Wednesday, September 15

Damo & The Art of Instant Composition

Last night Dave and I went to the Rescue Rooms to see Damo Suzuki, who at one time sang with German band Can. He’s on 1971’s “Tago Mago”, which is the one Can LP I have. It’s not a show I’d have normally gone to, probably, but it was part of one of those little packages that come along sometimes -- like, Dave rang one day and said there’s a bunch of gigs: The Fiery Furnaces, Damo….. I think there was someone else, but I can’t remember who it was. Anyway, I said get tickets for all of them. I was in an all-embracing frame of mind at the time.

Then last week we found out that what Damo does is tour the world, and in every city he plays, he plays with local musicians. Not improvising, but ‘composing instantly’. I looked at a few websites, and found some stuff, and there’s an interview where he’s asked why he favours instant composition over traditional composition. In other words, why he makes it up as he goes along. His reply includes “At the beginning of history there wasn’t composition like today, in notes. In the beginning, it was smoke. For me, sound making has always been communication - to give a signal (information) to another people on another hill. So, how I make sound is just as it was in the stone age…….Even I don't think that I'm making music. We create time and space together.”

On the basis of this I wasn’t expecting a hell of a lot last night. I rather prefer to go to shows where the musicians at least think they’re making music, even if it isn’t very good. I don’t think Dave had high hopes, either. But we agreed that having forked out £7 a ticket it was at least worth going along for, and having a couple of beers. So after Arsenal and Chelsea had been on TV, Dave picked me up and we went. And at a quarter to ten Damo appeared on stage with a couple of drummers and three guitarists. I guess these were local musicians, but you couldn’t tell by looking at them. And they played for an hour and a quarter without pausing for breath. Damo sang (I use the word loosely) for more or less all that time. What he sang about is another matter. Dave reckoned he understood an occasional word, but I didn’t get any at all. It could all have been Japanese. I don’t believe much of what happened was “instant composition” – they must have had some idea of what they were going to do. And at times it moved along pretty well. Other times it was a bit tedious. The place was around about half full, but apart from a smattering of people who were nodding their head in time to the beat (when there was a beat) most everyone else was keeping still. Some even looked studious: these were obviously students of instant composition. A few people at the front ended up sprawled on the floor, and looked quite comfortable. It was the kind of show you didn’t need to watch, to be honest. I’d have been quite happy to be there sat at a table with my beer and reading a newspaper.

One of the guitarists, the one on the right of the stage, contrived to play all evening with his back to the audience. And from the back he looked like he fitted in okay – he was very thin and had long hair, and he had an old t-shirt on, and nondescript trousers. But his apparent shyness intrigued me. At one point I began to suspect that this guy was obviously local, but didn’t want anyone in the audience to recognise him. Then I realised that he could’ve just worn a mask and got the same effect, so a more likely explanation was that he wasn’t playing the guitar at all, but only doing the actions. But at the end of the show, he turned around, and everything was explained. He had a moustache.

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