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ARTIST
TITLE
Explorations (1970-1973)
FORMAT
3CD

LABEL
CATALOG #
PD 035CD PD 035CD
GENRE
RELEASE DATE
12/11/2020

Gentle Fire were a six-, then five-member group of composers/improvisers/performers based in London and Yorkshire. Most of the writings that cover the pioneers of experimental, electronic, and improvised music have given them scant attention. In addition to this, their recorded output is slim, the main item being an out-of-print LP, featuring their interpretations of graphic scores by Cage, Earle Brown, and Christian Wolff. Most of the existing Gentle Fire archive was kept privately by Hugh Davies. After Hugh died in 2005, it was shared between various institutions. This release owes much to Hugh's meticulous record keeping as well as the archives at the British Library and Special Collections at Goldsmiths, University of London. Listening sessions at the British Library were a revelation, it was like discovering a missing link in the evolution of experimental music, but above all it sounded so undated and fresh. The release is divided into three sections. The first CD, recorded between 1970 and 1971 contains four studio and two concert recordings of graphic and text scores: two parts of Stockhausen's Aus den sieben Tagen, and one piece each by Earle Brown, John Cage, Toshi Ichiyanagi, and Christian Wolff. Gentle Fire were active between 1968 and 1974 and were especially active during the early '70s, appearing at numerous European avant-garde festivals. They even ended up in Iran playing in Stockhausen's Sternklang, and improvising at dawn at Hafez's tomb. The second and third CDs focus on their own works; disc two dates from 1973 and was recorded during a two-day residency at Radio Bremen. The five pieces on this disc cover a wide variety of styles and include a 23-minute version of "Group Composition VI" which is their only text-based piece and uses processed and filtered speech. Disc three is a recording of their appearance at ICES 72, a legendary festival that took place at the Roundhouse in London. Over the course of two chaotic weeks a vast number of the world's experimental musicians took to the stage. Miraculously, the whole of the Gentle Fire concert has been preserved. It consists of a performance of their "Group Composition IV", centered around a large metal sculpture that all members of the group could play at the same time. The piece actually had its première the previous year on the original pyramid stage at the first Glastonbury Fair. There are several photos of the event included in the booklet that accompanies the CDs. 48-page booklet; edition of 500 (numbered).