essay included with cassette March 1988 copyright 691w

TRIO OPEYE NATIVE INTELLIGENCE (Trance and Dream Cycles) (HBT 006)

Henry Kuntz: Violin and toy violin (Mexico), bamboo xylophone (Bali, Indonesia), balafon (Mali, Africa), tenor saxophone, flutes, drums, rattles, voice.

John Kuntz: ukuleles, guitar, mandolin, autoharp, metalaphone, toy xylophone and bamboo xylophone (piece 9), first drum (piece 9), small percussion. Brian Godchaux: violins, mandolin, bamboo xylophone (piece 8), thumb piano.

Recorded November 27 and December 6, 1987, San Francisco, California, and (piece 9) "live" February 5, 1988 "The Coffee Mill", Oakland California. All recordings are by Engineer Jim Cunningham. All but the February 5 recording are from original 15 IPS reel-to-reel recordings.

It's time to speak again about free improvisation and what it means in this instance.

As always, musical process precedes form, precedes content, precedes the "outcome", which is the overall aesthetic concept of the music or the feeling of it that is left at the end.

So naming of pieces of free improvisation (in this case for the purpose of presentation on cassette) is always somewhat superfluous and always takes place "after" the fact. This is a fundamental difference between free-improvised and composed music where in the latter a composer (we are all, of course, "composers") has some idea, musical or otherwise, he/she wishes to convey and writes a piece to convey this idea, message, or "vision".

Free improvisation, on the other hand, is "not" simply the reverse, where we play from scratch to determine a satisfying outcome. We like the "outcome" or final impression to be satisfying, of course; but more fundamentally, to play as a free improvisor, that is, to be a player always in process (and always in relation in this manner both to oneself and to the other players), places one in a state of mind not unlike that described in various accounts of trance, dream, or shamanic reality. (See, for example, Michael Harner's "The Way of the Shaman). And it demands an extremely fine-tuned alertness, response, flexibility, and on-going creativity from each of the players at all times.

To freely improvise in front of an audience, therefore, is not simply to give a "performance" in the usual sense. The musicians, rather, move into another state of BE-ing, another time-space frame, one where ordinary time is in fact suspended and only each moment is the most important moment, and not the final outcome; although it follows that (in a compositional sense) the final outcome may be quite satisfying, depending upon how organic the process itself has been. But being in the process is what is most important.

I don't believe any free improvisor, however, is entirely free of concept. But we try to let these concepts evolve just as organically as the music itself does, as I believe has been the case here.

So we did pre-conceive to some extent where the music was going to go -- in our choice of instruments, for example ("ethnic" and "world based" rather than culturally specific), in our openness to new ways of playing any of these instruments (opted for in the moment or as an approach in itself), in the availability of certain sounds (all of the various instruments and small percussion instruments) and, in actual PRESENT-ation, free-improvised use of masks, textiles, and unorthodox changes of costume (both in and out of cultural context)--all of which created the "field" in which this music could take place.

The music, the sounds, the concepts presented, happened then, as they did, because they were appropriate responses to the musical and extra-musical space each of us was in when we played them. And the nature of free improvisation itself, which I've tried to suggest here, means that one naturally tends to go into these kinds of spaces. (The music itself, however, may take quite different turns--with more humor surfacing, for example--or more, or less, of anything else.)

So in naming these pieces, we are naming a process more than a final reality, of which of course there is none.

And we are naming a quality in the music (and specifically in these pieces) which reflects this process.

Henry Kuntz (Trio Opeye) March 1988