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Dispatches From The Glass Museum: Brotzmann and Bennink in Amherst, Massachusetts

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So. Let me tell you. I’ve been flat out lately, which is why this is first thing I’ve written in awhile. As I mentioned previously, I’m organizing a crazy weekend of music and art in downtown Peterborough, New Hampshire called The Thing In The Spring. This involves a shit-ton of screenprinting, and not much time for sleep. I am right in the middle of a project I wanted to finish yesterday, but last night, I took a break.

I went to Amherst, Massachusetts and saw Han Bennink and Peter Brotzmann. Mark won’t be happy about this because I told him about it minutes before I left, but in my defense, the man is usually up on this kind of thing. Anyway. It was a beautiful drive down; windows open, back roads, slightly tuned. We arrived unscathed and took our seats, trying to ignore the musty aura coming from my vest. What followed made me glad that we had taken those back roads and opened ourselves up a bit.

All I could do was stare. Stare to try to catch some ripple, some disruption so that I’d know if this were some kind of illusion. My eyes hung on their movements like laundry from abandoned apartments. It was actually happening. Right in front of me. These guys are fucking monsters. Slashing and gripping the air in bursts of feedback and cacophony, and then, all of a sudden, pulling everyone in closely. When it quiets down, you’re disoriented, but in that special way that lets you know you are experiencing a new perspective. They weren’t necessarily waiting for each other. Here and there, Brotzmann would take it down, and Bennink would crash and rattle, weaving a heavy, pulsing blanket up around everyone’s chin.

The sax (or clarinet) at that point was there, but in the distance. It was just deeper beneath the blanket. They played with foreground and background, honing the focus, adding contour to the sonic bloodbath. There were many voices coming from each man. And then, sniffing the air, feeling each other’s lines, peering into the future, they would stop on a dime. Animals.

Now I have Machine Gun, Last Exit’s Koln Concert, and Fuck De Boere. These are great documents of literally gigantic groups moving the earth and displacing entire lobes of people’s brains. And these guys ain’t young anymore. Fuck De Boere is 1970! That’s almost forty fucking years ago. I love the idea of not getting old. Well, one’s body does what it does, but to not adhere to the conventional aging process is something that I aspire to. But in aging, there is always change, always a re-examination of our values, a constant evolution of perspective.

These guys playing as a duo is a nice reflection on that process. They’ve boiled it down to essential brutality; just the marrow in the bones. It isn’t exactly a conversation; they’re both remembering at the same time. Sharing memories in an incommunicable language. At once intensely quiet, laughing together, and hollering alone from a peak about the sublime and the futility of life. This brutality is heralding the sun and championing the darkness. It made me think about the idea of freedom in music. Are Brotzmann and Bennink free? Or is what they do a reaction? How free is a lion when it smells blood on the air?

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About Eric Gagne

  • http://www.marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    yes, it was a last minute phone call and boy, am i a little jealous about this show.

    great stuff.

  • Pedro Moreno

    nice review. here are the remaining dates of the Brotzmann Bennink Tour

    18 april
    new haven, ct
    firehouse 12, 8:30 & 10pm
    45 crown st.
    firehouse 12.com

    19 april
    baltimore, md
    an die musik, 8 & 9:30pm
    4099 n. charles st.
    andiemusiklive.com

    20 april
    nyc
    les gallery, clemente soto velez, 7pm
    107 suffolk st.
    visionfestival.org

    22 april,
    buffalo, ny
    hallwalls, 8pm
    341 delaware ave.
    hallwalls.org

    25 april
    troy, ny
    the armory, rensselaer campus, 8pm
    empac.rpi.edu/events/2008/rockbell.html

    26 april
    austin, tx
    the historic victory grill, 8pm
    1104 e. 11th st.
    upcoming.yahoo.com/event/463791

    27 april
    houston, tx
    diverse works, 8pm
    1117 e. freeway
    namelesssound.org

    28 april
    new orleans, la
    3 ring circus, 9:30pm
    1638 clio st.
    3ringcircusproductions.com

  • http://daslob.blogspot.com/ Pico

    This nifty little piece was plenty enough catalyst for me to cue up Dave Douglas’ Serpentine for the third time this week.

    I don’t know if there’s a better European-born drummer alive than Bennink.