Thuistezien 199 — 07.03.2021

Phil Minton & Roger Turner
Symptom Bauhaus

Leaving no stone unturned, Phil Minton and Roger Turner are two highly esteemed improvising veterans that bring to light every possible sound that can be created with their respective instruments. With both players hailing from England, their wide-reaching individual careers intertwined from an early stage. Amongst the innumerable projects and collaborations they have been involved in individually since the late 60s, their collaboration as an improvising duo has been a recurring feature of their respective outputs for decades, leading to the impressive and breathtaking musical collaboration witnessed at their performance at West in 2019.

Drummer Roger Turner exposes what seems to be every possible sound to be found in – and around – a drum kit: in his hands mallets and drumsticks can produce sound without even needing to strike a surface, the stands and hardware that hold the drums in place are turned into instruments themselves, and the individual drums that make up the kit produce more sounds and tambers than would be possible with most other drummers. He can perform whole concerts with just a single drum, or he can turn unexpected objects into his own musical instruments. Matched with his incredible energy, a large pool of techniques brought together from many styles of drumming as well as his own invention, and his musicality in shaping the form of his improvisations, even in his 70s, he is a force to be reckoned with.

Similarly, the trumpeter-turned-vocalist Phil Minton, brings out every possible sound that can come out of someone’s mouth and throat, all the more impressive as he just turned 80 this year: he showcases opera-like baritone lows, high-pitched singing-screams that wouldn’t seem out of place in a pagan ritual, infant-like garglings and jumbled word-like sounds, raspy and gasping sounds that you might think emanated from an old man on his deathbed, as well as an endless array of twirps, buzzes, hisses, animal sounds, whistles and yelps. Many of these seem to be sounds a human isn’t supposed to be able to produce. And if you close your eyes while listening to him perform, you might think you are hearing a fast-changing collage of audio snippets featuring recordings of animals, music, and field recordings from all across the world. Most of these are also sounds you wouldn’t expect to hear in music, and less so from a singer, which is why several contemporary composers have also found him endlessly fascinating to compose works for.

Aside from their endless ingenuity in exploring unheard sounds and the incredible virtuosity needed to produce them, the duo shows a delicate musicality in the creation of far-moving abstract musical narratives. They showcase a visceral vitality, but also an admirable self-control and communication that allows them to move together through a jagged terrain ranging from the calm and barely audible, to large walls of sound that seem much bigger than what one might expect the duo could produce. They can explode in uproar in one moment, then take your breath away by suddenly dropping into silence in perfect tandem. In their 13-minute performance they transport us from free jazz, to the middle of a classical orchestral crescendo, to industrial landscapes, to forest settings, to noisy living rooms, to busy streets, to a death bed, to a baby’s crib, to a pagan-ritual and who knows where else. It’s for you to witness and experience and discover where it takes you.

Text: James Alexandropoulos - McEwan