first lp Dream Journey (1969) was a commission for
music to accompany dance by the Ballet Rambert. Your relationship with
dance has always been very strong and in your career you have composed
pieces for many ballet companies or contemporary dance groups. Can you
explain the origins of this interest?
It all goes
back to when I
was 4 years of age and used to sneak into a cinema, find myself an
empty seat in the darkness. The films were meant for adults only, very
dramatic and so was the music, which had a great impact on me. It
lasted into my adulthood. Later being involved in modern dance it was I
who was creating the "sound track" to the dramatic "pictures" taking
place on stage. My first score for modern ballet came about because I
happened to know a classical percussionist. who was called
until he asked me to find a better name for him. He became Derek
Davison and "oh boy" could he make the timpani roar. Derek worked with
the Ballet Rambert. Derek came around to my “pad”
for a visit curious
to know what I was doing musically.
I played him a
½ min. solo
flute composition of mine. He suggested that I orchestrate it and
extend the length to suit a modern dance work. I saw this as an
interesting challenge, went ahead, composed it in two movements and it
ended up about 26 mins. The 1st movement
for 2 flutes and 3 percussionists: Davison, Stevens and Smith. The 2nd
movement I added 2 tenor saxes, bari sax, 3 trumpets, which included
Kenny Wheeler punching out the high notes and a contrabassist who was
required to play an ostinato in 3/8 time for 14 mins. I'm glad that I
didn't have to undertake this task. One time it was Harry Miller
another occasion Daryl Runswick who was Ray Russell's regular bass
Also at this time I met Wendy Benka, who
later worked with
me as a musician. Now, Wendy knew a choreographer with the
who was desperately looking for something new and different. So, with
the recommendation of Wendy and Derek, a meeting was arranged with the
choreographer. Hence out of that came Dream Journey.
Did you also play "live" with dance companies? Could
you speak about these “live” experiences?
I was commissioned to create music for tape which was music concrete.
The recording was used for the performance and when the dance, costume
and lighting had been made to it, I would then add new sounds and play
“live” to what I saw before me and improvise
freshly at each
performance. Mostly with percussion, as I had many gongs, various kinds
of Chinese cymbals and self made instruments of dry bones, snail
shells, bamboo sticks and anything I could find, making an interesting
Composing and of course playing live
for dance is
fascinating, for it makes you experience your music within a
different media. You live in the idea of the stage production and
complete and widen it with your own musical creativity. When we played Diversions
with The London Contemporary Dance Theatre my Open Music Trio was even
part of the stage set. There were certain passages in the music that
had to be played to correspond with the dance, but there was also ample
opportunity to improvise.
work was 45 mins duration and sometimes
when the performance was over, we were so high that when we got back to
the dressing room we would continue jamming together.
big area of interest is poetry. You write poems and you
performed in poet festivals with poets like William Burroughs, Gregory
Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Could you tell us something about that?
they took place in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Paris and Rome. I was quoted
as poet and was the only one who at the same time combined it with
music. On one of the festivals I sang a song of mine which contained
the words "Coke…some people sniff it ..burns your brain
Corso was in the audience and screamed out "No it fuckin' don't man, no
it fuckin' don't". Gregory was a very lovable guy. I also was on a Poet
festival in Rome situated in a park of the Villa Borghese with several
thousand people in the audience sitting on the grass. At one point
whilst Steve Lacy was setting up his soprano sax stand on stage, I went
to the back of the audience and, in my "West Side Story" voice called
out "Maria"!!! and as I expected it, hundreds of female heads turned to
see who was calling them.
In the late Seventies you moved to Germany where
now. And you also changed your artistic directions: no more jazz but
meditative and ambient music. Why?
could have had something
to do with all of a sudden living quite isolated in the countryside
after having lived for almost 20 years in London. One day my wife came
into my studio and suggested to think of a work with "Stonehenge" in
mind. At that time I had a bassflute made in ex East Germany. It was
particulary good in the overtones, which I used in the composition to
bring out the magic side of the 5000 year old Stone circle. Also I'm
sometimes asked to compose music in communication of paintings and
sculptures. One time at an Art Exhibition, Tina came out with the
suggestion to play along with a recording of some tibetan monks,
singing the "OM" heard over the speakers at the venue while I was
"setting up" my "horns". The result was that in the following 3 years I
produced 3 cd's with this OM, on which I play tenor, alto and soprano
sax. Concerflute, altoflute, bassflute, contrabassflute, Japanese
bambooflute, ocarina and glass flute. The glass flute I played at a
concert one time and someone in the audience called out that he didn't
believe it was made of glass. I said Oh yeah? I 'll hit it against the
mike stand and if it doesn't break you get a thousand euro, but if it
does smash to pieces, then you give me a thousand euro. He curled up in
his seat and remained silent. Mind you, I would not have been happy to
have won the bet if I had been taken on.
Is there anything unreleased in the archive? Do you
new projects in the pipeline?
you should ask that, as at any moment the postman will be dropping in
my letterbox, tapes of my Open Music Trio in concert, that were
recorded by a fan of mine back in the good old 70's. As far as
projects are concerned, I'm busy working on new compositions for my
flutes with the appendages. I've also re-shaped all my sax mouthpieces
recently and discovering a fresh approach to my playing.