Peter Brötzmann Solo, Works from 1959 to 2013
I am not really aware of my first encounter with contemporary improvised music. I began to get to know music through rock and slowly I also became interested in jazz. When we were growing up we were hungry for any creative impetus and at that time we still managed to have everything under control. Films, theatre, dance performances, exhibitions and concerts of almost every genre. I started going to the Ljubljana Jazz Festival in the late seventies and early eighties, and I slowly started to develop my taste for music. Of course, at the beginning this was light jazz as it was called. If something was not “easy on the ear” we called it “heavy”, something unlistenable. This is also where I met other kindred spirits, who introduced me to their tastes, experiences and views on music.
I managed to successfully avoid the “heaviness” for several years, basically up till 1995, when my friends lured me into the “last” oasis of contemporary improvised music, to the Konfrontationen festival in the Austrian village of Nickelsdorf. At first I just leant on the wall there, watching the people around me and wondering what I was actually doing there. I listened to the music, which I had still not allowed to touch me. And then Peter Brötzmann’s band Die Like a Dog (Hamid Drake - drums, William Parker - bass, Toshinori Kondo - trumpet and Peter Brötzmann on saxophones) came on stage. The concert totally bowled me over; it touched the core of my being without any effort whatsoever. And so began my journey of researching contemporary improvised music. His next concert, which only confirmed my liking, was a gig in Salzburg with the band composed of Bill Laswell, Hamid Drake and Peter Brötzmann. To this day, that remains one of my top five concerts of all time.
Peter Brötzmann was then (and is of course even more so now) a name that raised and still raises my attention. This is why I have tried to find ways to see most of his concerts in the vicinity. While at the same time I of course followed many other musicians, slowly getting closer and closer - just photo documentation of the events on stage was not enough for me. I wanted to do portraits. Gradually I began to perceive my work as a document of its time and a great gift. Getting closer to one’s “gods” with the camera. What I like about contemporary improvised music is the way it accepts you, that it does not make things complicated with unnecessary restrictions on shooting; it takes you as you are and respects you. My work has earned me the trust of many people and I have received many invitations to shoot for their promotional purposes. This also led to the shooting of the Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet band at the Ljubljana railway station. After this job, the awareness of each other between Peter and I deepened further. In return, I got a couple of LP’s and CD’s, through which I began to learn about his other side besides music - painting - watercolors and prints that are so strong, sometimes uncompromising, revealing and tender at the same time, just as his presence and music-making on stage.
I can compare the musical experience, hearing Peter’s concerts in various configurations, to a long pleasant journey by boat, when you forget the constant swaying of the sea that puts you into a meditative state. When you step ashore, everything becomes a bit strange and the pleasant feelings and new awareness slowly begin to dissipate. Like after watching a good film, when the portrayed contents “hum along” in your head for a little while. And you remember it without any special effort and digest it for another few days. This is also how I remember his paintings, objects, prints .... I recommend to anyone who does not possess a holistic understanding of his concerts because of their “heaviness”, to allow themselves this insight and perhaps take another look at his exhibition. Their perception of Brötzmann’s art and genius will only deepen.
After some time he sent me a catalogue of an exhibition in Chicago. When we met again I thanked him admiringly and made a passing comment about wanting to see a show of his work in Ljubljana. I got the answer that exhibiting was not necessary and that he actually had a few more available dates. Of course I did not really believe it - although it might have been true. And that is how it was until 2011, when I received a call from Barbara Korun saying that Peter had requested my help in the realization of the exhibition in Ljubljana - getting the gallery spaces at the International Centre of Graphic Arts (MGLC) in Ljubljana, where he wanted to exhibit. After the initial meeting at MGLC, we came to the conclusion that this would perhaps be possible. However, they were keen to do it in cooperation with the Ljubljana Jazz Festival. And we were all up for the idea. I got in touch with the Ljubljana Jazz Festival, and after a few meetings we agreed to do it in 2013, when we could also hear some concerts by various bands at the jazz festival. I am happy that we can also see some new works in this exhibition that have been produced in Slovenia on his regular private visits in the recent years.
And I am very pleased, and I find it a great honour - in fact I can not quite believe it - that I can be a part of this story.
19 April 2013
P.S. I embarked on this text as a great fan of his art, and not as an art or music critic – and this is how it should also be perceived ...
Translated into English by Arven Šakti Kralj Szomi
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