Should improvisation be recorded?
In the free improv scene we seem to discuss this more than the music itself. Some think no recordings should ever be made, that a performance is about the players and audience in the room at that time. That it is a special bond that can never be captured.
I can see why people would argue that case, there really is something special about being in the room while the music is created, you here the same movement of sound in space, or very close. It is a series of moments that will never happen again. Record it and it does happen again, and again, and again.
It’s the reason I got into play improvised music, that very thing. But then I wanted to hear more, hear the legends of the scene play….. then the thing….. I live in Cumbria, I can’t afford the time or the money to travel to gigs all the time, and there are some folks that are sadly no longer with us. So I started listening to old recordings and I found I was getting as much out of them as in a live setting. It is brilliant to listen back to these wonderful moments more than once, to hear parts you missed, to see how one passage came into being, how the players work together.
To me they become quite separate entities. The live performance is the spontaneous, the wonder of the moment, the link in real time between everyone in the room. The recording becomes work in itself, an object, much more than a document of the event. Maybe even a composition in the wider sense of the word? The two can co-exist without reducing the other, just make that separation of the hows and whys.
And that is why ODD7 is releasing improvised music, as works of art in themselves, to us as important as improvised concerts. Most of the work that is on the runway for release has been recorded away from the performance space. It stands on it’s own merits as a body of work, of spontaneous composition.