"somethingtobesaid is an hour-long composition for octet commissioned by the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival where this performance was recorded in November, 2008.
For Butcher it’s an opportunity to merge his usual improvisational practice with composed elements in such a way that composition might lead improvisation into new areas without inhibiting it. Notated pitches and playing intentions were developed from voices on a ten-year-old answering machine tape, a source that surfaces occasionally, and other pre-recorded elements include the sound of multi-tracked wine glasses as well as some sounds from the ensemble’s musicians.
somethingtobesaid is intimately tied to processes of memory, including repetition, transformation and expectation. There’s a mingling of acoustic, electronic and pre-recorded elements that blurs both time and source. The piece unfolds like a topographical map of an area both new and oddly familiar.
Its very first sound is a drone that defies identification, yet the occasionally surfacing, slightly muffled, voices will resonate with shared experiences of telephone messages and dreams. Different combinations of improvisers create shifting textures and layers of association and density, from the vague and skein-like airiness of “i” with Burn, Cooper, Lehn and Linson, to the sudden hurly-burly and grit of Butcher’s multiphonic tenor and Edwards’ bass as they emerge from “ii,” reminding one why this was recorded and broadcast by the BBC’s Jazz on 3 (this suggestion of jazz reappears on “xiii,” with Butcher’s phrasing and tone seemingly more rooted in customary modern jazz practice than one might expect, this in itself apparently an element of memory). These emerging sub-groups highlight the sense of continuous evolution, while underlying compositional elements seem to create a sense of foreboding, made explicit in the cryptic and fragmented words. There’s even a sense of time coming apart, as in the conclusion of “v” where there’s a sudden collocation of voices, low register-bass and the chirping upper-register of Butcher’s soprano saxophone. That disintegrative process is still more explicit in “vi,” where there’s a “duet” between Burn’s live piano and a recording evidently manipulated by dieb13, sound seemingly becoming substance in a distorting mirror.
Clearly the improvisation takes on different dimensions and assumes new directions based on the composed elements, and the ultimate shape of the piece has coherence and depth compounded of the two methodologies and their abilities to reshape one another.
Somethingtobesaid is important and powerful work, mixing mystery and certainty in subtle and sometimes disturbing ways."
POINT OF DEPARTURE - Stuart Broomer.
Chris Burn - piano
John Butcher - saxophones & pre-recordings
Clare Cooper - harp & guzheng
dieb13 - turntables
John Edwards - bass
Thomas Lehn - synth
Adam Linson - bass & electronics
Gino Robair - percussion
released July 8, 2017
Recorded live at HCMF, 2008 by John Cole for BBC "Jazz on 3".
Cover painting by Philip Butcher.