September 30, 2020

Rare short statement by Paul Minns on British press.

As part of an investigation promoted by "Disc & Music Echo" on  January 10, 1970 titled "Is single snobbery stifling progress by the underground?", TEB founder oboist PAUL MINNS stated that "we're certainly interested in doing singles - we've nothing against them".

Apart this very unexpected statement, this piece is interesting because is a valid testimony of the ideas that was circulating between underground musicians about music business and record market. Pete Brown, Edgar Broughton, Roger Glover, David Gilmour had different opinions about it...

 

no©2020 LucaChinoFerrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

September 23, 2020

Stefano Giannotti and SMS played TEB's "Water".


Stefano Giannotti is an Italian avant-garde musician/composer/arranger/conductor since the beginning of 80's. He's playing and arranging also TEB tunes. I had an interview with him in 2011, you can read about his long career and his ideas about music and the TEB here.
After a first arrangement of "Water" in 2005 with Vaga Orchestra, in 2019 he arranged a new version of it and he conducted (playing with) a young ensemble called SMS who performed it live. Here's the really exciting performance:

Confirming the love for the TEB music, this important event induced me to contact him again for a new interview about his work on the tune. This is our conversation...

.How did you come up with the idea of forming the SMS Orchestra?
The SMS Orchestra is a modular group of students born around 2014 at the School of Music Symphony of Lucca, with the name of Laboratorio OTEME; because it could be confused with OTEME (the ensemble I manage since 2010) we changed the name: SMS means School of Symphony Music. The former idea was to form a group of students playing the guitar and other instruments with voices, which if necessary, as then sometimes is happened, could join OTEME.
The problem of training nowadays is more and more urgently felt, since especially in Italy there is little space for contemporary music, let alone experiments of hybridization between rock, avant-garde and contemporary music! Previously, at another school of music, I had conducted a similar experience with the Vaga Orchestra.
Over the years many members have changed, but for some time a stable nucleus has been created: it must be said that many of them started from very young, from the middle school, grewing up together within this experience.
Today the SMS Orchestra is around 13/14 musicians ranging from 15 to 40 years old. At the same time, some composers were born in the band and their compositions were included in our repertoire. The SMS Orchestra performs mostly arrangements of experimental rock music or similar: we play Residents, Tuxedomoon, Third Ear Band, Battisti/Velezia, Sylvian, but also Bruno Lauzi, Bowie, Baroque and Renaissance music, Battiato's Aries, Peter Gabriel, etc.
 
Stefano Giannotti nel 2019.
 
.Why did you decide to arrange and perform TEB’s "Water" again, after your first adaption in 2005?
"Water" is one of my all-time favourite tunes. I think it is nice to allow young people to discover tunes like this, which I knew when I was 17. If teachers don't let them know this music, hardly nowadays young people will reach it alone.

.How did you wade into the original version? What are the motivations related to the form/structure of the music that led you to rethink it in this way?
I think the most interesting thing about "Water" is the bass. It’s definitely the Third Ear Band's tune that seems more "composed" and less improvised. I find really amazing how the melody leans on the cello; basically, the melody is built by a single cell that is repeated throughout the song at different heights, sometimes with alterations of some intervals. The various mutations of the cell are connected by free parts, very short so that the theme becomes really omnipresent. The bass line creates moments of tension and relaxation, above all the turns of the chords are used intelligently, in particular the first respondent. Then, on the third chord of the melody, there is a FA# played by the oboe on the natural FA of the cello - like a punch in the ear - which melts immediately into a wonderful consonance on the fourth. The real prominent role in the piece, in my opinion, is just the cello that acts as a "fixed song", as in the original counterpoint and the oboe is "opposed" to it. My basic idea was to interpret that cello "false notes", those microtones originated from an oriental mink, as they were semitones: so if a note stands between a LA and a descending LA, I assume it as a SOL#. Being on the bass this SOL# creates a new chord, which was perceived in the TEB's tune and in this version becomes clear. The great thing is that it sounds very similar to the original, despite having forced several chords.
Well, I hope I didn’t say things that were too complicated!
 
.What do you think about the original composition? Do you think it was written or it was a work in progress in the recording studio?
I think it’s in between. I think there is a theme that was born from improvisation, then step by step it was built inside the group, especially by Minns and Smith; but who knows... surely they did not try it once, as it could have happened to other tunes played by them.
 
School of Music Symphony in 2020.

.Which elements of the TEB form are inscribed in your music?
The oboe! I fell in love with the oboe thank to them. For many years I conducted a trio/quartet, the Ensemble Il Teatro del Faro, formed by oboe/English horn, electric guitar and cello, plus various objects, tapes and electronics. Our work was more experimental and moved in totally different fields (musical theatre, radio-art, performance), but occasionally opened to phrasing and atmospheres influenced by the Third Ear Band.
 
.Do you think there is still room today for experiences such as that of TEB?
Sometimes you hear world music, rock-ethnic and similar genres, but the Third Ear Band remains a unique case in the history of music. I think the difference lies in their simplicity and - forgive me - not professionalism as instrumentalists. Today the world-music bands are made by very competent musicians, TEB players were little more than amateurs, but that’s what makes them unique and indescribably magic. They didn’t have to show anything to anyone, no kind of virtuosity, they just start with sound, they create circles that slowly widen and you find yourself wrapped in a total sensory experience. Many ethnic-folk groups sound very stereotyped and corny. Not the Third Ear Band, for some mysterious reason their music force you to listen to them finding new dimensions: think of "Egyptian Book of the Dead", but also of pieces like "Live Ghosts"... this kind of music always opens new worlds. I don’t know if there’s room today, but I think there’s room for everything, the thing you need is just to have a little more imagination.

.What kind of music do you listen to these days?
I love Bach's Cantatas, Frank Zappa, especially his orchestral pieces, David Sylvian, Battisti/Panella, Robert Wyatt, David Bedford, the Third Ear Band (although I don’t listen to it often), Alvin Curran, Steve Reich, Tuxedomoon, Gong and Daevid Allen, Ravel’s Bolero... I can hardly stand the contemporary music, although I admire the ideas... the ones I like most are John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen.

.What's about you
r future plans?
I am finishing a radio-drama for the German national radio SWR, I will go to produce it in their studios in Baden-Baden in February 2021, if the COVID pandemic will allow us. Last summer I've published "A Greeting to the Clouds", the new OTEME CD, so I’m promoting it. I also have other projects in Poland and Germany, but it will depend on the pandemic situation. With the SMS Orchestra, we will start again in November, maybe with a project between folk and sound experimentation. 
 
 
 no©2020 LucaChinoFerrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

September 17, 2020

TEB book outtakes - part 3: the great Mel Davis.


Here's the third part of the outtakes from my book on the TEB dedicated to the great late Mel Davis. He played the cello on "Alchemy" in 1969 and he was a great musician in the avant-garde British jazz scene most of all with the People Band (read a piece about him on this Archive here).
These pictures were given to me by film-maker/musician Mike Figgis who played with Davis and the People Band in the Sixties and who's making a docu-film on him (read here).
This is another chance to remember Mel for all his great music and ideas about improvisational music. A real giant!


                             The great late Mel Davis in the last few days of his life.


                               Mel Davis on cello with Mike Friggs in the Sixties.

no©2020 LucaChinoFerrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

September 11, 2020

"Macbeth" vinyl edition out now!


As announced, Spanish label Munster Records had published the remastered vinyl edition of "Macbeth", licensed by Cherry Red Records.

With the same cover designed by cult graphic artist Roger Dean, the album shows the old Harvest green label (but with Munster's logo) and a very pretty insert reproducing the famous film poster and some notes written by journalist Fernando Naporano.
There' also a 1 minute video promo on the Web (go here).

Considering this is an official release, it's enbarassing that  compiling the notes Naporano repeats one of the worst trite commonplaces about the origins of the band stating it was born in Canterbury (!!!) and, really incredibly, that it was "previously called East of Eden" (!!!).
But it's life and errors are more easy than one can imagine... (for example, in my book I've repeated that the TEB played at the Hyde Park free concert on July 18h 1970... but we know that even if on the bill actually they didn't play there...). 
 
 
Anyway, Naporano's essay is quite interesing for his definition of the TEB music form as "an archaic proto-psyche journey". He writes:  "You do feel an acidulated folk-aura, where each one should create its own Trip on it. Above all, is very varied in its conception, and a complete voyage when it stands  up and walks in our ears." 

For the Spanish music writer TEB tracks on "Macbeth" are "folkishly ludic" (as "Overtoure", "Iverness", "Cour Dance"...) or "concrete music - in a very personal way of being" (as "The Beach", "Ambush"...), "as if every drumming fractures, singing seagulls or sharp whistles were conducting us  to waves of fear into the unknown."


And what about the vinyl quality? 
This is not a 180g edition, but  the sound is very good, with great dynamic and deepness and  well separated and clear timbrics...
I think it's a really valid edition, and apart a maybe too expensive price (euros 22 plus postal costs) and the classic (incomprehensible) pops and ticks everywhere, is a worth to have it. 


no©2020 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

September 09, 2020

Extraordinarly amazing TEB tv appearance in October 1972!


These two video tracks are the last nuggets emerged from the Web. British YouTuber Nuthatch (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-VZ_N8KLdwJhobRHGRtm8Q) posted these extraordinary videos of the TEB from a TV appearance in October 1972 taken from ILEA (Inner London Education Authority) archive
The peculiarity of these excerpts is that this is the only existing video thing of Mike Marchant and Peter Pavli with the band.

The line-up consisting in fact in Glen Sweeney - drums; Paul Minns - oboe; Peter Pavli - electric bass; Mike Marchant - vocals and Simon House - electric violin & VCS3.

Introduced by Brian Kenny, the first track is titled "The Magus" and it's the boring vocal song taken from the eponymous album the band recorded in December 1972; the second one it seems to me a rendition of "Air" and it's much more interesting for the improvisations by House  and Minns on violin and oboe.


After a gig at Kingston Polytechnic, on 18 March 1972, Glen Sweeney announced to the press the new TEB line-up, explaining to Roy Hollingworth ("Melody Maker"): "I think us changing in a natural way - and not just for the sake of it - is far more rewarding. I know we will be a far more rational band - giving out something which everyone can enjoy. After three months of rehearsing, we are now capable of playing a varied menu for more than two hours. You wouldn't have got more 45 minutes a year ago".

Even if without a recording deal (after "Macbeth" EMI-Harvest fired the band), through the following months the musicians played live in England (most of all in London), with an appearance at the third edition of "Clitheroe Festival" (Clitheroe Castle of Clitheroe).

Then, on 16 November, thanks to Blackhill's manager Peter Jenner, who has placed The Sharks to Chris Blackwell's label, TEB signed a contract with Island Records for a new album, based for the first time on proper songs composed and played by Marchant, who got inspiration from the Tarot. The agreement scheduled this track-list: "Cosmic Wheel", "I the Key", "Hierophant", "Magus", "New Horizon" and "Tent Dimensional Landscape".

Sweeney to Hollingworth ("Melody Maker", 1972): "Mike has been hanging around the group for some while. We heard the songs, and well, it seemed only natural that he should come in. It's a tremendous jump for us, I mean, we've never done songs before. It's right to say that Thirdies are feeling a little schizophrenic at the moment. I mean, there's that album out from Macbeth, and that's totally avant-garde, and there's us playing songs".
"So what of these songs?" - asked the journalist. "Well, at the start, we teated them in a sort of Velvet Underground, Leonard Cohen type of way. But we became dissatisfied with the limitations of eight bars, 16 bars. We decided that we really wanted to open out. They certainly aren't pretentious songs, there's no pseudo rubbish about them. There's no Lucy in the Sky with feedback. But they are songs that fit the Third Ear".


"They are all based around the Tarot, and they are purely descriptions of the cards and their meanings. It's meant a lot of work, changing from a purely instrumental band, but it really seems to be working. And people certainly like it".
The album, despite of all the enthusiastic anticipations, would be "disastrously recorded at Island and rejected" (Paul Minns to me in 1996) and it's been realised by Angel Air just in 2004 as "The Magus". 

Later, Sweeney had strong opinions about it: "(...) At the time I was surrounded by idiots who were hoping I had a few quid! They dragged me in there - even now that Simon House swears it's a masterpiece - I had this rodie, Ron Cort, whose father was a hire car wallah, rolling in it - Ron really went to town on that album - he got acetates made, he got a single made. It was crap - even I didn't know what I was doing - the singer was terrible, we had vocals. All the songs were based on the tarot, but strangely enough, his father [vocalist Mike Marchant's father] was a vicar and all the songs were based on hymns" ("Unhinged", Spring 1990).

I don't know what do you think about, but for myself Glen was right and these video tracks are surely interesting (of course!) but not comparable to the deep dowsing research done for "The Dragon Wakes", recorded two years before by Sweeney, Minns, Bridges, Buckmaster, Coff and House...

no©2020 LucaChinoFerrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

September 07, 2020

The TEB book outtakes - part. 2: Carolyn Looker.


This sequence is about Carolyn Looker, Glen Sweeney's missus. She has cooperated really much to the book, opening her family album and writing a brand new piece on Glen.


 


 
 


 

 

no©2020 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

September 01, 2020

The TEB book outtakes - pt. 1.: Glen Sweeney.


As promised, these below are some pictures not included on the TEB book. The first gallery is about Glen Sweeney, portrayed in  different places. Pictures are taken from the family album, courtesy of my friend Carolyn Looker.

Glen at St. Ives (Cornwalls).

A stoned Glen.

Glen in Greece in 1978.
Glen on Paxi (drawing by Carolyn Looker, 1984).
A Glen portrait by Carolyn Looker (1990).
Glen, Carolyn and Celia Humphris (Trees' singer) in London at the beginning of 70's.

 no©2020 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)