Lindsay Cooper, a modern composer and bassoonist for the 70s Rock in Opposition band Henry Cow left a legacy of amazing music before leaving this planet in 2013 after a long fight with MS. Two of her former band members joined a group of local musicians to perform a concert of some of her work at Mills College’s Littlefield Concert Hall. Fred Frith and Cooper were both members of the band Henry Cow, a band who invented new ways to combine rock and experimental music in the 70’s heyday of progressive rock.
Zena Parkins worked together with Cooper in the band News from Babel along with Dagmar Krause and Chris Cutler from Henry Cow. Parkins and Frith were also members of the groups Skeleton Crew with the amazing and unfortunately also departed Tom Cora. Perhaps to bring the unique collaboration together, Cora and Cooper collaborated as well, in a group called the Hat Shoes with Cora’s wife, Catherine Jauniaux, along with This Heat drummer Charles Hayward, Henry Cow saxophonist Tim Hodgkinson, Pere Ubu vocalist David Thomas and Chris Cochrane, a member of Parkins former band No Safety. The list of musicians above include some of the prolific musicians and composers of the past 40 plus years.
Another heavyweight band performing the music of Cooper tonight was Rova Saxophone Quartet. Rova Saxophone Quartet have long revolutionized the abstract jazz field with their ability to invent textures of rhythm combined with circular breathing style saxophone reminiscent of jazz greats like Steve Lacy and John Coltrane.
I first had the chance to see Frith and Parkins performing together at the Festival International Musique Actuelle in Victoriaville, Quebec in 1992. They performed in Frith’s piece Stone, Brick, Glass, Wood, Wire. At the same festival, I also saw Frith perform an improvised duet with Han Bennink, who was a member of Albert Ayler’s Dutch band. I took away some memories from Victo in 92. One was hanging in front of the old Grand Cafe without money for to buy a ticket to see Lars Holmer when two guys came out about 20 minutes into the set. One of them gave me their ticket and I went inside only to see Frith joining the Looping Home Orchestra as an unlisted guest. At the same festival Zeena Parkins also performed two great sets with Elliott Sharp’s Carbon and Orchestra Carbon.
Both Frith and Parkins continue to inspire by writing and recording great music when they aren’t doing their day jobs as professors in the music department for Mills College.
I also first saw Rova at FIMAV in 1997 with a larger Rova X8 band. This band is really always hard hitting improv that stands the test of time and has done so with their many hatArt/HatHut releases and the recently released title ZORN where the group plays the music of another improviser and collaborator with Frith and Parkins. Zorn and Frith were together in the band Naked City while Parkins and Zorn were together in the two releases Cobra and The Bribe.
I was fortunate to witness many great performances at VICTO with many collaborators Ms. Cooper. Towards the end of her career as a musician she wrote the piece Oh Moscow, which was released on Les Disques Victo in 1991 and was a member of the Feminist improvising group with film director and screenwriter Sally Potter.
It’s great to live close enough to Mills in order witness such a great tribute to Lindsay Cooper.
I never had the opportunity to see any Ms. Cooper performances in my life, but tonight, for a moment it made me feel as if I had.
Fans of the 70’s period of music referred to as Zeuhl, Progressive Rock and Rock in Opposition had a rare opportunity to see Magma in San Francisco, Ca last Wednesday. Fans hold the band at a ranking atop of their field and many might proclaim them the best rock band in the world if not the longest lasting one. At the moment the tour was announced posts started appearing on the internet and the band certainly lived up to, if not exceeded their reputation as the founders of Zeuhl.
Magma emerged as one of the strongest bands during what Chris Cutler refers to as Rock in Opposition in his book “File Under Popular” on November and Autonomedia books. Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to see some of the remaining contemporaries of this field including individual and session performances by Chris Cutler (Henry Cow, Art Bears, Cassiber), Fred Frith (Henry Cow, Art Bears, Skeleton Crew, Cosa Brava), Zeena Parkins (Skeleton Crew, News from Babel, Elliot Sharp’s Carbon, No Safety, Cosa Brava) and Dagmar Krause (Henry Cow, News from Babel Art Bears), Univers Zero, Plastic People of the Universe, Albert Marcoeur, Guigou Chenevier (Etron Fou Leloublan), Lars Holmer (Samlas Mammas Manna), Richard Teitelbaum (Musica Elettronica Viva) Pere Ubu, Bratko Bibič (Begnagrad/Nimal), Tom Cora (Nimal/Skeleton Crew) Heiner Goebbels (Cassiber) and other remarkable bands from this era.
According to Cutler, Magma are highly influenced by Classical Composers such as Stravinsky and Orf. Other bands such as Cutler’s Henry Cow as well as Art Zoyd and Univers Zero were also heavily influenced 20th Century Classical composers. Perhaps in a much greater perspective, Magma are positioned alongside other progressive rock enigmas such as Can, Faust, Soft Machine, Captain Beefheart, Present, Heldon, Gong, Stormy Six, Keith Rowe/AMM, Henry Cow and Quiet Sun/This Heat.
Imagine my surprise to find they were to do a rare US tour that included the bay area! I bought tickets immediately because although I wasn’t sure if it would/could sell out or not, I knew I didn’t want to risk missing a show with this much promise and anticipation. During my formative years it wasn’t easy to find Magma recordings but Attahk will always remain atop my list of favorite recordings from my formative years. They always had such a deep catalog and every song title and description seemed to take us to an alternate universe filled with spacey and celestial themes. The term Zeuhl is from Vander’s visionary language he invented to express musical ideas. This language is called Kobaian.
Magma were formed in 1969 in Paris, France. Over the decades they’ve released over 30 recordings both studio and live and are touring to support their latest recording Šlaǧ Tanƶ (on 7th Records). Šlaǧ Tanƶ was released in January of 2015 and is an EP.
Christian Vander is a classically trained drummer who founded the band in 1969. There were many musicians who’ve been members of Magma over the years one of the higher profile profile alumni of the band is composer Yannik Top who started with the band in 1973 and played bass on a number of their recordings during the early to mid seventies. They’re recordings are influenced by Classical vocals featuring several several vocalists during their performances including Vander and his wife Stella Vander who first appeared with the band on the 1973 recording Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh.
On Wednesday April 8th, 2015, when the Endless Tour featuring Magma earthed at Slim’s in San Francisco, Ca., the band was introduced by local Punk icon Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys. Jello recounted being on the east coast one day and learning they were going to be performing in Pennsylvania. He said ‘he took every back road he knew and broke every traffic violation in the book to get there. On the way when he noticed he was still running late he had told himself if he were able to arrive and see 1 minute of music by Magma it would be a success. He finished by saying when he finally did arrive an hour late he rushed in and witnessed what was the best hour and a half of music he’s ever seen… And now (he went on to add) they’re in our town!’