| wed. sep. 28 2022 |
Sofia Jernberg (Stimme) · Christof Kurzmann (Stimme, Elektronik) · Joe Williamson (Kontrabass) · Martin Brandlmayr (Schlagzeug)
It is no coincidence that this performance happened during the 2018 Konfrontationen Festival in Nickelsdorf, only a stone’s throw from Hungary. Very few places extend the core values of free music to so many aspects of their existence. Its program balances historical awareness with an embrace of new sounds and styles. The same is true for the social interaction: there is no backstage area. And then there is the political commitment. It has always respected the voice of other cultures and minorities, through music, but also with grassroots actions, like those to support the refugees that were suddenly crossing into Europe.
Five minutes into the mesmerising performance of Disquiet, Christof Kurzmann introduces a speech by Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt addressing Council President Tusk and Austrian Chancellor Kurz. He insisted that the so-called ‘migration crisis’ was nothing but a political crisis, with nationalists from several countries bluntly refusing to respond with decency. Throughout the concert, further explicit references to that European failure pop up, a.o. via a re-dressed Swedish pop song and a poem by Joe McPhee.
You could call this a political record. Politics also seeps into our everyday lives and shapes the ways in which we organise ourselves as societies. It is also tempting to describe music, especially of the free/improvised kind, with a political vocabulary. The performance situation as democratic ideal, with separate individuals proposing ideas, looking for renewal, agreement or solutions. Sometimes they also disagree, refuse to cooperate, dispense with the old or even radicalize.
A concert is an artistic polyphony of voices and temperaments, and there is something special going on here. It is in the way Martin Brandlmayr carefully uses those thin sticks and that extended drum kit, and Joe Williamson that bow, the strings and body of the bass, to create this ever transforming rhythmical and textural flow. It is in the way Sofia Jernberg uses her voice in the subtlest of ways, her breath, soft moans and occasionally voluminous siren call joining the four-way discussion. Or in the way Christof Kurzmann guides this quartet with his lloopp software, a restless web of textures, mirror and echo effects, sonar pulses and alienating hums. Even in its quietest moments, there is a tangible tension at work, one affected by an iridescent poetry.
It makes you think about the ways to react to injustice, violence and everything that makes you feel embarrassed for your fellow people or government. Do/can/should you react with the same weapons? Revolt is sometimes unavoidable to bring about change, but in order to pull it off, to put into practice what you believe in, a receptive attitude is indispensable. That is what I hear in this performance. The musicians weren’t just reacting to what is out there, but also observing what was in front of them and reacting to that in beautiful and creative ways. Solitude only gets you so far, and each worthwhile collaborative endeavour – whether it is political, musical or anything else – starts with a simple but crucial act: listening. Listen for yourself. (Guy Peters, Geraardsbergen, 26 September 2020)