Jazz-Square (2002)

«Second Approach» & Yuriy Yaremchuk, or what will comfort your heart? (excerpts from the interview for the magazine Jazz-Square)

Andrey Razin: The band we’re talking about has no wish whatsoever to make some kind of musical copies of something or someone. This could not be an artistic aim, since it’s simply boring.

Gennadiy Sakharov: As paradoxically as it may sound, the very absence of ready-made patterns is what puzzles the listener. They cannot find their usual reference-point. "You know, — one lady told me yesterday, — this Yaremchuk is not like anyone else. I listen to John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, I like this type of music, but he does not remind me of anyone else. I was completely disoriented and did not know how to perceive him, I felt myself very uncomfortable, then I forced myself to listen and realized – it’s great that it does not remind of anyone else, it’s terrific.” It sounds almost like an aphorism.

Razin: It is probably better when a musician can hear something about himself. Moreover, I perceive Yura with the same degree of enthusiasm as this lady.

Sakharov: Let’s continue our discussion about the „Second Approach.” We started talking about the absence of any traditional models of perception. People who asked me the question below talked about the abscence of traditional signs of jazz in your music. Naturally this may disorient a listener, who is not prepared for such music. In this case, they asked, what should be a perception model for your music? What would you suggest?

Razin: If somebody is interested in hearing something new, understand it, go deeper, he or she may arrive at something more complicated, perhaps unexpected, and won’t be stuck on something familiar forever.

Sakharov: You mean that experience of a listener is what matters here…

Razin: I think so. It’s similar to how the interest arises to new art, new literature, new cinema

Sakharov: But we have some sad examples of the absence of a reference point and inability to understand alien (speaking relatively) music: just take the reaction of such a master as Sergey Belichenko, for instance. As soon as the „Second Approach” was brough up, he said, yes, it is all very interesting, but I can’t listen to it, it’s not jazz. I told him: what’s the difference if it’s jazz or not? I listen to Brahms’s symphony and I understand it’s Brahm’s symphony, I listen to Goloshchekin and I understand what it is. What happens then in this case?

Razin: I think that today, on April 27, 2002 it is absurd to try and attach labels and tags, try to classify something contemporary happening on stage.

Yaremchuk: I don’t understand. Does he want to sweep aside almost all new-jazz people like Evan Parker, Ned Rothenberg, John Surman? There’re a lot of them. They also don’t play jazz then, do they?

Sakharov: This question should not be addressed to me.

Razin: For each and everyone of us jazz starts and ends at a definite point. For some jazz is only Louis Armstrong.

Sakharov: Maybe you could refuse from this sort of classification entirely. Relatively speaking, you’re playing jazz, but that’s a type of jazz which expanded its own limits. After all it is a jazz festival and people come to a jazz concert.

Razin: I agree, but on the other hand, it makes no difference to me if others call our music jazz or they don’t.

Sakharov: You’re not striving towards a certain definition?

Razin: No, I don’t care much for it.

Sakharov: Please, don’t forget fellows, I’m not asking my own questions but those asked by the public. You’re probably used to it already, you’re above it. But most probably there were times when you had to answer the most naive questions in order to be understood. There’s nothing to be done here. That’s why the question about the model of perception makes sense. I think you’ve partially answered it. I would just add that to listen to your music a person has to be prepared to perceive classical music. At least from the point of view of form. Many people said that it’s wonderful as a process, but we can’t grasp the development, how it all unvails and where the form lies.

Yaremchuk: I would like to dwell on this issue. Essentially this music is a signal for the brain of a listener in the hall. This signal is transmitted, it gets into one’s head and this person develops a concept of what he or she hears or sees. This in its turn will depend on their cultural, intellectual and aesthetic expectations. Secondly, as you rightly pointed out, this music borders on classical forms and naturally listeners should be better equipped than those who come to a jazz concert where there is a simple ABA-form: theme – improvisation – theme. In our case compositional development is more complex. The approach is also not exactly the same as in jazz, where everything happens more or less on the same timbre and dynamic level. In our case timbre as well as dynamic and form-building ranges are much wider.

Mitropolsky: Lately I’ve been expressing my opinion on this subject a lot. I think that those listeners used to so-called jazz music in the narrow sense of the word should better be not so well-prepared, even thought this contradicts what Yura has just said. What do I mean? A jazz lover knows in advance perfectly well the norms according to which this music should develop. This concerns not even music, but the whole performance on stage. A jazz connoisseur knows that the form should consist of a theme with variations and god forbid anything else. It should have either a square structure or harmonical improvisation with the elements of complete predictability, i.e. certain normativeness. This contradicts my own convictions about the nature of jazz as creative music by definition. These people turn jazz into dead music. It stops developing since it finds itself trapped in the cocoon of these norms. It seems to me that the music this band as well as many other musicians in the sphere of contemporary music create is jazz music, because it’s both creative and improvisational. Notice that despite a very important compositional element, this music is marked by the improvisational element much more than this usually happens with the mainstream. We can hear it in the recordings of the same piece at different concerts. In this way, this music remains jazz for me in the most profound original sense of the word. What could be done? The audience should simply refuse from these dogmata, be more open and that’s all.

Sakharov: It’s a good advice, but sometimes it’s too difficult to follow it. Once I described the improvisation in mainstream as “wacked-out.”

Yaremchuk: You could say so…

Sakharov: And I got my lot for it!

Razin: What can you do, sometimes you have to suffer for a precise description.

Sakharov: What else… There were a lot of folk elements in your program. The listeners would like to know if it’s a tribute to fashion, the alternative to an existing model of similar improvisation music or it’s a way out of the deadend, in which classical avant-garde and conservative jazz, contemporary and older mainstream found themselves.

Razin: I think that neither of those is correct. In yesterday’s program there was almost no one authentic quotation from the folk music.

Sakharov: Well, there were enough intonations. One can call it working with the material.

Razin: But this is not a direct quotation, it’s not a use of a theme in a new arrangement and treatment. This is how we hear, it’s our taste, our thoughts, our approach to making music.

Sakharov: You’re saying that you don’t force yourself or your musical concept. Then could you answer my own question. How do you imagine further development of the improvisation music? Is that a continuation of the synthesis of classical music or is it a search for something different? Maybe it is a return to something that already was? I don’t mean only your band. How do you see a modern panorama, what is happening if anything?

Razin: It is clear that something is happening. But it happens on those levels, where it’s hard to notice. It also depends on people who are involved in it.

Sakharov: What I mean is the following. Let’s assume Butman is playing American jazz. Goloshchekin is playing his own music and he will always play it. But there is a concept of creative music – what is happening in this sphere? Does this music strive for something?

Yaremchuk: I’ve been observing the expansion of aleatoric dimension in classical music. You could see it in Maurizio Kagel, Karlheinz Stockhausen and a lot of other musicians. The time has come to allow a performer more freedom, which is something the audience craves for as well. Dry classical music intended for elite consciousness,…

Sakharov: Excuse me for interrupting, but as Barban said, „it became too perfect.”

Yaremchuk: It became too perfect and now few people go to these concerts.

Sakharov: Peopled turned away from it.

Yaremchuk: The time has come when people realized something should be done. The performance has become current. They started using movement. The musicians walk, talk, cut and tear up something. In addition, they obviously play. Spontaneous pieces have appeared. Karlheinz Stockhausen has a number of recordings of spontaneous music. A musician is offered a certain stratum, indicated graphically or, in case of Kagel, by textual directions.

Sakharov: But this is a different model of improvisation from what I’ve been speaking about. I meant new improvisation music. Evan Parker is one thing, while Stockhausen is somewhat different.

Yaremchuk: If we’re talking about jazz improvisation, I’ll come back to a question about folk music sources. In fact Evan Parker has based his music on Irish folklore. You can clearly discern Irish folk dance tunes in his music. He’s changed a lot, there’re elements of minimalism and pointillistic devices. Parker has found new possibilities, brand new trend and developed his own aesthetics. Today many people use his achievements and technical devices – he plays double language, double or triple staccatto, uses minimalistic cyclic fragments. I can see some progress in improvisation music. Improvisation music sublimates both the achievements of jazz, classical music and folklore – these three cornerstones. European musicians embrace a wider range of phenomena than traditional negro basis. Those achievements we see represented by the music of Ned Rothenberg, Evan Parker and John Bucher, demonstrate that important changes have occured in comparison to, let’s say, the 50’s.

Sakharov: Can we then rephrase our honorable Aleksey Nikolaevich Batashev and say that music performed by the „Second Approach” figuratively speaking will take place of music written by Stockhausen?

Mitropolsky: I don’t think this will happen…

Sakharov: Because it’s more natural, more intriguing, more direct despite its certain …speculativeness.

Mitropolsky: I believe these are different types of creativity. Again coming back to Aleksey Nikolaevich Batashev I recall that he would distinguish these types of creativity since they have essential differences. A musician, a performer, I’m emphasizing this word, improvises within the fragments given to him by a composer, who is a completely different person than a musician, who is in his/her turn an author of the music on stage. These are two different territories. That’s why the band will never take place of Stockhausen.

Sakharov: But I always saw something temporary here, that this study about different types of creativity bears a historical character. And what happens next is unknown. While Terry Riley, when I spoke to him at SKIF, put it even better. He said if I could at least presume what happens to music in two, three or five years, I would stop working. What turns me on is that I have no idea what will happen.

Mitropolsky: We should also keep in mind that the process is created by his hands and not ours. We are observers and we take different stands.

Sakharov: There was a question from the audience to Yura. In what way different technical devices – slap, different rustle and noises etc. that he extensively uses, influence the form of the piece and consequently its content, since form is always meaningful?

Yaremchuk: I use all technical devices in the sphere of the sound texture, be it noises, whispers, rustle, pointillistic slaps, antiphones, or anything this wind instrument (saxophone) can produce. Of course I don’t play in this way for the sake of playing; I put together a composition. There has been a lot of music of this sort written by classical composers. I borrow and learn a lot from them. Stockhausen, Ligeti, Edison, Denisov have such pieces. I’ve mastered all the classical avant-garde technique. But I use all this in jazz context or simply during the concert only when necessary, when I feel the need for these devices.

Sakharov: Just to clarify, one could say that a general concept and form are primary for you rather than a wish to demonstrate potentialities of your instrument?

Yaremchuk: Let me just give you an example. Do you remember when yesterday at the concert we performed a gypsy song? I played a clear melody using pure direct sound. Of course I use special devices within a context of the idea I want to present.

Sakharov: Thank you. One last thing. I will voice a wish of a bunch of listeners, who stayed till the end of your performance yesterday and really liked it. They suggested that you should be invited more often, and not for the festival, but with solo concerts. They said that Yaremchuk definitely adorns somewhat speculative music of the „Second Approach” with his spontaneity, inner passion, and this they especially emphasized since there was nothing external, but what stood out was precisely internal passion and dedication. You fit in brilliantly, although there might be a slight difference between you from the aesthetic point of view. They asked to pass on their gratitude and their wish that you play more with this band.

Prepared for publication by Mikhail Mitropolsky

Translated by Sofia Skachko.

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