I first met Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson at the Nickelsdorf Konfrontationen Festival in 1999, where he was playing with the AALY Trio and I was doing a one-off trio with Jim O’Rourke and Christian Fennesz. I had already been hearing about Mats from Jim as someone else of our generation coming to free jazz from a punk-rock background. A couple of years later Mats invited me to a festival he was organizing in Ystad, Sweden. It was an amazing experience, involving people like Sonic Youth, Christian Marclay, and YoshimiO from the Boredoms. I fondly remember doing a trio with Mats and Peter Brötzmann where I went running to my amp to turn up, my usual volume no match for their acoustic saxes.
Since then Mats has led a couple of other powerful trios—The Thing and Fire!—and collaborated with many other artists, from Neneh Cherry to Merzbow. It’s been a while since we connected, and when the pandemic hit I noticed he was slated to play solo as part of Experimental Sound Studios’ superb series of livestreamed Quarantine Concerts. I’ve been fascinated by the development during this reconfigured reality of solo concerts being the only type to continue to be booked and promoted, solely online. I was excited to catch up with Mats and discuss these issues and others via Skype at his current home in rural Austria—the same town, in fact, where we first met.
Alan LichtSo have you been in Nickelsdorf since everything went haywire?
Mats GustafssonIt’s been an interesting journey, because I was on tour with Christof Kurzmann in South America when shit hit the fan. He’s in the high-risk group, because he had a couple heart surgeries, and he’s been smoking since he was like, two. When we left, this virus didn’t seem like a big deal, but traveling with Christof really changed my mind about that.
I have a feeling that we will work a bit differently in the in the future, and it will take a long time before we can start thinking about doing regular concerts again.
ALIt’s interesting—as musicians we’re used to “the show must go on.” People go onstage with fevers; I’m sure we’ve both done it. But with this everything shut down so quickly. People are getting more and more scared. It doesn’t make sense to do a show now if you can do it six months from now.
MGWhat surprised me is that in the EU every country has different rules. And Sweden had almost no limitations in the beginning.
ALYeah, there was an article in the Times about how Sweden was sort of the outlier in that way.
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — On the rooftop terrace of her Tehran apartment building, 28-year-old Mojgan Hosseini’s fingers pluck the strings of her qanun, an ancient stringed instrument, bringing life to an Iranian capital stilled by the coronavirus.
With performance halls closed and many isolated in their homes as a result of the Mideast’s worst virus outbreak, Hosseini and other Iranian musicians now find performance spaces where they can. That includes rooftops dotted with water tanks and littered with debris, empty front porches and opened apartment windows. Their music floats down on others stuck in their homes, fearful of the COVID-19 illness the virus brings.
Their impromptu concerts draw applause and offer hope to their listeners, even as public performances still draw hard-line scrutiny in the Islamic Republic.
“We’re not front-line medical workers, hospital custodians, or grocery workers, but I think many musicians — myself included — have felt an obligation to offer our services of comfort and entertainment in these trying times,” said Arif Mirbaghi, who plays the double bass in his front yard.
Iran has been hard-hit by the virus with more than 76,000 confirmed cases, including more than 4,700 fatalities.
‘SLEEP: The Penitent’s Journey’ is a sleep-learning song-cycle tape by 72 year old Californian electronic composer and inventor Paul DeMarinis.
“The Penitent’s Journey”
You recorded this music in 1985. Why do you release it now?
Paul DeMarinis: I came across a cassette with this material in 2018 while I was gathering material for my 2-LP album ‘Songs Without Throats’ released in 2019 on Black Truffle Records. While they didn’t really fit the program of that album, I liked them, and especially noticed that listening to them put me right to sleep. So I decided to issue it. The tracks were originally made as “filler” for a concert at Phill Niblock’s Experimental Media Foundation in 1985. In those days loading programs into computers was slow – either by floppy disk or, worse, 300 baud Serial connection from another computer. I needed something pre-recorded to cover the several minute gaps between pieces, so I made these short “cameo” pieces that used the same DSP cross synthesis I was using for the pieces in the concert.
You tagged the album on Bandcamp with ‘hypnopedia’. Why?
Hypnopedia refers to the fantasy of effortless learning while you sleep by listening to pre-recorded tracks. It was applied experimentally, mostly unsuccessfully, from the 1930s through the 1960s. It proposed applications not only in learning school material as Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” depicts, but also in “brainwashing” black-ops as in John Frankenheimer’s “The Manchurian Candidate.” I thought it was a good category for ‘Sleep’, since if it does succeed in putting other listeners to sleep as well as it does for me, the latter part of the cassette would be experienced only during sleep.
The sub-title of the album is ‘The Penitent’s Journey’. Can you explain this to me?
As I listened to this material a lot of memories about 1985 came flooding back to me, in particular about an on-again/off-again relationship I was involved in at the time. I was on the down-side of it at the point I recorded these pieces and had to eat a lot of crow, so I decided to add the subtitle to set the mood.
The point being.. Well, basically they were asked to imagine what life would be like in the year 2000. According to Collective-Evolution, these artworks were originally in the form of postcards or paper cards enclosed in cigarette and cigar boxes.
The images depict the world as it was imagined it would be like in the year 2000. Some of these unique illustrations are actually quite accurate vision of the current era today, including farming machines, robotic equipment, and flying machines. Now we haven’t started riding giant seahorses yet, although it does look like one hell of a good time.