Creatively Sourcing New International Music

For MusicWorks Issue #104
By Ken Waxman

What began in 2001 as a recording outlet for a group of Lisbon improvisers has in less than a decade grown to a CD catalogue of more than 170 releases with an emphasis on fresh, innovative sounds. Under the direction of violist Ernesto Rodrigues, every month or so Creative Sources (CS) Recordings releases two or three CDs from committed international musicians. “Creative Sources is musician-run for musicians,” declares Rodrigues. “We’re not here for the money, but for the art.

“We deal with certain kinds of music, like ‘near silence’, lowercase, electro-acoustic, new improv, and some post-Free-Jazz. The musicians involved are mostly young, with new approaches to improv and composition, silent stuff and texturized sound, usually from the manipulation of the instrument, few notes, and extended techniques.”

CS welcomes demos showcasing what Rodrigues describes as “strong stuff, clear and focused – or even if the process is interesting musically and worth hearing.” Deciding to release the session, he asks musicians to supply audio masters then the violist and Carlos Santos, a graphic designer and computer musician, design the package, perform sound adjustments, have 500 copies pressed and distribute them. In exchange for supplying half the funds, the players receive about 300 CDs they sell themselves, while CS markets the rest.

CS’s international focus developed with its ninth release, No Furniture (Creative Sources CS 009 CD) by Berliners, trumpeter Axel Dörner, clarinetist Kai Fagaschinski and Boris Baltschun on sampler. CS already had a Web presence and had received good reviews for its first releases. “They (the Germans) heard and enjoyed our work and approached us about their session. We liked the music, which was in the same range as ours, so we had the chance to augment the catalogue. We established ourselves as a label that cares about this kind of music and promotes it. From then on we started to receive lots of demos from around the world for release…We refuse a lot of them,” admits Rodrigues.

Although some players on our roster put out discs on other labels, others do not. “Musicians with known credits that have some works in this kind of structure approach CS, in spite of having very different work on other labels,” he adds.

Recently for instance Goldstripe (Creative Sources CS 121 CD), showcased Bay area laptop and electronics-manipulator Mark Trayle’s lively and unsettling static-undulating drone compositions and improvisations using data read from the magnetic stripes of credit and bank cards. On the acoustic side, Swiss pianist Jacques Demierre’s One is Land (Creative Sources CS 131 CD) concentrates on high-frequency, subterranean sound waves wrenched from the instrument’s soundboard by pounding its lowest-pitched keys amplified with pedal-power. Sureau (Creative Sources CS 112 CD) is a rare example of the expressive vocal gymnastics of Brussels-based Jean-Michel Van Scouwburg, backed by percussionist Kris Vanderstraeteen and bassist Jean Demey

An earlier notable example of New chamber music is On Creative Sources (Hail Satan) (Creative Sources CS 093), from Spanish bass clarinetist Carlos Galvez Taroncher, German pianist Magda Maydas, Dutch bassist Koen Nutters and Norwegian drummer Morton Olsen. This trans-European admixture, exhibits the spacey tonal rotation and sudden introduction of extended timbres that relate to jazz-improv as well as notation.

CS was also one of the first labels to expose some local experimentalists internationally. Abu Tarek (Creative Sources CS 025 CD) for instance, documents the unique choked and splintered brass excavations of Lebanese trumpeter Mazen Kerbaj, in the company of fellow micro-tonalist, Austrian trumpeter Franz Hautzinger. Absence (Creative Sources CS 034 CD) showcased the tremolo tongue rhythms, percussive vibrations and dramatic pauses of Argentineans, trumpeter Leonel Kaplan and percussionist Diego Chamy in a trio with Dörner. Meanwhile Metz (Creative Sources CS 015 CD) is unstructured Free Music from France that used acoustic strings and reeds to expose what sound like synthesizer wave forms. The experimenters in 2003 were clarinetist Xavier Charles, tenor saxophonist Bertrand Denzler, pianist Frédéric Blondy, violinist Mathieu Werchowski and guitarist Jean-Sébastian Mariage.

Closer to its home, Stills by the Variable Geometry Orchestra (Creative Sources 100 CD) is a three-CD set featuring 46 participants in the Lisbon free music scene in large ensembles. With Rodrigues playing and “conduction-ating” the detailed, multi-shaded polyphony balances orchestral integration with solo permutations. Included are players such as cellist Guilherme Rodrigues, drummer José Oliveira and Santos, who with the label manager/violist were the core of Lisbon improvisers CS recorded initially. Stills’ layered performances draw on currents of alternating and asymmetrical jazz, rock, folkloric and New music.

As Rodrigues states: “From its creation, every work of art is fragile and needs to be nourished and shown to others, or time will erase it and it will be lost among information going on everywhere. The major labels think about profits, not music and the musicians, or they think about ‘crystallized’ forms of music that do not challenge the listener in new ways.”