18.Dezember.2011 / John Butcher / Self and Others / Karen Brookman / Modus Vivendi

The Certain Sundays 2011 Grand Finale took place in style, with a gorgeous spread of cakes baked by Magda Mayas and Anthea Caddy. Karen Brookman added a grand dame’s touch with flowers by her armchair, and treated us to an insider’s view of her private salon in London, which has seen a number of well-known British poets, performers, and improvising musicians over the last 4 years. Her description of development of Incus Records (including excerpts from new releases) provided a nice segue to John Butcher’s reflections on the continuity of his solo and ensemble music. Highlights of the latter included a documentary tour of several peculiar resonant spaces in which he has performed his recent feedback pieces, and a short solo performance.

Photos by Conor Clarke

Zu unserer Schlussveranstaltung in diesem Jahr haben wir zwei Ikonen der britischen Improvisationsmusik als Ehrengäste eingeladen: Brookman, die langjährige Leiterin von Incus Records, die vor kurzem einen eigenen Salon in London eröffnet hat, wird über diese beiden Tätigkeitsfelder sprechen und uns erzählen, was es für sie heißt, im Leben wie in der Arbeit unabhängig zu sein. Saxophonist John Butcher wird eine Solo-Improvisation zu Gehör bringen und im Anschluss besprechen, darüber hinaus wird er seine Ensemble-Komposition „somethingtobesaid“ aufführen: „Zwei Aktivitäten, die zum einen diametral entgegengesetzt, zum anderen aber auch ziemlich ähnlich sind.“

Two icons of improvised music in Britain will be the guests of honor at Certain Sundays’ 2011 finale. Brookman, longtime director of Incus Records and more recently of her own salon in London, will discuss the idea of what an independent existence means, and share thoughts on these two projects. Saxophonist John Butcher will perform and discuss solo improvisation, and share his group composition “somethingtobesaid”: “two activities, partly at two extremes, partly quite similar.”

John Butcher’s work ranges through improvisation, his own compositions, multi-tracked saxophone pieces and explorations with feedback and extreme acoustics. Originally a physicist, he left academia in 1982, and has since collaborated with hundreds of musicians, including Derek Bailey, John Stevens, Gerry Hemingway, The EX, Gino Robair, Rhodri Davies, John Edwards, Toshimaru Nakamura, Eddie Prevost, John Russell, John Tilbury, Paal Nilssen-Love, Phil Minton, and Steve Beresford. He is well known as a soloist, recently exploring unusual site-specific acoustics, and has released seven CDs of solo saxophone music. Butcher has toured and broadcast in Europe, Japan, North America and Australia, and was featured, playing solo, in the BBC TV program “Date with an Artist.”

His compositions include pieces for Polwechsel, Elision Ensemble, Rova Saxophone Quartet, Futurist Intonarumori, and “somethingtobesaid” for the John Butcher Group. Recent projects include Thermal with EX guitarist Andy Moor & Thomas Lehn, and the wind trio The Contest of Pleasures with Axel Dörner and Xavier Charles.


Karen Brookman has been a force in improvised music since the 1980s as the administrator of Incus Records and several editions of the legendary Company Week event founded by Derek Bailey. Incus Records was established in 1970. Owned and administered by musicians, the policy is centred on improvisation. Tony Oxley had the original idea, Michael Walters put up the money, and Derek Bailey and Evan Parker were recruited as co-directors. Since then, Walters, Oxley, and Parker have, at different times, left. Incus has issued over 100 recordings on formats as various as LPs, EPs, reel to reel tapes, cassettes, CDs, and videos. Some musicians and groups who made their first appearance on record on Incus include Jamie Muir, Steve Beresford, John Russell, Phil Wachsmann, Iskra 1903, The L.J.C.O., Balance, Steve Noble/Alex Maguire Duo, Tony Bevan Trio, Alex Ward/Steve Noble Duo, the Shaking Ray Levis, the John Zorn/Fred Frith Duo, the Eugene Chadbourne/John Zorn Duo, the Roger Smith/Neil Metcalfe Duo.

Incus Records