03: Ignaz Schick

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My guest is German turntablist, saxophonist and improviser Ignaz Schick. 

As William Gibson famously said, the future has arrived: its just not evenly distributed. And experimental music, an international phenomenon, is likewise not evenly distributed, it has its handful of influential capitals, centers of concentrated activity. We in the Bay Area like to think that San Francisco is one of these spots, which everyone may not agree with. But anyone who is at all conscious of this music, acknowledges Berlin as a major center.

By the mid nineteen-nineties, a young generation of artists, including musical improvisors, were streaming to berlin from all over europe, drawn by its cheap real estate and sense of wild open possibility after the fall of the wall in nineteen eighty nine. Frustrated with the conventions of the existing and at the time dominant european free-jazz scene, they invented a whole new unofficial and initially unfunded scene, playing in empty warehouses, cafés, nightclubs and punk squats.  They stood all the conventions of free jazz on their head: Where free jazz was busy, loud, macho, hyper expressive, and usually played on traditional jazz instruments.. (sounding like this [[ sample]] ),  they invented a music that, while still retaining the spirit of improvisation and live immediacy, was cool, quiet, and full of silences and electroacoustic sounds, and incorporated what might be seen as more feminine sensibilities.

the scene came to be known as “the berlin new wave”, or  “lower case music”  – in an analogy with typography, indicating a music that doesnt shout in ALL CAPS – or the participants’ chosen name, echt zeit musik, or “real time music”.  My guest ignaz schick was a major factor in defining this scene, playing with most of its luminaries, producing concerts and festivals, engaging in the theoretic conversation which often accompanies european art movements, and in exporting awareness of it by touring extensively throughout europe, asia and the americas.

We began our conversation with the story of how he, as a child of back-to-the-land radicals in rural Bavaria, became obsessed with new music through a chance encounter with the legendary free-jazz trumpeter and ornette coleman collaborator Don Cherry.