Artist: Collettivo Androgino
Title:When Ears And Mind Unite
Release Date: 2014 May 07
Genre: Jazz / World Improvisation
License: CC BY-NC-SA
Pricing: Free / Donation
Label: H-A-Z-E Netlabel
Can your ears and mind unite? Colletivo Androgino thinks they can, and they think they have documented exactly that occurring in this collection of recordings taken over many dates performing under many lineups of the ensemble. (Some performances were as Ius Primae Noctis, some as Three en Voyage and others as Collettivo Androgino.)
There are some musicians geared towards improvisation in performance. Many jazz musicians during the bebop and post-bop periods were heavy improvisers, especially in their live performances. The goal of improvisation is to seek a collective unity of mind and hearing. It is music as a form of communication between themselves and the audience. The experience of the performance is every bit formed by the environment.
Unfortunately, this often doesn’t translate well to recorded media. As the listener to the music in a second-hand form it is often difficult to engage with the sounds being produced in the way they were experienced by the musicians and audience that attended the original performance.
Can Your Ears And Mind Unite?
So, the question for this recording is simply: has Colletivo Androgino managed to transcend the limitations of recorded media? Have they produced a recording that allows the listener to engage with the music on the same level as the original performance?
Starting with the opening track ‘As-Shara’ al-Gharbiyan’ we have a somewhat mystical opening. A violin, cello and percussion play a very loose, sustained crescendo. This gives way to a very free-form improvisation opening of ‘When Ears And Mind Unite’. The percussion slowly builds into a pattern, and a saxophone eeks out a line. Eventually a pattern is woven that has all the feel of a middle eastern piece of music, and momentum and direction start to build, before finally reaching a climax, and then a de-crescendo back to its original form.
But, there’s no space to breath at this point as we move immediately into the third track ‘Connecting The Machines’ which introduces a low drone with middle eastern percussion. And this is the way this recording works: tracks segue across each other constantly blooming and then fading away.
As I said in the introduction, typically the thing about improvisation is that it involves the musicians and audience to be engaged in an a common experience. But in this recording we have something else going on: we are engaging with a series of recordings that were pulled together from multiple sources, and made to sound like they came from a common experience. It’s an audio illusion of sorts, a brilliant deception, and manipulation of the listener.
What this technique has allowed the group to accomplish is to keep the listener engaged by using works that fit within the context of the recording. That is, the way the pieces are selected, sequenced and presented makes it appear that it is a single performance. However, no one piece appears to wander too long or widely, each piece is well focused, and more readily accessible to the passive listener.
I asked if Colletivo Androgino produced a recording that allows the listener to engage with the music on the same level as the original performance? The answer is they haven’t. This isn’t a collection of raw improvisations presented in their original form.
I also asked if they had managed to transcend the limitations of recorded media? Not exactly. Instead they changed the rules by treating the recorded media as a performance space. They used all the techniques and instruments available to make a performance of their performances. By using this slight-of-hand (ear?) technique, they have made a recording that allows the listener to engage with their music in a way that is natural to the medium, instead of presenting a set of flat recordings.
And, this really was the best way to make this recording a success. They are a very skilled and accomplished group of musicians that can engage an audience with their performances. They have just extended their performance to recorded media in a way that is appropriate to the listening audience.