC’s new Bandcamp page — which will be featuring archival and new recordings as quickly as we can get permissions and set them up — do think about giving extra to the EMC to help keep this page up. There’s more to come — perhaps Californian and a good vintage — but I can’t say more at present.


A few days ago the music theorist Kevin Holm-Hudson shared a Soundcloud file to my Facebook timeline. Almost the same time the artist John Emr posted the same link to Hey Exit’s file. And it’s a good one. Hey Exit has time-stretched every recording of Erik Satie’s famous first Gymnopedie in its original piano version (so no Three Dog Night) to the length of the longest version.

Sounds a bit gimmicky? Well, there is a good precedent in British experimental music for the presentation of simultaneous versions of a particular piece (Christopher Hobbs’ McCrimmon Will Never Return, having four variant versions of the original piobaireachd lament played together). Also—and I don’t know if I’m reaching a bit here—the combination of the reverb on this recording and the arpeggiated attacks, due to variants in expression, create a sound that reminds me of Southern Californian ‘pretty music’: to an extent, Harold Budd’s ‘soft pedal’ style, but also the 1970s ABC recording of Daniel Lentz’s Song(s) of the Sirens. A gorgeous experiment; thanks so much for sharing, Kevin and John; thanks for making, Hey Exit!

Bowie and Cardew

There’s been a lot of discussion surrounding David Bowie’s sudden death. Here’s a connection with Cornelius Cardew, albeit in reaction to one gross misstep that Bowie made in his life and career. Robert Worby has published a link to the Musicians’ Union reaction to David Bowie’s 1976 Nazi salute (which he denied), in which Cornelius Cardew helped draft a statement about musicians and fascism. You can find the article here, on the MU History page: http://www.muhistory.com/from-the-archive-2-mu-response-to-david-bowies-nazi-salute/

Differently drumming

For some months now I’ve been playing with the South Leicestershire Improvisors Ensemble, a great local British free improvisation group, and the brainchild of the drummer Lee Allatson. Lee Allatson is a true original, as can be said of most ‘frimp’ drummers (for example, AMM’s Eddie Prévost, or Derby-based Walt Shaw). But most other frimp drummers I’ve worked with either separate their activity into ‘experimental’ and more traditional work. In the 1980s, especially, Eddie Prévost used various kinds of percussion, including the AMM barrel drum, for his experimental performances, moving to his kit drum for the Eddie Prévost Quartet. Walt Shaw, a visual artist who also drums, applied visual-arts sensibilities to his work, creating an assemblage of sound sources on and around a table, much like Keith Rowe has made an assemblage of his deconstructed guitar, which created for many, the sight and sound of AMM over the years.

Instead, Lee Allatson works mostly with his leopard-skin drum kit, augmented by a host of almost steam-punk beaters and sound sources. Lee has created a series of video etudes, in which he explores many of these sound sources on his kit. The result is, like the best etudes, a combination of the educational and the artistic. You can see them here: https://vimeo.com/album/3582288/sort:date/format:thumbnail .

Here’s the most recent one, an improvisation moving into a king of “punky” beat.

And if you’re passing the East Midlands next month, come and see the South Leicestershire Improvisors Ensemble, which we lovingly know as S.L.I.E., on 4 February at Quad Studios, Leicester, from 8.30 pm. Those of you on Facebook may wish to follow S.L.I.E’s adventures here: https://www.facebook.com/SouthLeicestershireImprovisorsEnsemble/?fref=ts The current lineup includes Lee on drums; Trevor Lines on bass; Chris Hobbs on keyboards and other stuff (resonating sound sources and perhaps bassoon); Bruce Coates on saxes. I’m listed as playing reeds, but will always be found on the clarinet end of things, and we may have a guest sitting in.