Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Vienna Improvisers Orchestra @ 21er Haus

Last week I went to see the Vienna Improvisers Orchestra in the Viennese contemporary art museum 21er Haus. I went there without knowing what to expect - I just knew one of the musicians - and the evening started with poems reading in German, that I mostly didn't understand (except, for some reasons, some erotic poems - gotta check on my learning German method).

The VIO comprises about twenty musicians and plays directed improvised music, conducted by Michael Fischer in Butch Morris style, with a made to measure gesture code. I've actually been a longtime member of a similar orchestra in France - the acclaimed La Pieuvre - I'm quite familiar with this, and I have to admit that the music resulting of this method is roughly always the same... It's powerful the first time you hear it, but once you know the tricks it's quite limited - the vocabulary is too narrow and the musicians' focus being always split between following the director, listening to the other musicians and improvising, they can't really produce something interesting more than a few minutes in a row...

The VIO is saved by its instrumentation and its musicians - the flutes and cellos give it its specific color, as do the female voice trio and its beautiful long modulated drones. Electric guitars are a good counterpoint with original sounds like detuned chords and a general well mastered minimalism. Drums are also quite well placed, that can be difficult. There was sometimes some text readings added to the music, quite cliché but not unpleasant, and even enjoyable when it slipped to theatrical.

picture by Christian Kurz

My feeling about the 21er Haus concert is that ultimately this kind of orchestra should be able to play without being directed. It would take a lot of practice and deeply involved musicians but I'd love to hear the music it would produce. I always believed that a music piece is always contained in its first seconds and that a good improviser is the one who can understand the underlaying structure and bring it to its 'logical' conclusion: to reach that as a collective is a grand achievement!

That makes me think that the ultimate purpose of Communism was supposed to be the disappearance of State, once the People has reached Political Maturity...

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