Fred Frith Guitar
Wu Fei Guzheng
Anantha Krishnan Mridangam, Tablas
Marque Gilmore Drums, Electronics
Tilman Müller Trumpet
Patrice Scanlon Electronics
Daniela Cattivelli Electronics

Intakt CD 176_2011

Compositions / improvisations by Fred Frith and all the
participating musicians. Recorded at SWR studio 1 in
Baden-Baden on November 29th, 2007, and in Saarbrücken
on December 1st, 2007. Sound engineer: Alfred Habelitz.
Recording engineer: Wolfgang Bachner.
Mix: Manfred Seiler and Fred Frith. Mastering: Manfred Seiler.
Cover art: Heike Liss. Liner notes: Fred Frith, Reinhard Kager.
Graphic design: Jonas Schoder.

"Clearing Customs" is based on an approximately 75 minute long, graphic structural model by which the most diverse types of musical events are linked together along a time line. A notated instrumental loop which can be heard in different versions in the course of the piece, serves as a thematic filler between these heterogeneous passages.

Fred Frith's choice of instruments was in accordance with the classic jazz criteria: strings, skins, breath and, additionally, circuitry, meaning electronics. The line-up of the group, however, veered away from the conventional selection of jazz instruments – not least through the integration of Asian instruments and electronics.

Fred Frith follows the lead taken by the concept of the British theatre maker Peter Brook, who tries to integrate artists with completely different cultural experiences into an ensemble. Also Brook's vision of a 'poor theatre', which can do almost without stage design and only gains its intense theatricality by means of the interaction of its actors, has influenced this septet's way of playing. It is not the grand, flaunting gestures that define the quality of his music but the interaction, the listening to each other, the fine tuning of sounds.

From the liner notes of Reinhard Kager

Photo: Eva Z. Genthe


«Clearing Customs» basiert auf einem rund 75-minütigen, graphischen Strukturmodel, durch das musikalische Ereignisse der verschiedensten Art entlang einer Timeline miteinander verknüpft werden. Als thematischer Kitt zwischen den heterogenen Passagen dient ein ausnotierter instrumentaler Loop, der im Verlauf des Stücks in verschiedenen Varianten ertönt.

Die instrumentale Auswahl traf Fred Frith nach klassischen Jazzkriterien: strings, skins, breath und zusätzlich circuitry, also Elektronik. Dennoch entfernte sich die Zusammensetzung der Gruppe weit vom herkömmlichen Jazzinstrumentarium – nicht zuletzt durch die Integration asiatischer und elektronsicher Instrumente.

Fred Frith folgt dem Konzept des britischen Theatermachers Peter Brook, Künstler mit ganz verschiedenen kulturellen Erfahrungen in ein Ensemble einzubinden. Auch Brooks Vorstellung eines ,armen Theaters', das (fast) ohne Bühnenbild auskommt und seine immense Theatralik nur in den Interaktionen der Darsteller gewinnt, beeinflusste die Musizierweise dieses Septetts. Nicht die große, auftrumpfende Geste bestimmt die Qualität seiner Musik, sondern das Miteinander, das Aufeinander-Hören, die feine Abstimmung der Klänge.




Clearing Customs

by Fred Frith

I’ve never particularly thought of myself as a jazz musician. My musical background is quite eclectic, covering classical, folk, blues, rock and experimental music from a relatively early age, But jazz is something I have admired from a distance – an intriguing, inspiring, tree-shaking life force that inevitably informed my work even as I recognized that it was not my story. Brubeck, Miles, Mingus, Ornette, Coltrane, Sun Ra – my icons, my dreams, my secret life, but as inaccessible to me as were the worlds of my other heroes: Bartok, Messiaen, Stockhausen. My world, but not ‘my’ world. Meanwhile, of course, the word jazz is used, rightly or wrongly, to loosely describe just about any supposedly freely improvised music. So we began from the premise that what we’d be doing here was improvising. The trouble is, I’ve never been interested in improvisation as a “genre” with unspoken rules and constraints every bit as rigid as those it’s supposed to be escaping from. Must a tonal melody be merely a parody? Is a simple chord sequence beneath us?  A regular pulse a sell-out?  The only thing that matters to me is that the music is alive, and communicates its vitality as directly as possible. My role models as an improviser were not the founders of LMC, or ICP, or FMP, or AMM, but the Pink Floyd in 1968, the Grateful Dead on Anthem to the Sun, the Mothers of Invention, and my colleagues in Henry Cow.
In the improvisation ensemble at Mills College there may be an oud player from Palestine, a Japanese kotoist, an Indian bansuri player, a classical violist, a laptop performer, and a free jazz alto saxophonist. They have to learn to respect each other, but also that they can only really do so by respecting themselves. New Jazz Meeting afforded a fantastic opportunity to explore the idea of improvisation in much the same way that Peter Brook explored the meaning of theatre – by putting together “actors” who do not necessarily speak the same “language” and who come from quite different personal and cultural experiences, and having them live and work together simply and without distractions, even if in this case it was only for a few days. After the first rehearsals I made a list, trying to get at the essence of what was going on.

—I am here, and I am alive.
—To live, I have to breathe.
—I am surrounded by sound. Familiar. Unfamiliar.
—To survive, I must be ready for the unexpected.
—To survive I must learn to communicate with others.
—First question in a conversation: “Who are you?”
     Second question: “What do we have in common?”
—Sometimes conversation means to disagree. Disagreement is best when it is clear. Disagreement should
     also be a matter of respect.
—Not just pretending to agree – superficial acceptance - but acknowledgement of distance. The tension
     between: “we are here together” and “we are here separately”.
—Ritualized disagreement – “You say this, and I say this.”
—To delight in being alive.
—To delight in being alive is to accept the right of others to live?
—To be a virtuoso is to strive to overcome one’s limitations.
—Exhilaration and wonder – how did we do that?
—Intimacy. Regret. Longing.
—From the moment we are aware, we are aware of transience, and decay.
—Repetition equals survival? Reaffirming what we know.
—On the other hand our deep desire to explore and embrace the unfamiliar— to travel, to learn, to try to

There are many more sentences waiting to be added to this list. I’m deeply grateful for the generosity and
engagement of the musicians, not to mention their high spirits. It wasn’t jazz, but it was a lot of fun.

Fred Frith, 2011


Fred Frith on Intakt Records



Schweiz: 30 SFr. plus 3 SFr. Porto
Deutschland/Österreich: 18 Euro plus 3 Euro Porto/Versand
International: VISA / MASTER: 30 SFr. plus 4.50 SFr. Postage
Order adress: Intakt Records, Postfach 468, 8024 Zürich, Fax: 0041-44-383 82 33

Please click here to order


Intakt: home