During the last years the fields of experimental music-making has sufered different changes. The coming and superposition of free improvisation over other ways of producing music is one of the biggests fact that influences the scenes. Trying to depict the whole set of proposals becomes an impossible task. But in spite of this impossibility, it wouldn't be very risky to say that it is a common place, almost a rule, to identify 'experimental' with 'free improvisation' as if it was the only way of experimenting. But also in the last times diverging voices have arised within the improv-music-world1.
I use to perform alone or with other people usually improvising. Theoretically it could be understood as a way of brakeing the boundaries between what is musical sound and what it is not, between the assumed clichés and inherited ways of approaching music. After years and years of free improvisation it could be said that paradoxically (contradictorily) there is a school (almost an academy) of free improvisers. However improvisation continues to be a pretty interesting way of producing and living music: it functions (at least for the performers) as a gymnastic for emotional responses and suspicious creativity. Nevertheless you have to assume this problematic and contradictory aspect of free improvisation, and try to react against the solidifications and contradictions inside it.
There is in the culture of the Basque Country a percusion instrument called Txalaparta2. Basically it consists of two (sometimes more) planks of wood put over two supports. The instrument is played by two performers, each one has two stics in the hands and beats the planks producing a percusion sound. Physically it could seem as some african drums. Anyway the interesting point for us is not in the kind of sound it produces but in the way of playing it. The basic idea is that one of the performers improvises freely (Herrena) over the ritmic and stable structure of the other (Ttakuna). So the former is following something like a foreseeable structure while the latter is moving freely without any stablished rithm.
We centered our attention on this aspect of the txalaparta for the performance which took place during a night of decenber in Mikelazulo (Errenteria). We were not worried about the kind of sounds but in the kind of game this popular instrument proposes to play. The space was divided in two main areas, both located in a corner of the room and the audience was between us. In this relation of opposition and diagonally situated we played following the basic rules of txalaparta, not literally but abstractly. We wrote something similar to a score (a free map) with the time well calculated and the instruments for playing in any time specified. This was the Ttakuna-rol performer and he was following the time with a chronometer. In the opposite place, there was the Herrena-rol perfromer with a set of sonorous objects and with the Ttakuna role score within of sight but playing free over him.
The point in the work is to try to make music in a hinge situation between free and tied, spected and unespected: composition and improvisation. Try to experiment using the roles of the perfromers in such a way that you are not merelly following your taste or creativity but playing with half-fixed structures.
Loty negarti, Donostia 2008
1See, for instance, Michel Henritzi's work: http://www.mattin.org/recordings/Keith_Rowe_Serves_Imperialism.html