Caroline Kraabel is an improviser: Going Outside.
On 28 March 2019 at 12.45 I walked to Westminster, with saxophone, to hear and play through the sounds around the parliament buildings. So many sounds. The chewy shifty human sounds of busy streets, elusive as they slide past : engines in motion, walkers, piper on the bridge. Often their complexity and density boggles the ear, the playing sense – like translating a dance, a lake into mere words. Turn the corner to walk along the front of the parliament building, see the memorial stone for the policeman, Keith Palmer, killed almost exactly two years ago, a few hours after I’d crossed this same bridge in the same way, just getting on with my own life. The stone is new, clean, beflowered. Touching.
Hordes of people. Some on traffic island with megaphones, howling for brexit. Man in yellow vest (I did not realise until this moment of writing that it might have had some significance) approaches me– a suspension, curiosity, sniffing at me like a dog… but deciding there is only one possible response, ‘Are you with us or against us?’ I just played, as I had decided – here to listen and play, not to speak. TRAITOR TRAITOR TRAITOR he shouts and keeps shouting, TRAITOR TRAITOR, again and again, tentatively slapping at the bell of my saxophone. I play or reflect his sounds back at him and after a last slap, easily evaded (but a jolt to bell can cost teeth) he turns away disgusted. Carry on. No one else says anything though a few stare or laugh, at him, at me… Farther down on the other side of the road the pro-Europe demonstrators stand, ranks of flags blue and gold, blue and red and white. A man’s voice hoarse keeps slowly shouting S T O P B R E X I T… but I don’t see him, he’s elsewhere. I leave the obvious indicators of conflict behind and try to hear engines again, their glissandi, density of coloured sound, shifting harmonics. Tiny scraps of birdsong appear in any gaps – I’m walking past Victoria Tower Gardens. Spring, after all. (Re-) birth of what ? I write this 36 hours later and the people and government of the ‘U’ K seem exponentially more divided even than yesterday. For 40 years, inequality has been carefully nurtured and anything standing in its way ruthlessly disposed of. Now these few days during which the Tory Government’s poorly realised spectacle of venality, self-interest and refusal to listen, based on the true story behind their accumulation of affluence and power for the few, could be the fulcrum for a drastic and very rapid change for the worse, as the most aggressive, thoughtless and unscrupulous seize upon their scapegoats and the vacuous moment.
29 March 2019
© Giuseppe Tamponi
CD Released on the EMANEM label, featuring live large-group and quartet versions of Kraabel’s piece LAST, for improvisers with occasional interjections from the pre-recorded voice of Robert Wyatt singing a song composed by Kraabel for this purpose. Musicians' profits from sales of this CD will go to two NGOs working with migrants in northern France, Care4Calais and Utopia56.
Price £10.00 plus Royal Mail postage £1.50
A 20-piece saxophone/voice orchestra, all women. Caroline Kraabel has made 4 long pieces for this group since 1998. Mass Producers has recorded one CD, Performances for Large Saxophone Ensemble 1 and 2, and one analogue (vinyl) LP, Performances for Large Saxophone Ensemble 3 and 4, featuring guest Maggie Nicols (voice).
A duo with pianist Veryan Weston. One CD, Five Shadows, of live concert recordings in acoustically interesting venues; many live performances.
This project went on for a couple of years. Phil Hargreaves (tenor and soprano sax, flute) and Caroline Kraabel recorded duos in a variety of very different-sounding spaces in Liverpool – a road tunnel under the Mersey, an anechoic chamber at the university, a huge dome, George’s Hall, etc. One CD, Where We Were, Shadows of Liverpool, where these recordings are crossfaded and intercut to become an acoustic portrait of Liverpool.
A solo performance work using: some live tape-recording of improvisations, subsequently to be re-improvised with; a giant sheet of newspaper; dance; songs; fake blood; 10 metres of red fabric; spoken poems and also improvised and composed solo saxophone/voice parts. Toured across Europe, Canada and the USA, released as a CD. This piece was a precursor to Mass Producers.