Robyn Schulkowsky drums, gong, plate bell, crotales, cymbals, bronze bells
Nils Petter Molvær trumpet
Pier And Ocean 1-3
Hastening Westward 1-7
Recorded January 1995
ECM New Series 1564
American percussionist Robyn Schulkowsky has been resolute in her decision,
made long ago, to let her instruments, "the instruments I chose or built or
found", posit her musical direction. Not simply to "let sounds be sounds", as
John Cage, a crucial influence, once formulated it, implying a passivity out of
keeping with Robyn's animated character and critical mind ("I'm not a neutral person",
she cautions), but to accept the consequences of the work and the responsibilities
it entails. Schulkowsky's history has taken in too many diverse activities to permit
a concise summary. That history has included: a period as percussionist with the
New Mexico Symphony and the Santa Fe Orchestra; intense studies with Christoph
Caskell in Cologne; premieres, in the early 80s, with Karlheinz Stockhausen,
Mauricio Kagel and Walter Zimmermann; a still-talked-about percussion festival
in Munich, where Robyn brought together 20 drummers from seven countries to
celebrate Charles Ives's utopian visions; important collaborations with John
Cage, Morton Feldman, Iannis Xenakis, Christian Wolff, Heinz Holliger,
Robert Wilson; extensive touring in Europe, the USA, Japan, Korea and
throughout the former Soviet Union... Currently, Robyn Schulkowsky
based in Berlin, where in recent months she has been preparing the music
for Edith Clever's production of Medea at the Schaubühne.
Hastening Westward, the seven-part work that comprises three-quarters of
the present recording is an imaginative "extension" of a 1991 composition
for percussion ensemble entitled Hastening westward at sundown to obtain
a better view of Venus (in fact very little of the ensemble piece remains).
The work was named after a line from Samuel Beckett's last book of prose,
Stirrings Still - "a kind of bible for me", Schulkowsky says.
A New Series album with the percussionist had been in discussion for a
decade, producer Manfred Eicher first approaching Robyn after the release
of her debut album Black Light in 1985. Five years later she partnered
Kim Kashkashian in ECM recordings of
Linda Bouchard's Pourtinade and Paul
Chihara's Redwood and a new round of possibilities
arose. Should Schulkowsky's long-awaited New Series disc be a solo album,
an ensemble recording, a record of compositions or improvisations? (In the
end it was to fall somewhere between all of these options). "If there
was a plan," Robyn says, "it was to remain as open as possible to
whatever might happen next." Meanwhile, Eicher had Nils-Petter Molvær
(whom Schulkowsky had never met) on stand-by.
On paper, the Norwegian trumpeter (born in Sula on Norway's wild
Northwest coast), might seem an odd partner for the percussionist.
His new music "credentials" are scant, although he once worked under
Vinko Globokar's direction. He is primarily an improviser best known
for his work with jazz ensembles (Arild Andersen
and Jon Christensen's
band Masqualero, Jon Balke's Oslo 13,
as well as the groups of George
Russell, Gary Peacock and Elvin Jones). Quote: "I'm interested in working
with the natural sound of the horn and with getting more and more space
into my playing. That seems the most important thing for me."
Schulkowsky began the session by recording overdubbed percussion solos
(Part III of Pier And Ocean and Parts II and V of Hastening Westward).
Then Molvær was brought into the project, responding freely to Schulkowsky's
drumming. The percussionist drew upon pre-set material - phrases and
rhythms from the aforementioned ensemble piece - but also engaged in
improvised exchanges with the trumpeter. Hastening Westward is a
fascinating document, almost impossible to categorize, easy to enjoy.
The physicality of Schulkowsky's drumming is vividly conveyed by the
production, and it is intriguing to hear these two players, of vastly
different backgrounds and experience, making music together as if the
process was inevitable.