Corkestra | Fuhler - Bennink - de Joode | Cortet | MIMEO | Wayang Detective | Olympicnic | Het Kabinet
Cor Fuhler – clavinet, organ, piano, compositions
Anne LaBerge - flutes
Ab Baars – clarinet, tenor saxophone
Tobias Delius – tenor saxophone, clarinet
Nora Mulder – cimbalom
Michael Vatcher – percussion, singing saw
Tony Buck – percussion
Wilbert de Joode – double bass
Andy Moor - electric guitar
Watch Corkestra live at Mediawave Festival in Gyor, Hungary:
Corkestra’s sound is vintage Cor Fuhler: tuneful, lively, colorful, humorous and a little bit off-center. That’s not to deny the contributions of the varied players involved: but Fuhler did bring them together, after all.
Their sound is distinctive as a fingerprint, what with that percussion section, 3 plucked and hammered string instruments, three winds but no brass, and the leader’s own puckish work on organ and clavinet spearheading the rhythm trio. Still, in some ways, Corkestra’s singular music does recall medium-size bands composer Sun Ra led over the years. His Arkestra was likewise driven by catchy, bumptious clavinet and bass licks; twittering flutes often crowned its open instrumental texture, when a powerful tenor sax might take the lead. And like Sun Ra, Fuhler has an ongoing fascination with antiquated electronic keyboards, like the Philicorda organ and the Synthi. It’s as if Cor had a keyboard handy for every mood, texture or coloristic palette his fellow players conjure up in their improvisations or treatments of themes.
Rather than provide the 2+3+4 nonet with full scores to interpret, he’s handed them something like a do-it-yourself composition kit. He’s written a collection of catchy riffs, bass vamps, and fast or slow, shorter or longer melody lines, which the players then assemble like building blocks, combining and superimposing them to create a new piece on the spot.
In the 1980s Anthony Braxton developed a way of layering one composition over another, but Fuhler’s complicated version sports its own inventive wrinkles. Sometimes a score specifies time values but not pitches, and sometimes the reverse. Sometimes the musicians are given a choice of two different versions of the same theme, or are allowed to skip notes here and there, and the multi-instrumentalists may select which axe to play it on. Players may pick their own tempo or key sometimes too, or may be allowed to play some notes sharp or flat, which makes for some curious parallel harmonies (as in Ornette Coleman’s harmolodics, or Monk’s clanking piano). And the musicians who aren’t following the score can embellish the composition in progress, or create a countermelody or some other feature.
That the same melodic fragments might recur in new guises in the course of a program allows for a level of thematic unity rare in improvised music. It’s fun for musicians, to get to flesh out a chart like that, and Fuhler’s puckish little tunes and tunelets are aimed at just such a sense of play. The absence of brass softens the ensemble sound from the git-go, and Delius’ s warm and furry tenor sax sound makes pretty lines even prettier. Not even the drummers trip each other up, for one thing because they listen to each other, and for another because each might play something else: Vatcher his tuned zither the hakkelbord, or his musical saw. The saw, which Vatcher plays with a violin bow, is a vital part of those pieces for which Fuhler does write (often open-ended) parts for specific players and instrumental voices, the aim being to recreate the pure sine waves of an early synthesizer using mostly acoustic axes.
It’s all part of the quest for a unique ensemble sound. Fuhler aids that search by turning the players loose in the improvised subgroups that punctuate a Corkestra set, letting the musicians discover the band’s own personality, and their own interrelationships, apart from the composer’s conscious intervention. In addition, textural group improvisations often lead the players to ideas they might not have anticipated, but which fit the needs of the moment. Granted, Fuhler does hint at which direction to sail in, by setting the order of pieces, making up the subgroups, and deciding which fragmentary pieces to combine. In devising modular set lists he takes cues from Misha Mengelberg’s ICP Orchestra, but even with ICP’s Ab Baars lending his extreme tenor sax and clarinet to the mix, this band goes its own way. Fuhler and his cohorts are too independent for anything else. Thinking for one’s self is a big part of what this Corkestra is about after all.
Sun Ra, Braxton, Mengelberg: in their different ways each is a genius at organizing organic, half-composed, half-improvised group music. Theirs are big footprints to walk in, but Cor Fuhler has big shoes of his own.
Corkestra - Corkestra
With dizzying variety, spectacular group interplay, and writing that astounds from start to finish, this one is a winner and has rocketed to the top of my recommended list. Michael Rosenstein *One Final Note: Jazz and Improvised Music Webzine
All in all, a superbly varied and ridiculously creative piece of work, strongly recommended.
Dan Warburton, Paris Transatlantic Magazine
Ottawa Jazz Festival 2008
Like the FIMAV performance, there were trademarks of experimentation in the two sets of music all composed by Fuhler. Breaking the group down into subsets at time, most notably for the show’s finale—a trio for flute and two clarinets that, in its micro tonality and intensity, maintained the FIMAV review’s description of “Ligeti on steroids”—there were plenty of stylistic markers but virtually all of them were twisted on their sides and filtered through a very odd prism.
Vatcher was a particular treat to watch, at times bowing a large saw, other times playing a set of wine glasses filled with water. A sense of absurdity that’s at the core of this Dutch movement was pervasive during much of the performance, with Charles evoking completely foreign sounds from his clarinet, Delius ranging from warm clarinet tones to Ayler-like tenor wails, and LaBerge navigating her series of flutes with remarkable consistency and sonic innovation. De Joode is always a pleasure to hear in any context, capable of surprisingly muscular playing, aggressive strumming and unshakable grooves when (rarely, of course; this is Corkestra after all) required.
Cor Fuhler’s compositions follow the lines of directed improvisation—cued arranged segments that act as signposts for free and collective improvisation. Rarely soloing himself, he seemed content to direct the group, pull unusual sounds from the piano through use of a variety of preparatory devices, and interact with Mulder on many occasions. Perhaps the most abstruse piece was “Wine Cellar,” late in the second set. Clearly scored—with Fuhler experimenting inside the piano he attached the chart to the piano cover—it appeared to be a random series of notes and sounds, with little to make it coalesce. With no real resolution, it was a piece that challenged the sizable audience to consider alternate possibilities for what music can be and have fun in the process.
John Kelman, All About Jazz
Corkestra – Corkestra (2004)
Corkestra – Gas Station Sessions (2011, recorded 2008)
Fuhler - Bennink - de Joode
Cor Fuhler - piano, celeste, organ, melodica, keyolin
Han Bennink - drums, percussion
Wilbert de Joode - bass
Three musicians who have made their mark in improvised music unite in this trio that started out in 1995. Cor Fuhler’s musical ideas form the basis on which these accomplished improvisers work. The trio proceeds on the assumption that good improvising should be foremost a positive social experience for the players, and their music is the result of precise interaction, joy, attention to detail and intelligent division of labour. The three members know each other well and can react with lightning-quick response to any twist or turn thrown in by any member. They can effortlessly bring in new themes, stick with an idea that works, or twist an exhausted motif into something more promising.
The music shifts from the pre-composed to instantly composed material. In his compositions, Fuhler shows a composer’s as well as an improviser’s understanding of the way the members of the trio relate. Instant arranging also plays an important part in Fuhler’s approach; Fuhler/Bennink/de Joode take old jazz-forms and comment on them, at the same time blowing new life into the familiar shapes.
The three members, from different generations of improvising musicians, have each played extensively in other combinations and projects. Cor Fuhler has played with groups as various as Mengelberg’s ICP Orchestra, the Nieuw Ensemble, and pop band Palinckx. His love for keyboards has led him not only to use rare electronic synthesizers and organs, but also to build his own instruments such as the keyolin (half violin, half clavichord). Bassist Wilbert de Joode is known for his ability to give his bass an ‘old-fashioned’– and unamplified – sound, moving from groovy accompaniment to bouncing lead lines. The well-known percussionist Han Bennink is the nestor of the trio, but in no way the most subdued. Always fast and in the mood for fun, Bennink follows the twists of Fuhler’s music before taking over with skewed accents, rattling clatter or unexpected caramboles.
Fuhler - Bennink - de Joode – Bellagram (1998)
Fuhler - Bennink - de Joode – Zilch (1998)
Fuhler - Bennink - de Joode - Tinderbox (2002)
Michael Schumacher Meets... - Triple Dutch (2004) DVD (dancer Michael Schumacher performs three duets with Han, Cor and Wilbert)
Cor Fuhler - piano and preparations
John Butcher - saxophones
Rhodri Davies - harp
Thomas Lehn - EMS synthi A
The Cortet is a project led by Dutch pianist Cor Fuhler. It focuses on what could be called misleading improvisation, i.e., free improv in which it is often impossible to determine who plays what and how such sounds are achieved. The line between acoustics and electronics is particularly thin. HHHH is culled from two concerts at the Bimhuis in February of 2003 and May of 2004, plus a studio session the day before the first live date. The Cortet's lineup is an impressive roster of cutting-edge improvisers and their coming together is at least equal to their individual worth. Each player here has pioneered new techniques: Fuhler's piano preparations extend beyond the usual objects laid out over the strings of the instrument to include mechanical devices and E-Bows; Rhodri Davies has not so much reinvented the harp as he has created a whole new instrument by close-miking it and playing it with an array of unorthodox implements; John Butcher's close-miked feedback, strangled-tonguing technique, and breath-based sounds make him the most innovative sax player since Evan Parker; and Thomas Lehnplays the EMS Synthi-A analog synthesizer in ways that are much closer to acoustic improvisation than anything related to the electronic realm. HHHH is full of intelligent, complex interaction. Despite some of these improvisers' preferences for very quiet settings, this album is actually quite dynamic, with plenty of loud, dense moments to balance out the sonic minutia of other passages. The opening five-minute piece, "HL," offers an excellent overview of the group's capacities, with an exquisite finale to boot. The 24-minute "TH" contains several highlights, including some menacing moments during which Lehnseems ready to escalate things without end. "CH" is the noisiest offering, the harp screeching (yes, screeching) uncomfortably before the quartet grinds to a halt. One of 2005's best free improv surprises and another classy production from Unsounds. François Couture, AllMusic
the Cortet – HHHH (2005)
Cor Fuhler - piano, gamelan, composition, libretto
Max Verstappen - puppetry
Ab Baars - clarinet
Rob Broek - gamelan
Tristan Honsinger - cello
Alison Isadora - violin, gamelan
Sinta Wullur - gamelan, voice
Joost Buis - trombone
Jacques Palinckx - siter, electronics
Elsje Plantema - gamelan
Michael Vatcher - drums, percussion
The ensemble performed in 1996 at the 'Klap op de Vuurpijl' festival in Amsterdam and has done two tours through the Netherlands.
Cor Fuhler - keyolin, Hohner guitaret, Niglo 1, roll-up piano
Aleks Kolkowski - strohviol, singing saw
Jacques Palinckx - lute, resonator guitar
Gert-Jan Prins - timpani, radio, electronics
Peter van Bergen - doublebass-clarinet
Michael Vatcher - glasharmonica, 2 meter bass drum, percussion
Frank van Bommel - harmonium, metalophones
Cor wrote this for the Doek festival:
Dutch - English dictionary: Kabinet: cabinet (government), office, bureau (piece of furniture), gallery/collection.
With the more usual instruments (piano, saxophone, violin, drums, etc.) there are lots of unwritten rules/habits/assumptions you are (semi-) aware of, but there are even more at a subconsious level. For example, when a trumpet plays with a double bass, there is a history, influencing what you play, things you (and the audience) have learned because this situation has happened before, records that have set in your mind, etc. But, if you combine a keyolin, lute, timpani, glasharmonica, harmonium, radio, doublebass-clarinet, electronics, singing saw and a strohviol, there are none of these historic and often burdoning relationships.
With this in mind I set up a group for the Doek festival 5 1/2. With musicians that are used to playing in the more traditional setting, but with a very open mind, playing unusual instruments that have no history in this perticular combination.
When MIMEO started there was a similar exploratory feeling. Technical developments of live electronics and the way we used them, was very new. So the world was open and full of surprise and wonder.
Another aspect is my sympathy for the unusual, and often failed attempts to create something new. It is my believe history is a road taken by chance. If you made/discovered some things that accidentally fit on that road, you are the Nobel prise winner, the cult figure, and what not. If you made something not on that path, you will just disapear in the annals of history, but you are absolutely of no less value IMO.
Kabinets' results might not be the best record ever made, but nevertheless, it is intriging and often funny. Warning: a resistance for some noodling is a requirement... But in the Netherlands, that has been cultivated a bit already, in a different way then other parts of Europe, wich is yet another level/layer/friction.
het Kabinet – het Kabinet (2007)
Cor Fuhler - athlete, piano, electronics, shadowpuppetry, concept
Jaap Blonk - athlete, voice, electronics, hand-held camera
Steve Heather - athlete, percussion, electronics, super 8 film
Olympicnic was performed at 'Huis a/d Werf' in Utrecht, the Netherlands, in 1999. Olympicnic was a large scale music theatre performance using the juxtaposition of old vs new technologies. Turntables and super 8 film on the one side, the latest G3 and digital cameras on the other. The subject of the show was to fantasize the introductory new sport for the Olympic Games in the year 3000.
Phil Durrant - software synth / digital sampler
Christian Fennesz - computer
Cor Fuhler - electronics, piano, organ
Thomas Lehn - analogue synthesizer
Kaffe Matthews - computer
Jerome Noetinger - electroacoustic devices
Gert-Jan Prins - electronics, radio, TV, percussion
Peter Rehberg - computer
Keith Rowe - prepared guitar
Marcus Schmickler - computer, synthesizer
Rafael Toral - custom electronics
M.I.M.E.O. (or MIMEO) is an experimental electroacoustic free improvisation group formed in 1997 on the initiative of several independent concert promoters in Europe. The abbreviation stands for "Music In Movement Electronic Orchestra". They have issued recordings on Erstwhile Records, Cathnor, Perdition Plastics, Grob and other labels.
Their latest album is Sight (2007), inspired by painter Cy Twombly. Each of the eleven members of M.I.M.E.O. (spread across Europe) placed approximately five minutes of sound anywhere they chose onto a blank sixty-minute CDR. This was done independently of one another, with no communication between the musicians about how or where the music should be distributed on the disc. The CDRs were then compiled onto one CD, and sent to a pressing plant.
Pianist John Tilbury joined the group to record the album The Hands of Caravaggio (2001, Erstwhile). Critic Brian Olewnick describes the album as "A staggering achievement, one is tempted to call The Hands of Caravaggio the first great piano concerto of the 21st century."
In 2000 MIMEO performed a 24 hour long legendary concert in Vandouvre, France.
The Music In Movement Electronic Orchestra, originally led "from the rear" by Keith Rowe, hasn't released much since it first convened in 1997 – this double LP, which takes its name from the place where it was recorded in Poland on November 14th 2009, is only the group's sixth outing – but seven of the ten musicians featured here were on the eponymous debut album, and the other three (Kaffe Matthews, Marcus Schmickler and Rafael Toral) have been aboard since 1999. Hardcore MIMEO heads (including Erstwhile's Jon Abbey, who released the orchestra's third album, The Hands Of Caravaggio, with pianist John Tilbury, in 2002) maintain that the best MIMEO recordings are the ones that haven't been released, notably (parts of) their celebrated 24-hour concert at Musique Action in Vandoeuvre-les-Nancy in 2000. Maybe one day someone will conduct a guerrilla raid on Jean-Marc Foussat's archives. In the meantime, Wigry is for my money the most satisfying MIMEO outing yet. Neither as freighted with Music History as the concerto grosso of Caravaggio, nor as conceptually head-scratching as 2007's Twombly homage Sight (Cathnor), it's a straight, live, no-frills set.
It takes a while to get going, though – you can hear the musicians feeling their way into the sound throughout the first disc (Cor Fuhler's piano, as the only acoustic instrument in the line-up, stands out, and there are a few inimitable sprrrrroinnggsfrom Thomas Lehn's analog synth), but by the time you hit side C it's really cooking. And it's a bummer you have to get up to turn the disc over for the final side. Then again, there's something about vinyl that suits this music, a warmth and depth to Marcus Schmickler's masterly mastering that at times seemed lacking on the group's first two albums (great fan though I am of the Grob double CD Electric Chair + Table). Even so, how much more exciting it must have been live, with the musicians strategically placed around the space and the audience free to roam among them. Wish I could have been there, but this is the next best thing. Worth buying a turntable for, if you haven't got one. – Dan Warburton, Paris Transatlantic
Electric Chair + Table, (2000) Grob
The Hands of Caravaggio, (2002) Erstwhile
Lifting Concrete Lightly, (2004) Serpentine Gallery
Sight, (2007) Cathnor Recordings
Wigry, (2011) Bôłt, BR LP01, Monotype Records, monoLP006