Home News EMANEM… We’re talking The Record Label

EMANEM… We’re talking The Record Label

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Martin-Davidson-JDGWhat do you say about a man who once said that Abstract music is “A useless term that gets used to describe certain areas of music – usually ones that the describer does not like. One can argue that all music is essentially abstract, except for the relatively small amount that is onomatopoeic. However, if one accepts the somewhat controversial concept that the substance of music is its emotional content, then a different conclusion is reached. In Jazz and other part-improvised musics, the emotional content is primarily realised by the improvisers. However, this realisation is considerably restricted by the pre-determined structures that confine the improvisations. In totally composed music, composers are able to give free reign to their emotions. Unfortunately, these are normally transferred via a somewhat vague score to interpreters who may or may not feel what the composer intended. The emotional content is thus liable to be seriously filtered and/or distorted.

SME-Oliv-Cvr-JDGIt is only in Free Improvisation that musicians are totally unfettered to be able to completely realise the emotional content, making it less abstract than most other genres. Free Improvisation is also the area of music that sounds least unlike the real world out there, so that if the analogy with the use of the word abstract in the visual arts is pursued, then once again Free Improvisation is just about the least abstract area of music”, that Avant Garde is “Tomorrow’s mainstream,” that awards are “Recognition awarded by people who think they have the right to award recognition. Not taken seriously, except by sheep” and that critics are “Writers who generally tell you more about themselves than what they are nominally writing about…”

Under normal circumstances this man would be called a charlatan, unfit to be seen or heard in polite society. But then there is no such thing as polite society, nor should there be as music rose up and revolutionised it, like everything else that guerilla art laid low a long time ago. Ecce homo, you might say of the man, Martin Davidson who also put into words what many of us would have liked to; who said free improvisation is “The most innovative, original, creative and exciting music of the last thirty years. This usually gets treated (if at all) as a bizarre extremity of Jazz, which in turn is usually treated as a bizarre extremity of Popular Music – the non-Classical variety, that is.

Spontaneous Music Ensemble 2One infamous critic even thinks that Free Improvisation, along with everything else, was just a passing phase on the way to Jazz-Rock! Most Free Improvisation is inherently non-idiomatic or pan-idiomatic, and therefore should not be lumped together with any particular idiom. Of course, Jazz was a major influence on Free Improvisation, and a lot of musicians and listeners came to it from there. However, other musics have also had a major influence, and musicians and listeners have come to it from the worlds of Popular Music (both Classical and Rock) in spite of it being lumped together with Jazz. Surely, by now Free Improvisation has produced a large enough body of distinctive, distinguished music to have its own category. And then, as if to back up this hypothesis, flying in the face of convention – as is his wont – he starts a record label to curate this vanishing species of music. The label is called EMANEM.

From its very inception Mr. Davidson’s label has held fast to the firm beliefs that “RECORDED SOUND: The most realistic way to preserve music. In the past, improvisers had to resort to the vagaries of notation in an attempt to preserve their creations. The advent of recorded sound has largely made the use of notation redundant. A major reason for the rise of improvised music,” and “RECORDED VISION: Although music is essentially an aural experience, it can have some visual interest. However, this is not preserved by the absurd gimmicky fashion of moving around randomly between close-ups of individual musicians, or parts thereof, to the exclusion of others who are also performing. It is also common for the vision to have nothing to do with the music and/or musicians. Imagine if sound recordings used the same techniques! The only way to visually record music, is to always keep all the performing musicians in camera. No doubt, this is too much to expect from a medium that has come to be primarily used for people with zero attention span.”

emanemSo here’s to Free Improvisation, not Free jazz, which is A somewhat dangerous name for the area of music that straddles the border zone between Jazz and Free Improvisation. When this name was used to promote an Ornette Coleman concert, the audience refused to pay admission, so the promoter refused to pay the musicians, so the musicians refused to play. When it is played, most Free Jazz has tended to degenerate into a sort of disjointed Bebop…

Lol CoxhillHere’s to Free Improvisation because as Martin Davidson puts it to us: Free Improvisation is this: The most innovative, original, creative and exciting music of the last thirty years. This usually gets treated (if at all) as a bizarre extremity of Jazz, which in turn is usually treated as a bizarre extremity of Popular Music – the non-Classical variety, that is. (One infamous critic even thinks that Free Improvisation, along with everything else, was just a passing phase on the way to Jazz-Rock!) Most Free Improvisation is inherently non-idiomatic or pan-idiomatic, and therefore should not be lumped together with any particular idiom. Of course, Jazz was a major influence on Free Improvisation, and a lot of musicians and listeners came to it from there. However, other musics have also had a major influence, and musicians and listeners have come to it from the worlds of Popular Music (both Classical and Rock) in spite of it being lumped together with Jazz.
Surely, by now Free Improvisation has produced a large enough body of distinctive, distinguished music to have its own category. And Emanem is doing something about it. Today the label boasts some of Steve Lacy’s finest recordings as well as some of the composer and pianist Veryan Weston. But perhaps Emanem’s most priceless repertoire in its catalogue are the iconic recordings of the legendary soprano saxophonist, Lol Coxhill. Read more…

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