|roland dahinden | composer – performer|
the freeing of the lines
Improvisation is too wide a term. So many meanings, some of them violently contradictory, are gathered under its umbrella. In the traditional musics of India and the Arab countries, it can mean painstaking adherence to ancient formulas, and disciplined solution of formal problems solved thousands of times before. In jazz it can mean reaching for an ideal of spontaneity, while grounded in a bedrock of harmonies and melodies deeply internalized. In the free improve common in major urban centers of the last two decades, it can mean a free-wheeling openness, an antithesis of discipline, in which desparate elements are thrown together for the delight of explosions of incongruity.
FREE LINES part one and two suggest a fourth connotation, perhaps the most rarefied of all: extemporaneous composition, an illusion of engraving lines in stone that in reality had never appeared until the moment of performance. In this kind, the consummate skill of the performer is assumed, but not foregrounded. Although John Cage was never an advocate of improvisation, such playing may have arisen only because of his influence. Of all improve genres, this shows the most respect for sound and silence, and for the abstraction of sonic forms.
Roland Dahinden, composer of the music, is the Swiss trombonist whoís becoming known in America and Europe for his groundbreaking work with composers like Cage, Christian Wolff (hatART) and Alvin Lucier (Lovely Music), as well as his work in a trombone/piano duo with Hildegard Kleeb. More to the present point, he has been working extensively with Anthony Braxton (Black Saint, Braxton House).
Braxton is legendary as the saxophonist who first transcended the distinction between free jazz and the European-based modernism of Webern, Varese, and Stockhausen. As Braxton provides an instrumental counterpart to one generation of experimentalists, Dahinden corresponds to the next.
Among Dahindenís innovations is his tendency to take inspiration from visual art; heís collaborated with artists like Daniel Buren and Sol LeWitt. Dahindenís compositions on this disc are based on the beautiful, highly original line drawings of Josef Herzog. In the 70ís, Herzog began to paint multicoloured lines directly onto white canvas, dividing the surface into a myriad wavy, polygonic negative space. The reflection of the technique in Dahindenís music is clear. The music opens with a slight atmosphere of jazz, though already very linear with the trombone and saxophone in a rough unison. The lines soon gradually separate, turning into line abstractions of the implied jazz solo, as wavy as Herzogís free-hand shapes. Silence is essential here as a demarcator of phrases, allowing each one to hang in the air, etching its self-contained contour in time.
This music isnít a combination of jazz and classical forms, or something in-between, but a true hybrid. The striking roughness of the timbre, the studied casualness of the rhythmic momentum, remove the music from any feeling of classical performance. The ghost of jazz wanders in during the more frenetic trombone and saxophone moments, but never for long. Dahinden offers a kind of frozen vernacular, on offhand, indigenous style of musical speech caught and abstracted on the canvas of time. The music aims at and achieves a sonic analogue for a phrase applied to Herzog ďthe feeing of the lines.Ē
Kyle Gann, New York