Another Memorable Total Music Meeting

for CODA

Gradually returning to fiscal health – its artistic vigor has never been in doubt – the 37th annual Total Music Meeting will take place November 3 to November 6 at the Berlinische Galerie Landesmuseum für Moderne Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur in Berlin’s now fashionable Kreuzberg.district. Concerts begin at 8 pm and feature three to four performances each night.

Although the program has not yet been officially announced, participants definitely include British saxophonists John Butcher and Evan Parker; Americans like trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and drummer Gino Robair, the Loos ensemble from the Netherlands; the trio of Swiss saxophonist Urs Leimgruber, American bassist Barre Phillips and French pianist Jacques Demierre and German musicians like trumpeter Axel Dörner, drummer Günter Baby Sommer and multi-reedist Wolfgang Fuchs. Attendance per night is usually in the 300 person range.

Began in 1968 and running concurrently with the more mainstream Berlin Jazz Festival, the TMM is organized by a committee made up of Fuchs as artistic director, counselor G. Fritze Margull and Helma Schleif of FMP Free Music Production, who oversees the organization and the program. These three took the helm in 2000 to broaden TMM’s profile by presenting acoustic, electro-acoustic and electronic ensembles from all over the world, showcasing young improvisers as well as master musicians, and by extending the program with workshops, lectures, panel discussions and exhibitions.

That was the same year when the festival, which over the years has presented a virtual who’s who of improvised music from German bassist Peter Kowald and pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach to Canadians, pianist Paul Plimley and the Glass Orchestra, was shortened to three days as its subsidy was slashed. A more serious setback occurred in 2003 when Berlin cut off all funding. Subsidized by FMP and helped by world-renowned musicians, working for a fraction of their fees, TMM survived. Although a lump sum subsidy from Berlin is available this year, for its long-term survival the festival is also involved in fund-raising and the sale of art created by Kowald, Max Neumann, Hanns Schimansky and Urs Jaeggi and others.

This artistic component is further emphasized in 2005 as the Galerie Landesmuseum will be open until midnight during all four days, so that concertgoers also have the opportunity to view its various expositions.

As in the past, every TMM concert will be recorded for potential CD release, a situation which over the years has not only resulted in the preservation of a marathon series of concerts by Cecil Taylor in 1988, but also landmark gigs such as Fuchs’ King Übü Örchestrü’s 20th anniversary celebration and Butch Morris’ Berlin Skyscraper conduction.

With improvised music “a never ending work-in-progress and a celebration of musical creativity and spiritual power” by players prepared to live his and her music”, notes Schleif, “the TMM contributes by giving a large number of musicians a platform to perform and present their state of the art.”

— Ken Waxman