Extensive Friedman Interview “Put this system to test” – The Arts Desk, March 2014
Burnt: I quickly give up trying to look into other people’s brains. Lee Siegel in his book Net of Magic says: “I’m writing a book on magic”, I explain, and I’m asked, “Real magic?” By real magic people mean miracles and supernatural powers. “No,” I answer: “Conjuring tricks, not real magic.” Real magic, in other words, refers to the magic that is not real, while the magic that is real, that can actually be done, is not real magic…
On a more common level, what was detected as magical moments in the music of Can for instance, when they had moved towards a rather simple, straight, repetitive groove in the late Sixties, was not so much the success of ingenious individuals liberating themselves while jamming or improvising, but the group executing what was preordained by a fundamental musical structure. They would keep repeating cycles they wanted to play really well. One should not ignore the social component of binding musical forms. What I am trying to say is there are a lot more cultural hurdles to the understanding of a musical piece and performance than meets the ears. A successful entertainment requires learning appropriate gestures of listening.
In our parts, the line between performer and audience is clearly distinguished, whereas in other parts of the world, the role of the participants can be mixed. If the music was garnished by the erratic, irregular expressions of, let’s say, an acrobatic individual, a creative participation of others would rather be disapproved. An instrumental musical ensemble of robots or human-like puppets for instance, challenging the gesture of listening and attending in a weird way, may drastically enhance the emotional effect on the listeners, and thus it could possibly be made obvious that “feeling or emotion in music”, which I love to call “resonance”, is internal, it is not something customarily conveyed through the authentic presence of a human being inventing the music. However, I would yet also be happily applauding the group of robots afterwards if they had managed to bring this “cultural condition” across.
AD : You’ve worked musically with people from a huge range of backgrounds, from acid house to Krautrock to maintream pop to local African traditions. Do you approach them thinking about the music they’ve played before, or try more to react in the moment?
Jaki Liebezeit’s concept of rhythm, practically as much as intellectually, has helped me a lot in looking at music in fundamentally different way. Before we started playing together my approach can solely be called intuitive. Some of the skills that dominated my working method or musical discernment until 10 years ago were unquestioned, but now I can challenge distinct, established concepts with musicians, in order to help clean the trash can of prejudices that persists and unfortunately obfuscates the perception and nature of music.
So clearly yes, I do approach them thinking about the music they’ve played before, but specifically in order to provoke them to submit to a system that basically doesn’t focus on the individual, on their emotions. It´s a working method that doesn’t aim at exhibiting either personal accomplishments or liberation from something. Surprisingly enough, most of the musicians on the small tour did gladly embrace the ideas instead of feeling disapproved. Hence, it’s enjoyable when it gels.
Interview conducted by Joe Muggs, March 2014