I guess the first thing you ask is, what is Free Music?? As the title suggests, Free Music is the step people took after folks like John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra and others established the Free Jazz scene… This book focus mainly on the creative core of AMM and SME (Spontaneous Music Ensemble) and the main players from this era like John Stevens (Drums), Derek Bailey (guitar), Evan Parker (sax), and others.. They had this place called the Little Theatre club on the 3rd floor at 23 Garrett Street in London, where they could gather and play experimental music. The book describes this time very well and you get a real feel for how much of a struggle it was for these artists to do their thing for nearly zero people but they still did it, they still pushed the boundary of music forward in their own unique way. They actually did not care if people showed up but it was hard to make a living.
The introduction chapters (about 100 pages) take quite a long and winding road before the author really gets into the true focus of the book but it is worth reading as there is a lot of information you really need to know in order to understand the importance of what was happening in this very small music scene. IT is rare in the world of music to come out and be doing something no one had done before. These guys mentioned above really were true music pioneers. Some might still argue whether this is really music or not but these were highly trained musicians that were opening themselves up and setting themselves free of the chains that their formal training had set upon them to go sailing where no man had gone before…. Most people today would probably still not appreciate this music and might call it noise. You have to learn to listen in order to appreciate this kind of music. It does not come naturally to many people.
I really enjoyed the book and it has made me go back and take a listen to these old AMM tapes (London 3/23/66 and 12/16/69) that I got from my friend Doug Walker (Alien Planetscapes), who I consider a musical pioneer as well with his work with the Yeti Band in the 70s and Alien Planetscapes in the 80s til his death in 2005. I will for sure have to look up some of the AMM and SBE records that are available. My band, Øresund Space Collective, we play totally improvised music but we never have dared to explore the sonic landscape of these pioneers. Check out this cool book at the link below.. The other link is for the European Improviser’s web site.