FORMANEX Treatise - Live in Extrapool CD [Fibrr] Cornelius Cardew wrote his graphic scores at about the same time he joined the AMM collective (of which he was a member from 1963 to 1967): 193 pages of graphic partitions which required the musician to interpret them - lines and signs - in totality and to improvise, using the graphs as a starting point. For Cardew the aim was totally political: to reverse the musical hierarchy and do away with the specialisation which reinforced it. The era saw many attempt to go beyond conventional musical notation (Earle Brown, John Cage, Tom Phillips, Iannis Xenakis), and use it to reinvigorate the process of play; Cardew placed improvisation at the centre of his conception of the role of the composer (even if he himself criticised this illusion in his later essay, 'Stockhausen Serves Imperialism'). Art Lange made the first complete recording of Treatise for the Hat Hut label in 1999, and Sonic Youth recorded an electric version for their Goodbye 20th Century album, which appeared a year later.
More recently, under the guidance of Keith Rowe, a group of young Nantes musicians - Anthony Taillard (guitar, bass), Christophe Havard (saxophone, amplified objects), Julien Ottavi (percussion, electroacoustic system) [Havard and Ottavi had previously collaborated with Rowe on the [N:Q] CD, also released on the Fibrr label] and Emmanuel Leduc (electronics) - have performed a selection of Cardew scores, illustrating the validity of Treatise as a political project, and its capacity to open up new landscapes of sound. (Rowe is also the catalyst for the MIMEO group's performing Cardew scores.) Five pieces are assembled here, interpreting and mixing pages 43, 67, 68, 69, 71, 83, 84, 85, 11, 112, 113, 114, 115, and 116, all drawn from the collection of Cardew's graphic scores. Formanex's version is undoubtedly the most chaotic yet, basing itself on the collective instrumental energy of its members, who control points of tension right up to the brink of sonic rupture, after which any sound disappears in the overall texture. However, the guitar - using techniques borrowed from Rowe and Taku Sugimoto - sometimes evokes colours which are too recognisable, bringing the sonorous mass back into familiar territory. Nevertheless, Formanex's approach to Cardew is in no way a mere repetition of learned sounds (though this trick is useful in improvisation) - their interpretation is spontaneous, a human and musical meeting: the Rowe method. It would seem that the current French improv scene - viewed not in the context of identity and nationality, but as a cultural scene with its own history - is developing its own individual approaches and innovations, with groups like Phéronome, Marchetti/Noetinger, Trio Horizontal, Tore, Kristoff K Roll and Formanex opening up new territories of play. -Michel Henritzi