FMP/FREE MUSIC PRODUCTION - An Edition of Improvised Music 1989-2004


Bert Noglik


Sounds, bundled into a collective force, and individual brass lines which, veering away, finally get back into correspondence with the others; processes of compaction and disentanglement right up to the limits of silence; clear sounds and every imaginable transition up to and including the area of noise; simple basic models, which make possible complex superimposition of composition and improvisation - these recordings from the years 1985/86 reveal the total spectrum of Manfred Schulze's music for brass quintet. The line-up of the group proved to be consistent despite the irregular playing possibilities. The musical climate within the group was stable. Manfred Schulze had put his first brass quintet together already in 1969. He remembers that before starting the rehearsals, he would sometimes put on a recording of one of Arnold Schönberg's compositions for brass quintet in order to get the colleagues into the right mood. These early attempts to gain acceptance proved to be fairly unsuccessful. Manfred Schulze found himself in a cleft stick. In his desire to improvise and in his means of expression, he was too heavily influenced by Jazz to be able to get near to New music while at the same time moving away from the imitation of American Jazz, long before the Free Jazz emancipation. This turned out to be even more tragic: Later, in the rising times of Free Jazz he was misunderstood, because Schulze's approach originated too much in composition, in order to be able to be associated unreservedly with totally free improvisation.

That fact that some interpreted his music as uncompromising did not touch Manfred Schulze. He was never the iconoclast some took him for or thought of in order to pigeon hole him. He simply listened differently and has never let go of what his inner voice told him. Manfred Schulze felt a strong commitment towards the Middle-European cultural tradition. Hindemith, Schönberg or Webern, but also Bach and the German choral tradition left their mark on him just as much as the impression of Coleman Hawkins' or Sonny Rollins' playing. His very personal synthesis from all these influences took a lot of work, but at the same time seemed so plausible to him, that the lack of understanding of contemporaries, also musicians and particularly of promoters caused him a great deal of suffering. After concerts, he often walked the darkened city streets for hours by himself. Compared with Ornette Coleman, who gained considerable recognition as years went by, Manfred Schulze was never listened to enough, and never received the appreciation he deserved. The times of the GDR were his times. Afterwards, as a sad coincidence, he fell ill, slowly at first and then with increasing severity, and became silent. During one of his rarely permitted concert tours in the West Manfred Schulze had thrown his jacket away with his GDR-passport somewhere, maybe even out of the train. That was his normal way of reacting to a schizophrenic situation. The members of the ROVA saxophone quartet honoured him quite rightly, but to his very own amazement, as a pioneer and for paving the way. One probably has to reiterate it just in order to make it clear, that it is not a misprint: Manfred Schulze's first brass quintet was founded in 1969.

Despite all the differences in the pieces presented here, the power, the transparency and the clarity of the musical thinking is impressive - a kind of directness and accessibility often missed with works in the area of New Music. The musical language is right up to date, but, at the same time, shows lines of tradition reaching back to the Renaissance and the Middle Ages. Many have attempted to play Jazz with a European identity. Manfred Schulze never allowed such intentions to take precedence, he strove anyway to avoid all kinds of categorisation and finally moved away from Jazz just as far as from the circles of New Music, where he never was accepted. Despite all this, he managed to put the virtues of Jazz, and especially those of Improvisation, into an intense relationship with those of the European music tradition in a way only few have managed to do. As composer, his dual personality always functioned as that of co-musician. The compositions presented here give an authentic impression of their realisation accompanied and directed by Manfred Schulze. Whoever listens to recordings of a quintet influenced by Manfred Schulze, or attends concerts of live music, may discover that his Music has had a lasting effect going beyond his actual physical presence as a player. (Manfred Schulze Brass Quintet: Konzertino, FMP CD 70).

In hindsight, "Nummer 12", "Viertens" and "B-A-C-H" show something of a manifesto-like character: complicated and wonderfully simple at the same time, demanding and full of an unmistakable joy of playing, showing clarity of mind brought passionately into the realms of sound.

Translation: Isabel Seeberg & Paul Lytton

zurück / back