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Ping of old...henceforth never: The compositions of Derek Bailey
Derek Bailey was one of the seminal ‘first generation’ British improvising musicians. As his work progressed, Bailey acquired a reputation as an uncompromising purist with an explicit anti-composition agenda. The truth, however, is more nuanced, and his relationship with composition more ambiguous than is generally appreciated.
Bailey’s personal archive contain a series of approximately 30 compositions from the 1960s, in various stages of completion. At this time Bailey was exploring ways to break down the received habits of musical language, in order to leave behind the devalued traditions of existing idioms. Initially, composition seemed to provide a possible mechanism for effecting this, although it was quickly to become clear to Bailey that improvisation was the most appropriate response to musical stagnation.
As far as is known, only one of these pieces was ever performed, with the remainder safely stored in the archive at Downs Road. Simon Fell talks about the moral, practical and aesthetic issues surrounding the decision to publicly perform some of the Bailey archive scores, including constructing performing versions of some scores which were unfinished or partially lost. As part of the presentation, Alex Ward and Nick Millevoi will perform Bailey’s solo guitar pieces nos. 10, 18-20 and 23.
Simon Fell is an improviser, composer and double bassist active in free improvisation and contemporary composition. He has worked in small or medium groups with John Butcher, Peter Brötzmann, Lol Coxhill, Billy Jenkins, Joe Morris, Keith Tippett, John Zorn, Derek Bailey, Joey Baron, Elliott Sharp, Billy Bang, Christian Marclay, Han Bennink and numerous others, and was a founder member of London Improvisers Orchestra. Notable regular groupings have included SFQ, IST (with Rhodri Davies & Mark Wastell), Hession/Wilkinson/Fell, the ZFP Quartet (with Carlos Zingaro) and many more. He has presented compositions for improvisers at the LMC Festival, the Termite Festival, the Frakture Festival, Leo Records' Unsung Music Festival, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, the BBC Electric Proms, the Festival Éclats d'Émail and on many other occasions. His discography includes over 130 recordings. Simon is also a producer and publisher, and runs the Bruce’s Fingers record label. Recent research work has focussed on British composition for improvisers from the 1960s, and he directs Ensemble Anomaly, a flexible group of improvisers devoted to performing this music.
Ars Nova Workshop is a Philadelphia nonprofit jazz and experimental music presenting organization. ANW informs, inspires, and challenges listeners to elevate the role of jazz, improvisation, and experimental music in contemporary culture. ANW events provide a forum for discourse, emergent trends in contemporary music, and unique forms of cultural exchange, while nurturing a diverse community for innovative music.