Keith Rowe: The Room Extended

Keith Rowe: The Room Extended

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By Brian Olewnick 

In London, in the fall of 1965, a group of four musicians dissatisfied with the constrictions they had encountered in the British jazz scene, came together with a highly thought-out agenda to revolutionize the way music was created, rejecting rules firmly in place then (and still today) among even the most forward-looking of musicians: no repertoire, no solos, no regular rhythms, no melodies, no fear of silence, 100% improvised. Keith Rowe was one of the founding members. They called themselves AMM and soon added the composer Cornelius Cardew, an associate of John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen, who was seeking to escape what he thought were equivalent structures in the avant-garde classical world. As a quintet, AMM created music unlike anything else being done at the time and, being immersed in the London scene of the mid-60s in which musical boundaries were amorphous, found themselves on the one hand sharing bills with nascent bands like Pink Floyd, The Who and Cream while on the other working with and alongside Yoko Ono and Christian Wolff.

Rowe, a guitarist trained as a painter, adapted to his guitar the lessons he’d learned in the visual arts, placing it flat on a table or the ground as Jackson Pollock had done with his canvases, using it as a sound source to be approached with all manner of implements, opening up a vast new territory of exploration, one which would be enormously influential in rock, contemporary classical, and the field of free improvisation.

Brian Olewnick is a new music writer and visual artist. He helped run the avant-garde jazz loft Environ from 1976-1980 and was eventually seduced into writing about contemporary music in various forms from jazz to modern classical, free-improvisation and beyond. 

Read Musicworks' review written by Alexander Varty HERE.

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