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Laurie Scott Baker | Gracility Music of Laurie Scott Baker

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Avant Garde: Electro-Acoustic Classical: Contemporary Moods: Type: Live Recordings
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Gracility Music of Laurie Scott Baker

by Laurie Scott Baker

Rare early recordings of Derek Bailey, Keith Rowe, Gavin Bryars and other prime movers Evan Parker, Jamie Muir etc. 'The Wire' May '09 - Scott Baker "a ...composer at key encounters between the thinkers and players shaping Swinging London's avant garde"
Genre: Avant Garde: Electro-Acoustic
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Gracility
10:58 $0.99
2. Changing Light
8:58 $0.99
3. Port of London Atmos
10:32 $0.99
4. Camden Sunday Afternoon
6:57 $0.99
5. Breathing of the City
5:49 $0.99
6. The Northernline Line
4:37 $0.99
7. 747 Keithrowe Airport
4:02 $0.99
8. Microphonic
7:28 $0.99
9. Sweat and Tears
6:28 $0.99
10. Who Was That
5:21 $0.99
11. Pibroch 1926
2:00 $0.99
12. Pibroch the Call
3:27 $0.99
13. Bass Chants & Cues
3:02 $0.99
14. Jackdaws Ascending
8:48 $0.99
15. Wurlitzer Ramayana
3:09 $0.99
16. Baby Binson Sonar
3:25 $0.99
17. River Thames AM
3:46 $0.99
18. Goldsmiths Driving
6:39 $0.99
19. Rotherhithe Approach
3:42 $0.99
20. Futurama Ascends
4:13 $0.99
21. Bubble & Squeak SE14
2:20 $0.99
22. Music Hall Tripping
2:45 $0.99
23. The Scream
3:46 $0.99
24. Coo-ee Echorec
3:03 $0.99
25. Winged Dove
2:30 $0.99
26. Circle Piece
4:56 $0.99
27. 45 degrees
2:47 $0.99
28. 90 degrees
4:24 $0.99
29. 180 degrees
3:23 $0.99
30. 360 degrees
1:13 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
CD One.
‘Gracility’ (Recorded New Arts Lab London 1969.)
A filmic Sound Scape vision of the city of London in its sound recorded in the 1969. Performers: Derek Bailey, (guitar) Gavin Bryars, (bass guitar) Keith Rowe, (guitar) Laurie Scott Baker, (double bass). Recorded New Arts Lab London 1969.
A sonic evocation of an urban industrial society on the cusp of big change, now a rare species.
Tracks 4 and 7: 'Camden Sunday Afternoon' and '747 at Keithrowe Airport' are an authentic portrait of the sound of a changing City Skyline, the Planes, Trucks and traffic sound systems were bigger with more lower frequencies, subsonc, the bushiest Air traffic Hub in the world. Gracility reflect the new sound world.

Evan Parker, Solo Soprono Saxaphone. In an unusual context, but at his lyrical best.

CD two
‘Bass Chants & Cues’ (Goldsmiths College London 1972)
Performers: Jamie Muir (drums, voice) Luarie Scott Baker (bass guitar, vcs3 synthesizer, tape delay, binson echo) Tilbury (lowrey organ)
The music is on the border of the two decades, shades of Terry Riley, Pink Floyd in this performance.
The track names gives a clue, vintage 1960/70s organic sound, that only come with Live recordings.
Tracks 4,5,6: ‘Baby Binson Sonar’, ‘River Thames AM’ and ‘Goldsmiths Driving’ for example.
Jamie Muir, a high energy drummer, is explosive, and
its very evident on the later tracks. Scott Baker uses
a Futurama bass guitar with the frets removed
and the VCS3. John Tilbury’s Lowery T2
organ has a switch which allowed the whole tuning
to slide on Music Hall Tripping. 'Winged Dove' a lament on the passing of 1960?

‘Circle Piece’ (Recorded New Arts Lab 1970)
A rare recording of the Scratch Orchestra.
Performers: Alec Hill (bass clarinet) Hugh Shrapnel (oboe) Andy McKay (oboe) Chris May (clarinet) Phil Gebett (bass clarinet) Ed Fulton (violin) Baker (double bass) Bryn Harris (swanee whistle)
Christopher Hobbs (organ) John White (organ) Michael Parsons (soprano sax) & other members

Wire Magazine review of 'GRACILITY' - - - Tony Herrington monitors the Zelig-like presence of a mysterious Australian bassist and composer at key encounters between the thinkers and players shaping Swinging London's avant garde Laurie Scott Baker Music Now 2xCD "If you ever thought feedback was the best thing that ever happened to the guitar," wrote Lester Bangs in 1976 in one of several articles he devoted to worshiping/reviling Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, "well, Lou just got rid of the guitars." Long before Lou hurled his dirty bomb of a double album straight at the soft white underbelly of mid70s major label rock 'n' roll, however, there were some people who thought feedback was the best thing that ever happened to music per se - and who thought it could get rid of more than just the guitars. Writing in the sleevenotes to Source Records 1-6: Music Of The Avant Garde 1968-1971 (see The Boomerang), American composer David Behrman speculates on the wider implications of his notorious 1966 feedback drenched composition Wave Train: "I think it marked the moment when something radical in the spirit of the 1960s first came through to me. Wave Train was one of those pieces in which established techniques were thrown away and the nature of sound was dealt with from scratch." And writing in the sleevenotes to this double CD, Laurie Scott Baker describes his 1969 title piece as "an example of the types of distortion made by different amplification systems", stating "it comes out of free improvisation ... and the general questioning of the musical establishment" . Both Wave Train and Gracility are stone cold classics of that late 60s moment when oblique strategies were applied to early and unpredictable electronic music systems to scorch the earth and clear a path for previously unknown soundworlds of utterly alien design. At certain points both pieces are so overloaded with distortion even Lou might have thought they were pushing it a bit. Gracility is a 'text piece' and was taped by Hugh Davies at London's New Arts Lab in 1969. The instructions set up a system specifically designed to produce feedback - two guitarists and two bassists playing through overdriven valve and transistor amps - but require the players to keep that feedback in check, "to contain a genie in a bottle," as Baker puts it. Considering that prevailing radical spirit, was this a metaphor for a specific model of political resistance, subverting a system by working against it from the inside? Three of the players, guitarists Derek Bailey and Keith Rowe, and bassist Gavin Bryars, were among the most original voices in the then emergent theory and practice of improvised music, but for Gracility their personalities are utterly subjugated by the requirements of the 'score'. Maybe that's another metaphor. Or part of the same one. Either way, the facts of the matter are these: the performance space is supercharged with electrical energy; discrete sounds, serrated and packed with energy (more percussive tone-bombs than actual notes), burst or swell or crawl and scrape into the hissing silence, occasionally triggering halos of feedback, some of which form into noxious blizzards of pure noise. What the outwardly perverse demands of the piece's instructions do is fill the performance with a riveting tension, and the players suspend this tension in mid-air for 70 minutes of compelling avant garde activity. You could stack Wave Train and Gracility alongside other contemporary feedback monsters such as Robert Ashley's The Wolfman (also on the Source set), The MC5's "Looking At You" (the 1966 single version), White Light/White Heat and Hendrix at Monterey, divine the beginning of a line in their combined electric storms, follow it to Metal Machine Music, continue to plot it through the next three decades of DIY experimentalism and avant rock aktion and land slap bang in the middle of the present future past of no-input mixing boards and No Fun fests. Which is not another way of saying there is nothing new under the sun, rather that even the most abstruse, out-of-nowhere art initiatives gain traction by hauling some serious historical weight in their wake. Laurie Scott Baker is an unlikely precursor for the 21st century extremes of lower case improv and UPPER CASE NOISE. An Australian composer, bassist and graphic artist who landed up in London in the mid-60s, he seems to have been something of a Zelig figure, popping up at the intersections of numerous swinging scenes: psychedelia, Age of Aquarius hippiedom free jazz, improvised music, arts lab happenings, DIY electronics, early minimal ism. Gracility collects four previously unheard performances of pieces scored or initiated by Baker. Circle Piece was recorded at the same venue and around the same time as the title piece by a version of The Scratch Orchestra that included some of the honour roll members of the UK's emerging New Music Monday Club: Christopher Hobbs, John White, Michael Parsons. It is based on one of Baker's graphic scores, and judging by the fragment reproduced on the cover of the CD, you might reasonably interpret it as an invitation to lock into the hellish cyclical riffage of something like Soft Machine's "We Did It Again". But even at this early stage, graphic scores tended to manifest in one of two ways: as abstract sounds spinning in reverberant space (see Gracility), or as performances that aspired to ritual, which is what happens on Circle Piece. Throughout this 18 minute ceremonial, bowed basses, organs, oboes and clarinets play long held tones that dovetail or overlap and move forward in slow procession under what sounds like the heavy influence of Tibetan sacred music. Like a Giacinto Scelsi spectralist composition, the piece is thick with dramatic incident, and the sense of the musicians achieving a rarefied state of complete communion is palpable. In 1968, Baker took part in Music Now, an event that introduced the minimalism of Terry Riley and La Monte Young to Swingin' 60s London. Not long after this he was playing proto-Prog in a group that included guitarist Allan Holdsworth and drummer Jamie Muir, then fresh from The Music Improvisation Company and just about to become a member of King Crimson. Bass Chants & Cues emerges from all this protean, overlapping activity. It's a trio piece recorded at Goldsmiths College in 1972 by Muir, Baker on bass, VCS3 synth and tape delay system, and John Tilbury on Lowrey organ. For the first 20 minutes it meanders like early Soft . Machine minus the Beatles fixation, and you get the feeling that asking Tilbury to supress all his better instincts and make like Mike Ratledge on the organ made about as much sense as insisting Einstein forget all that quantum physics and get back to doing some basic sums instead. It doesn't add up. Lacking the disciplined repetition and formal rigour of American minimalism, it sounds whimsical and quaint. But then Tilbury locks into a two chord organ vamp, Baker ramps up a numbskull bass riff, Muir switches from rolling round the toms to beating out a brutal four our, and all of a sudden they're coming on like "Sister Ray" with all of Lou t knout and Buddy Miles sitting in for Mo Tucker. The music now sounds vicious an purposeful, full of distortion and wah-wah, a juggernaut of malevolent energy. During the period these pieces were taped, ferocious arguments were raging inside the revolutionary cells of UK experimental music. By 1975 the kind of extended techniques, pure sound lab experiments and polymorphous practices that -characterised Gracility, Circle Piece and Bass Chants & Cues were being denounced by the likes of Scratch Orchestra member Alan Brett as "bourgeois art... useless nonsense... devoid of revolutionary content". Some of Laurie Scott Baker's collaborators, including Rowe and Tilbury, responded by forming the self-explanatory Ideological Group, a rump of The Scratch Orchestra, to playa music that would "serve the struggle of the people", as they put it. Inevitably, their idea of the people's music was a patronising return to pub singalongs and 'popular classics', as if the working classes couldn't get their heads around radical and advanced sonic art if they tried: plenty could if you put it in front of them, a fact underlined by the mass culture penetration of The Beatles, Dylan, Hendrix, Roxy and the rest. At the same time, there was a reactionary return on the part of other Scratch Orchestra members to making music that, in the words of Christopher Hobbs, satisfied "the desire for melody, harmony, nostalgia, all the qualities missing from Boulez, say". (Poor Pierre, always the one to get it in the neck whenever someone feels the need to have a pop at the avant garde.) Baker and his work straddled the faultlines caused by these debates. The remaining piece on Gracility is Pibroch 1926, a six minute excerpt from a much " larger work commissioned to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1926 General Strike. It requires saxophonist Evan Parker to make like a Jacobite piper lamenting the dead of Culloden, blowing a generic pentatonic Scottish folk melody dead straight, with a little reverb on the track to convey some of that heroic Highland atmosphere. I don't doubt the sincerity and commitment, but it's as sentimental and meaningless an evocation of traditional folk forms as one of Jan Garbarek's ECM productions, and about as revolutionary. In the sleevenotes Baker writes, "I wanted to make a musical contribution to the greatest struggle facing humanity against exploitation." But Pibroch 1926 neither reaffirms class solidarity nor threatens the forces that undermine it. The other pieces here, along with much of the music on the Source set and even Lou's nihilistic opus, are what abide, because they still manifest the revolutionary drive of all great art to destroy, and so clear the ground for something else, something new, something better. By comparison, Pibroch 1926 turns to kitsch as soon as it hits the light.



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