Friday, June 19, 2015

Multiphonic Manglesdorff - A JazzProfiles Snapshot

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Since surprising audience and experts alike with his polyphonic playing during an unaccompanied solo concert which was part of the cultural programme of the Munich Olympic Games of 1972, he has been steadily working on his technique.
The procedure appears simple.

Albert Mangelsdorff extends the tonal spectrum of the instrument by singing a second well-chosen tone to the tone he plays on his instrument. Once the two reach the right balance the overtones generate independent sounds. A third tone thus materializes and, depending on the acoustic qualities of the surroundings, others follow.

"No one knew where this would lead to," Albert Mangelsdorff, thinking back on the first experiments, recalls. Meanwhile everyday experience with the new technique long ago led to an expansion of his mental musical system of reference beyond the traditional harmonic patterns to one that takes into account the potential relationships of the overtones present in every tone played. "Polyphonic playing has also helped me compose and arrange", he says twenty years after the first trials, then considered sensational. "I'm making discoveries to this day."
- Werner Stiefele, Freelance Journalist

Much of what I post to the blog centers around my attempts at in-depth profiles about the many styles of Jazz and its makers.

These features are not critically researched historical documents, but rather, compilations of what I and others have to say about the particular aspect of Jazz being profiled.

Occasionally, I come across another perspective concerning a previously posted profile which I think merits interest.

In the future, these new discoveries will become new postings in the form of brief “snapshots” that will offer a different focal point on an already-featured aspect of the music and is makers.

As a case in point, the following “snapshot” of Albert Mangelsdorff is drawn from Gene Lees’ annotation in Jazz Lives: 100 Portraits in Jazz which he co-authored with photographer John Reeves and the concluding video contains an audio example of the multiphonic Mangelsdorff at work.

“Though it entails the same sort of abilities that go into classical music — instrumental virtuosity and the skills of the composer — jazz differs from classical in an essential way. In the classical tradition, the composer is a monarch dictating to instrumentalists who strive to interpret his wishes. In Jazz, the instrumentalist is a composer, albeit of spontaneous music (as opposed to what Bill Evans called "contemplative" music).

It is not surprising, then, that dictators have loathed it. While failing to understand it as a musical art form, they correctly perceived it as a challenge to authority. Hitler's minions denounced it as "Negroid-Jewish" music, and sent some of its players to death in concentration camps. This is the source of Dizzy Gillespie's comment, "Men have died for this music. You can't get more serious than that."

Even in Hitler's Germany the prohibition failed, for many gifted young Germans were enamored of jazz. One of these was Albert Mangelsdorff, who played violin and guitar before he took up trombone at the age of twenty. Albert played his way up through the different schools of jazz, through bebop into the contemporary free-jazz movement. He has played trombone in big bands and small groups, led quartets and quintets, and recorded in an enormous range of contexts, even solo. Yes, solo. He has developed a technique of bringing out the overtones on the trombone so that he can play actual chords on the instrument, called "multiphonics" by some writers.

Hearing him play in Chicago where he went to photograph Albert, John Reeves described the effect as resembling the sound of wind blowing across a thousand open beer bottles. It is quite startling. John Lewis, who in the early sixties recorded an album with Mangelsdorff titled Animal Dances, has called Albert "one of the three most important trombone players in jazz."

Gentle of manner, with the face of a German lyric poet, Mangelsdorff is one of those musicians who helped establish jazz as an international art form.”

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