Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Eddie Prevost Interview by Richard Scott 2/2

Part of the problem we have is that we live in a psycho-linguistic world. Ideas, words… like we’re doing here, we’re trying to discuss, to describe a process which, by definition, doesn’t use any of these things. Much of the understanding – and this is where it gets embarrassing sometimes – is quite intuitive. Much of the understanding defies conceptualisation, indeed the reason you’re doing it is because you need to work through it to come to an understanding, which can later conceptualise. But at the same time I’m not very happy with the idea of somehow wanting to keep it kind of simplistic; the idea of being anti-explanation and wholly intuitive. Because I’m not a wholly intuitive being. Intuition is a very important part of my being, but my analytical processes are equally important. Sometimes in us all we get out of balance with one or the other, what we’re looking for is a happy medium between the two where one can engage the other and feed the other. I’m very unhappy with this idea that music somehow shouldn’t be explained, that’s stupid.

So the theory comes out of practice. It isn’t a manifesto. It doesn’t say, ‘this is what we want to achieve and this is perhaps a way of doing it,’ it says, ‘We’ve been doing this X amount of years and this is what it seems to me we’re up to’.

From my own experience the three things, which are most important in improvisation, are, the idea of dialogue, the idea of problem solving and the idea of transience. And transience is something that we can recognise perhaps as being something which reflects the informal way we approach both dialogue and problem solving. You’re not setting up some monolithic edifice because dialogue is something which is essentially mobile. When one has a conversation you don’t have the same conversation every time. You have different conversations but the process is still dialogue. In the same way with problem solving you don’t tackle the same problems every time you come to a problematic situation. Those three things seem to me to be the most fundamental things in improvisation. I’m sure there are other things but without those I don’t think you’ve got anything at all.

The moment you pick up your saxophone you have the problem of, ‘What do I do?’; that, in itself, is a problem. Then somebody next to you starts playing and you know that what is expected of you is to play together. So what is it you do? How do you respond to what he does? You are quite right if you say, ‘Well, the way I respond is intuitive,’ but it’s still a problem – it’s not a problem insofar as having ‘A Problem,’ but one of engaging with the world.


Each time you engage with the world you decide to do one thing or another; that choice is problem solving. You either solve it in a relatively successful way or you choose a way which is unsuccessful. The degree of success is how you ultimately decide whether a performance is good or bad isn’t it? If it is meaningful in some way or other then presumably the problems have been assessed, approached and solved. You come away from a performance which is not successful, and this is as a player, and clearly you haven’t solved the problems then that’s what stimulates you to go on, I think. There are all kinds of problems, they’re psychological, they’re social, they’re certainly musical in terms of manipulative ability to express ideas and sounds. I mean they are manifold, there are all kinds of things really, the whole world is there. That’s what I find so intriguing about music, because it’s like a vehicle, like a ship, you can go to so many places. Music is about the last thing you’re really interested in when you’re involved in music!

Everybody must ultimately ask themselves, ‘Am I being fulfilled by this exercise?’. And that could mean being fulfilled in various ways – intellectually, emotionally, psychologically, do I feel better afterwards? Or worse afterwards? What have I got out of it? Have I learnt something? Am I disturbed by it? Disturbed in a creative way? Does it change my life in any way?

The third thing is dialogue. The practice isn’t fixed. In improvisation you are trying to discover the meaning of sound as if for the first time and you’re refreshing your sound-making capacity. But, in conjunction with that, it is fundamental that dialogue comes into play, because part of the material you are working with is in fact your relationship with other people who are making music. They are part of your environment, your social environment, your musical environment. Your dialogue is a very important ingredient because you have a responsibility not only to take but to give as well. The conversation itself becomes progressive because the problem with monologue is that it doesn’t have anything to bounce off. We have a conversation and my ideas shift because you throw up or push me into a direction I hadn’t thought about going up. It’s a progressive relationship.

The thing that characterises AMM is the stability of its personnel, because that has a pretty definite aesthetic course to follow, which does depend primarily on dialogue. Dialogue of a kind that demands deep understanding of the materials you’re using and the people you’re working with. Whereas there’s a sense that much of improvisation, and the relationships inherent in it, are quite ephemeral. Some people will make a virtue of that, and I can see a case for it, I can see a case for a constant change of personnel. Derek Bailey has built a philosophy on it. He used to say that he was more interested in what happens with musicians before they develop a common language, than what they do afterwards. Where’s AMM has been much more concerned with developing a common language and trying to make it as rich and expressive as possible. We’ve been concerned to build up a vocabulary and with refining it – much more so than merely… no, I don’t mean ‘merely’…much more so than finding constantly new things.


I’m saying that there is a set of rules. It’s no good Derek (Bailey) saying he doesn’t have any rules. Well, he can say that but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s true. The very fact that I can recognise his playing from one occasion to another indicates to me that there is a set of rules. If it’s coherent there must be rules. There are rules; it’s a different set of rules. And a different set of rules relates to a different worldview. What we are proposing, whether we are doing it consciously or not, is a different worldview – and there has to be rules in a worldview. I’m not proposing anarchy, I don’t even believe that anarchy exists, there’s nothing in nature, which is anarchic, it always gravitates towards form eventually. The question is, ‘What form?’ and what we’re proposing, consciously or otherwise is a form, which in essence is completely different in its political and social implications from the form which classical music has perpetuated. And let’s have no illusions about it classical music is not apolitical, it’s very political indeed, and so is pop music. It’s actually proposing a particular kind of a world, whether we like it or not, even whether it denies it or not…


What’s communal about improvisation is the determination to work in this particular fashion together, and that’s the important thing, you know. That’s what people don’t understand communism is about. They see it as regimentation, everybody in line, all marching the same way. It doesn’t mean that at all. It clearly means that you work in an environment, which is supportive, which is engaging in the world in a supportive manner, which in fact liberates you individually, much more than you could possibly have in the fragmented competitive society, which we’re currently being encouraged to adopt. Because there you’re separated, you’re apart; you don’t know where you are in this world. These communal models are a way of finding out that you are. They’re ways of seeing where you fit in the world and they give you much more freedom than they do restrictions.

I think the music has a message about our time and about our life. It isn’t the message that says, ‘Oh, when we reach utopia everything’s gonna be lovely and cosy and comfortable’. It’s never going to be like that and one shouldn’t want it to be like that. There’s always going to be an edge, a kind of raw edge if you like, to experience. I mean, that’s the condition of man isn’t it? There’s always going to be the unknown there, and that’s the edge to creativity, that’s the edge to movement through evolution, whatever that might be.

-Yes, there’s certain idealism there, I can see that because we are talking about a world, which currently clearly doesn’t exist. Some people say that that AMM play the music that should be played all the time in the world they would like to exist. And I know what that means, although it’s a weird formulation. I know why it’s said.


What we’re posing… we’re having to reinvent many of the ideas which have been lost – purposefully lost, pushed into the dustbin – in order to sort of regroup ourselves and find our way back to a kind of human existence we feel is, must be, preferable to what seems to be dominating now. So, it seems to me that it’s a kind of reinvention. Or an attempt to reinvent a culture, which has been destroyed, or to replace a culture that has been destroyed, not harking back to a folk ethic. Folk music reflected a kind of social formulation, which existed for all kinds of reasons. We don’t live in that world anymore. But what we do live in is an impoverished kind of society.

There are certain people within it that feel alienated from it Improvisation, to a large extent, is a means of finding a substitute, to reinvent, to build up again a new culture. It has that power; clearly it does have that power to do that. But it’s having to deal with two very entrenched, powerful monoliths who are concerned, consciously or otherwise, to keep things as they are, to keep people from having a culture which is based on a sense of what Marx called species being; where human beings can express themselves fully, reveal themselves fully. If people do all those things clearly our society as we know it will crumble. Clearly music does have a power, and that can be a power to change, there are so many examples in history right from Plato… Music is so powerful it’s capable of deadening; it has the power to be controlling, to put people to sleep, to discipline. But it also has the power to enervate.

I think I’ve run out of steam! Oh, but I’ll tell you what, You’ll have to fit this in… It’s to do with the contributions of relationships and your own perception of yourself and so on. One of the things that came out of the early period of our music was a common experience we had was that you would very often be playing and be… immersed in these kind of waves of sound. You’d be in the middle of it, consumed by it, and very often the common experience was that suddenly maybe you’d just identify one particular element and you’d wonder for a moment where it came from, ‘I wonder how that’s happening?’ often you would actually stop playing and suddenly realise it was you that was playing this thing you hadn’t recognised. And it was something we began quite consciously to encourage, that kind of… It sounds very trite in a way, but the ultimate was a very selfless kind of playing. You actually transcend your own contribution. It wouldn’t matter in a way if you were fulfilled or not, although in a sense that’s what you’re after, and you could actually get to the point where this happened. It was a very weird experience.

I don’t think it’s a loss of identity; it’s actually a different kind of identity.

(30th October 1987.)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Henry Flynt

Photo by Diane Wakoski. 

Henry Flynt (b. 1940)

Henry Flynt (born 1940 in Greensboro, North Carolina) is a philosopher, avant-garde musician, anti-art activist and exhibited artist often associated with Conceptual Art, Fluxus and Nihilism.

Henry Flynt’s work devolves from what he calls cognitive nihilism; a concept he developed and first announced in the 1960 and 1961 drafts of a paper called Philosophy Proper. The 1961 draft was published in Milan with other early work in his book Blueprint for a Higher Civilization in 1975. Flynt refined these dispensations in the essay Is there language? that was published as Primary Study in 1964.

In 1961 Flynt coined the term concept art in the Neo-Dada, proto-Fluxus book An Anthology of Chance Operations (co-published by Jackson Mac Low and La Monte Young) that was released in 1963. An Anthology of Chance Operations contained seminal works by Fluxus artists such as George Brecht and Dick Higgins. Flynt's concept art, he maintained, devolved from cognitive nihilism, from insights about the vulnerabilities of logic and mathematics. Drawing on an exclusively syntactical paradigm of logic and mathematics, concept art was meant jointly to supersede mathematics and the formalistic music then current in serious art music circles. Therefore, Flynt maintained, to merit the label concept art, a work had to be an object-critique of logic or mathematics or objective structure."

In 1962 Flynt began to campaign for an anti-art position. Thus he demonstrated against cultural institutions in New York City (such as MOMA and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts) with Tony Conrad and Jack Smith in 1963 and against the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen twice in 1964. Flynt wanted avant-garde art to become superseded by the terms of veramusement and brend - neologisms meaning approximately pure recreation. Flynt read publicly from his text From Culture to Veramusment at Walter De Maria's loft on February 28, 1963 - an act which can be considered performance art.

From about 1980, Flynt has given a great deal of time to two endeavors which did not achieve the notoriety of the early actions: his concepts of meta-technology and personhood theory. In 1987 he revived his "concept art" for tactical reasons; and spent seven years in the art world. Following that period, Flynt began to publish recorded but unreleased musical compositions. Over 10 audio CDs have appeared as of 2007.
Flynt's writings on a wide variety of subjects are available on his website: Henry Flynt: Philosophy

Henry Flynt is also known for his musical work, often with him performing on violin, that attempted to fuse avant-garde noise music (particularly the hypnotic aspects of minimalism) with free-jazz and hillbilly country music.
Much of Henry Flynt's recorded output has been release on the Recorded and Locust Music record labels.
His first CD release was "You Are My Everlovin'/Celestial Power" on Recorded (curated by John Berndt, and initiating the "New American Ethnic Music" or NAEM series on that label), quickly followed by "Spindizzy" and "Hillbilly Tape Music" also on Recorded. Later Recorded released NAEM 4, "Ascent to The Sun." Recently, Flynt's "Glissando No. 1" was published by Recorded (2010).

The Locust Music releases (curated and designed by Dawson Prater) showcase the full range of his musical interestes from minimalism, hillbilly country and garage rock. "C Tune" (Locust, 2002) documents a 1980 live improvisation with Catherine Christer Hennix on tamboura and Flynt on electric violin. "Raga Electric: Experimental Music 1963-1971" (Locust, 2002) is the seminal anthology of Flynt's most challenging avant-garde work that includes "Raga Electric" (1966) and "Free Alto" (1964). "Back Porch Hillbilly Blues - Volume 1" (Locust, 2003), with "Acoustic Hillbilly Jive" and "Blue Sky Highway and Tyme", and "Back Porch Hillbilly Blues Volume 2" (Locust) showcase a meeting of Henry Flynt's vision of rural roots music and American minimalism. "I Don't Wanna" (Locust Music, 2004) documents a garage-punk band, the Insurrections, that Flynt led in 1966 with Walter De Maria and Paul Breslin. "Purified by the Fire" (Locust, 2005), recorded in December 1981, repeats the format of "C Tune": Catherine Christer Hennix on tamboura and Flynt on electric violin.

The 41-minute raga is dominated by the languid phrases of the violin that tests the border between melodic fragments and distorted tones. The "Indian" element is the background of hypnotic tamboura drones, but Flynt's improvisation at the violin betrays the influence of jazz music."Henry Flynt & Nova'Billy" (Locust, 2007) collects material recorded between 1974 and 1975 by his rock band Nova'Billy. "Dharma Warriors" (Locust, 2008) showcases another meeting between Catherine Christer Hennix & Flynt recorded in 1980 in Woodstock, New York.
Online reading: Henry Flynt's text "The Meaning of My Avant-Garde Hillbilly and Blues Music".
Relationship with Fluxus

Because of his friendship and collaboration with La Monte Young and George Maciunas, Flynt sometimes gets linked to Fluxus. While Flynt himself describes Fluxus as his "publisher of last resort" (Flynt did permit Fluxus to publish his work, and took part in several Fluxus exhibitions) he claims no affiliation or interest in the Fluxus sensibility. In fact, he is a strong critic of the neo-Dada sensibility.

Henry Flynt & The Insurrections ‎– I Don't Wanna (1966)

  1. Uncle Sam Do 2:52
  2. Good By Wall St. 2:59
  3. Go Down 2:55
  4. Corona Del Mar 3:00
  5. Missionary Stew 4:30
  6. Jumping 3:03
  7. Sky Turned Red 2:33
  8. I Don't Wanna 3:18
  9. Dreams Away 7:29

Vocals, Guitar – Henry Flynt
Bass [Acoustic] – Paul Breslin
Drums – Walter De Maria
Keyboards – Art Murphy
All tracks originally recorded in 1966.

New American Ethnic Music Volume 2: Spindizzy (1968-76)

  1. Hoedown (1968) - 14:43
  2. Solo Spindizzy (1971) - 2:57
  3. Banjo Country (1976) - 1:12
  4. White Lightning (1983) - 4:41
  5. Solo Virginia Trance (1975) - 3:16
  6. Double Spindizzy (1975) - 6:40
  7. Rockabilly Boogie (1982) - 8:05
  8. Jumping (1976) - 4:08
  9. Hillbilly Jive (1977) - 9:09
  10. Jive Deceleration (1976) - 18:47

The creation of a newly available Henry Flynt archive turned out to be one of the better points of the early 2000s, as a small Baltimore firm worked out the process of creating collections from this interesting composer and deep thinker's recording archive. The ten pieces comprising this, the second volume in the series, all deal in some way large and small with the old-timey music of Appalachia, and to a lesser degree with its bastard offspring rockabilly, and one can't go wrong with good ingredients. A simplistic description of what these pieces are all about will be offered for descriptive purposes, but is not intended to insult the much deeper content of the works themselves. To say these musical performances and the ideas behind them are endlessly fascinating is by no means an attempt to fling hyperbole at the subject. The opening violin solo, entitled "Hoedown," presents in its nearly 15 minutes of playing time many of the concepts that the composer, a native of Greensboro, NC, would return to in the decades when he was creating solo performances for violin and electric guitar. Old-timey music is a wonderful subject for the creative composer to sink their teeth into, as indeed they have, including the so-called dean of American music, Aaron Copland.

The generations of artists involved in genres bubbling around the avant-garde music scene during Flynt's epoch, including minimalism, could and did take pointers from old-timey string bands which often repeated melodic fragments with slight variations for long periods of time. One thing Flynt does not have on his fiddle is the tone of an old-timey player; compared to Fiddlin' Arthur Smith, for example, he sounds like a student hanging around a fiddle contest, and if contrasted with the timbre of a non-professional, real backwoods fiddler, Flynt would come across even more the greenhorn. But the city slicker tone is no distraction when the real genius of the music is in how the content of the old-timey themes is rethought — edited and clipped into different sections that are on the face uncharacteristic of the original structure of the music. In other words, there are ways in which old-timey music, bluegrass, or blues phrases would be divided up if one wanted to still recognize them as such, and this wouldn't be it. Yet at the same time, the listener will never lose track of the roots of these phrases because of how clear the feeling of the mountain music is, no matter what is done with it. The music is thus able to revolve between poles of familiarity and unfamiliarity — perhaps the source of the "Spindizzy" feeling.

These are beautiful performances, and Flynt becomes even more adept at manipulating the material as the years go on. The use of overdubbing and looping techniques on pieces such as "Double Spindizzy" works so well it underscores the brilliance of the original concept, like looking down into a totally clear lake and being overwhelmed by its depth. The pieces with guitar, such as "Rockabilly Boogie," are also interesting because of their structure, but ironically hold up less well as listening experiences, simply because the sonic result of what the composer does to the material is so similar to what it might sound like just to sit and listen to a rockabilly guitar player noodle for a few moments, repeating a bit of this and that before going on to something else, and never actually playing a real song. The familiarity of this kind of casual playing — in a sub-category of "non-intentional" music that includes the sounds of orchestras warming up — makes it seem like Flynt has gone to a lot of trouble for nothing, but alchemists don't emerge from their dungeons with gold compound every time out. "Jive Deceleration" is a wonderful concluding piece that involves rests written into the performance, resulting in silent sections — which is something one would never find in old-timey music unless the fiddler suddenly had to hightail it for some reason.

It also subdivides a typical old-timey mode into three-note sections, and should remind the listener who likes jazz of Miles Davis' first modal period. These same modes that were part of old-timey music and '60s jazz came to the Appalachias from sources as diverse as Africa and the British Isles, and hearing it all moving around through so many permutations could make someone...Spindizzy. Near the conclusion of "Hillbilly Jive," the composer goes into a bit of high-pitched violin playing that is amazingly evocative, bringing to mind the sounds of traditional Appalachian hollerin', heard at a great distance. It also is the type of thing that might make a real hillbilly run for his rifle, but thankfully the remarkable Henry Flynt is safe from these type of characters. — Eugene Chadbourne

New American Ethnic Music Volume 2: Spindizzy (1968-76)

  1. Violin Strobe (1978) 5:06
  2. Guitar Rebop (1971) 3:16
  3. Telsat Tune (1971) 2:00
  4. Full Telsat (1971) 2:00
  5. Jumping Wired (1976/2001) 4:10
  6. Leather High in A (1978) 6:30
  7. Leather High in E (1978) 8:29
  8. S & M Delerium (1978) 15:00

Purified By The Fire (1981)
  1. Purified by the Fire
Tambura [Pandit Pran Nath] – C. C. Hennix
Violin [Electric] – Henry Flynt

You Are My Everlovin / Celestial Power (1980-81)

  1. You Are My Everlovin
  2. Celestial Power

Recorded in '80 and '81, two mind-blowing disks delivering flowing, trance-inducing violin solos of extreme beauty and seriousness. In these incredible electronic hillbilly music violin performances, an exalted synthesis of American ethnic music, raga-like lyrical virtuosity, and a deep psychedelic sensibility takes place--a nod to human culture from the great nihilist philosopher and father of Concept Art. Should be completely world-famous, but only now is this music beginning to the get the attention it deserves.

"Instead of the bombastic thud of rock, Flynt's playing included 'rollicking', 'forward-sweeping', flexible rhythms, indivisible by bar lines, creating an expansive, nearly suspended, rolling sense of time." --Ian Nagoski

First volume in a series subtitled: New Americam Ethnic Music. "Two 45 minute sets of live improvised 'avant-garde hillbilly and blues music' featuring Henry Flynt on (a rather gained) violin, one (YAME) is a duo with an unaccredited tambura player (drenched in reverb/background acoustics), the other (CP) featuring 1 track of violin, and 2 tracks of volume pedal guitars -- all performed by Flynt (drenched in reverb/background acoustics). Henry Flynt is a vanguard American conceptual artist, key Fluxus participant, ally to both La Monte Young (esp. in the early New York years, contributing to the key Fluxus document; the La Monte-edited An Anthology) and George Maciunas (several mid 60s collaborations including 'Communists Must Give Revolutionary Leadership in Culture'), author of many pamphlets and public propaganda works (Blueprint for a Higher Civilization, Down with Art), magazine articles ('Extracts from Personhood's Self Cancellation', perhaps more relevant 'The Meaning of My Avant-Garde Hillbilly and Blues Music'), recently obsessed with furthering the ideals of Meta-Technology. An interesting set of performances, both extended extemporizations on extended alpha-state ascension through excessive application of overtone-series note relationships/harmonics over a single chord/form. Close in spirit to La Monte perhaps, closer in application to something like Tony Conrad or Arnold Dreyblatt, only with a unique country-fried holler-bent that's at once alienating to art-music lovers but at the same time much more personable. An important cultural and historic link, one of the only fully realized Fluxus audio documents (despite it's 10+ year delay to the 'classic' era) available in the CD age. Seminal" -- Hrvatski

Back Porch Hillbilly Blues Volume 1

  1. The Snake (3:40)
  2. Sky Turned Red (2:35)
  3. Acoustic Hillbilly Jive (12:01)
  4. Blue Sky, Highway And Tyme (15:53)

Back Porch Hillbilly Blues Volume 2

  1. Echo Rock
  2. Informal Hillbilly Jive
  3. White Lightening
  4. Jamboree

C Tune (1980)

  1. C Tune (47:21)
Recorded November 17, 1980
Tambura [Pandit Pran Nath Tambura] – C. C. Hennix
Violin [Electric Violin] – Henry Flynt

Various Tracks
  1. Henry Flynt Interviewed by Kenneth Goldsmith on WFMU, February 26, 2004 (3 hours)