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Stewart Lee on Free Improvisation

June 9th, 2011 |  Published in Blog

Stewart Lee

Mr. Lee’s interest in the musical avant garde is well known by now (his love of The Fall was documented in a primer on the band for Wire magazine; he has performed of John Cage’s Indeterminacy with Steve Beresford and Tania Chen), but it’s still gratifying to see him make reference to figures such as Cage and Derek Bailey in high profile publications such as The Financial Times:

“The guitarist Derek Bailey was playfully and perhaps satirically opposed to recorded music in all its forms. Despite having more than 150 commercially available albums to his name at the time of his death in 2005, Bailey maintained that he could not see the point of recorded music, and contrived to find it amusing to imagine people sitting in their homes listening to it. “What do you do while the record is playing?” he asked me. “Look around? Drink a cup of tea? Are you allowed to read? It seems mad.” Bailey’s commitment to total improvisation, to never repeating himself, and to trying to work outside all recognisable musical idioms means that in a world where music is piped in at every possible point, and often created for no apparent artistic purpose, his music still has the power to stop time. It cannot really be used to soundtrack anything, or sell anything. These spidery solo guitar lines cannot be filleted or fragmented or remixed. The music was what it was at the moment it was made and that is all, and listening to a recording of it you hear only an echo of the moment, like the brightness that reaches your eye from an already exploded star, untold billions of light years away.”

Much of Simon Reynold’s recent writing and interviews around the release of his new book Retromania relates to how the internet has oversaturated us with recorded music and changed our sense of temporality and the present moment. It seems that the late Mr. Bailey, through the continued good humour and eloquence of Stewart Lee, still has plenty to say on those subjects.

Stewart Lee’s website
Watch the second series of Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle on BBC iPlayer


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June 9th, 2011 | by | Published in Blog

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