Introducing the Ouseburn Collective (mark 2).

People have asked me (well OK, one person has asked me): when are you going to post some music up on this blog?

Bearing in mind the content of my last post, it’s a fair question. So here are a couple of excerpts from on – going project the Ouseburn Collective: Shmorgust and Son of Shmorgust.

The Collective’s previous release saw them contract in size, leaving only their founder member (me) creating programmed drum parts to provide a ‘base’ upon which improvisations, sometimes heavily edited, were applied.

Tired of finding myself in situations where others dictated the nature of musical material, this retreat into ‘complete control’ was an attempt to realise my own creative agency free from external restriction. But working by myself has its own limitations, so I’m now recording with other musicians –  who don’t feel the need to tell me what to play; nor do they want to be told. And this relinquishing of ‘complete control’ has been liberating.

When I struggle to create something satisfactorily ‘new’  I’m often reminded of John Cage’s criticism of improvisation – that the process only produces what a musician already knows. Improvisers will recognise what he’s getting at: I can think of my own frustration at consciously trying not to play the same learned patterns and sounds in order that I might create something different.

In once sense Cage is right of course – how can we really stand outside our memory and experience to avoid repeated materials, styles and sounds? Not only is this impossible, but is it completely desirable? For example, when improvising with others, we will come up against ‘other knowns’ and the resulting synthesis has to be unique in some way: 2 or 3 ‘knowns’= a fresh unknown?

And I think that Cage’s objection could be levelled at any method of composition – especially if we think of improvisation as composition in ‘fast form’. After all, the challenge for any composer is to produce something that is, in some respect at least, different from what he or she already knows.

So, my recent experience suggests that these challenge are made easier if compositional/ improvisational process is collaborative. Interacting with the performances of others in real time, no matter how familiar they are, can (inevitably?) produce something new; something not previously known.


Bruce Sinclair – Drums.

Michael Cook   – Bass, keys, washing machine.

Son of Shmorgust

Bruce Sinclair – Drums.

Michael Cook – Bass, guitar, keys.


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