Listening, Looking, Not Looking. (Evan Parker at Vortex, 22.i.15)

Improvisation transcription - fragment.  About 4 seconds. 58 x 102mm.

Improvisation transcription – fragment.
About 4 seconds. 58 x 102mm.








I have no idea what it is like to be a musician. I don’t know how they think, what decisions they make when they are playing. And particularly I don’t know how they interact with one another when they are playing. This sense of the distance between listening as a member of the audience and playing as a member of a group has occurred twice this week, on Tuesday at the PJ Harvey fish tank recording session and last night at the Vortex at one of Evan Parker’s regular Thursday night slots. Accompanied by Steve Noble on drums and Marcio Mattos on double bass this, from a listener’s point of hearing, was exemplary improvised trio playing. The two sets were beautifully balanced with each player responding to subtle inflections in the music while making their own distinctive sounds. It seemed that two players could stop at any moment and the third would carry on without taking breath, following the track upon which they had already set out. And when they all played it was as a unity. This notion of the individual within the group was emphasised by the body language of the performers. Parker remained fairly motionless, his eyes closed while he played. Noble hardly glanced up from the drum kit, his concentration at odds with the apparent ease of his playing. Mattos, in contrast, allowed his gaze to roam around the room or at least around middle distance, occasionally bowing his head over his instrument and closing his eyes. From time to time he raised his hand from the strings up to shoulder level and brought it back down in something like a theatrical flourish. But in all of this, and like his fellow performers, he made no eye contact, neither with the other musicians, nor with the audience.

So the closeness or proximity between performers and audience was brought about by listening. (At the end Parker thanked the audience for ‘listening so hard’). But, on the other hand, a distance or separation was brought about by looking. For me (but not, I suspect, for all the audience) this separation was compounded by my not knowing how the musicians interact…how they communicated. They were clearly doing another kind of listening which was not just a matter of degree (from ‘easy’ to ‘hard’ say) but was some parallel to how I was listening.

Does this performance listening separate the sounds being made by the others and allow (create?) a space into which the players insert sounds of their own? Or is it that individual players can anticipate a synthesis of sounds a few seconds into the future….the actual noise of the instruments always running slightly behind their knowledge? I noticed I slipped into saying ‘space’…is this why trying to work out what happens here is so difficult for me? Is improvisation between musicians not a spatial practice at all? When I experience this music it is very much within particular environments…both musician and sound are sited. The performance takes place within a room, a zone within the room, a stage. When I draw the performers, though sometimes no element of the room appears, they tend to be located…even if it is only a location defined by them and the spatial relationship to their instrument.

Maybe my listening practice, unlike that of the musicians, needs to be spatial as this takes the place of their intuitive experiential communications.


Evan Parker

Evan Parker

Marcio Mattos

Marcio Mattos

Steve Noble

Steve Noble







Evan Parker

Evan Parker

Marcio Mattos

Marcio Mattos

Steve Noble

Steve Noble

B, B & C @ Vortex









Here are 3 drawings from the Berne, Black and Cline gig at Vortex Jazz on Friday 14th January. The first one is the whole band and done in my usual way…the other two (of Tim Berne and Nels Cline respectively) are oil transfers from drawings done on the night. This is what happens when you spend a Monday afternoon at Tate Modern’s Paul Klee exhibition…shameless plagiarism…berne002





In the absence of some substantial piece of writing:

I did this drawing at Vortex Jazz on 4th February…it’s Stephan Crump of the Rosetta Trio:


…wondering how I might integrate it into a different kind of drawing, I redrew it using the same technique (looking at the subject but not the object – i.e. the drawing on which I was engaged). Then I built/drew a frame around it and it has come out like this (so far):

sc in a room




On Sunday as I walked home I found this CD on Kingsbury Road next to the Jewish cemetery:

plectrum:cd001 I found the plectrum on Culford Road 2 days later. Here is Track 1 of the CD…I don’t know what it is called nor who is playing.


31st January 2013


1. At the Kurt Schwitters exhibition in Tate Britain as the sound of the Ursonate leaked out from the central room…trying to work out where the fragment of ‘phonograph record’ was in the collage.

kiss 1

2. This Prince single from Dalston Oxfam. 59p.

3. Telling my son. Ivo,  about how ‘That Lady’ (by the Isley Brothers – but I couldn’t remember that at the time) was stuck in my head…but also thinking that the intro of acoustic guitar followed by that wailing electric guitar and wordless falsetto vocal is really wonderful. This song is almost ruined by too much exposure…too much radio play and being played in the background in too many shops.

4. At the Vortex Jazz Club after hearing a duet by Han Bennink and Steve Beresford, talking to Ivo about the validity of ‘prepared piano’ as a musical strategy.

5. Evan Parker, John Edwards, Han Bennink. Vortex Jazz Club, Dalston.









6. Listening to Instant Composers Pool Orchestra and thinking about the band I heard in the Imperial Hotel in New Delhi in the 1980s. They were playing jazz in a lounge style but they also kept drifting into an almost subliminal version of Indian music. It was like an inflection within the sound. Well, I think that is how they sounded. I think I may have got drunk that night and so much time has passed. Out of time and space.

7. ICP’ s cellist, Tristan Honsinger’s single vocal intervention into the ICP set sounding just like a fragment of Kurt Schwitters’ Ursonate.