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Keith Rowe / John Tilbury - Duos For Doris

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Artist: Keith Rowe / John Tilbury

Album: Duos For Doris

Label: Erstwhile

Review date: May. 19, 2003

No Will: No Representation, No World

“If two men who were friends in their youth meet again when they are old, after being separated for a life-time, the chief feeling they will have at the sight of each other will be one of complete disappointment at life as a whole, because their thoughts will be carried back to that earlier time when life seemed so fair as it lay spread out before them in the rosy light of dawn, promised so much – and then performed so little. This feeling will so completely predominate over every other that they will not even consider it necessary to give it words, but on either side it will be silently assumed, and form the ground-work of all they have to talk about. “

Tilbury and Rowe haven’t been separated for their entire lives. Over the past 40 years, their relationship has been well documented on countless recordings by the British improvisatory collective, AMM (Though, Tilbury acquired what could be considered tenure only 20 years ago). However, Duos For Doris, is, in many ways, Rowe and Tilbury’s happenstance reintroduction to each other. This recording stands, in the massive, adored canon of AMM’s work, as a private side note, a conversation with respect to a long history, of time passed and lost.

“If we lose ourselves in contemplation of the infinite greatness of the universe in space and time, meditate on the past millennia and on those to come; or if the heavens at night actually bring innumerable worlds before our eyes, and so impress on our consciousness the immensity of the universe, we feel ourselves reduced to nothing; we feel ourselves as individuals, as living bodies, as transient phenomena of will, like drops in the ocean, dwindling and dissolving into nothing. But against such a ghost of our own nothingness, against such a lying impossibility, there arises the immediate consciousness that all these worlds exist only in our representation, only as modifications of the eternal subject of pure knowing. This we find ourselves to be, as soon as we forget individuality; it is the necessary, conditional supporter of all worlds and of all periods of time. The vastness of the world, which previously disturbed our peace of mind, now rests within us; our dependence on it is now annulled by its dependence on us. “

While the kind of sentimentality hinted at here is precisely the antithesis to the decidedly Modernist strains that so much Free Improvisation discharges in spades, Rowe and Tilbury are highly unique, personal, and emotional, only the vernacular has changed.

“When a great mind is interrupted, disturbed and distracted it is capable of no more than a commonplace mind, because its superiority consists in concentrating all its forces on one single point and object, in the same way as a concave mirror concentrates all its rays, and this is precisely what noisy interruption prevents it from doing.”

For a musical approach so often about immediacy, singular moments in time and location, there is a decidedly good portion of Erstwhile’s releases recorded without an audience. This privacy makes itself very clear in its contributions to the almost candid nature of Duos for Doris. Granted, while Rowe and Tilbury have never been accused of not listening to each other, Duos for Doris seems even more purposeful and conscious than their other work.

“We now turn our glance from our own needy, perplexed nature to those who have overcome the world, in whom the will, having reached complete self-knowledge, has found itself again in everything, and then freely denied itself, and who then merely wait to see the last trace of the will vanish with the body that is animated by that trace. Then, instead of the restless pressure and effort; instead of the constant transition from desire to apprehension and form joy to sorrow; instead of the never-satisfied and never-dying hope that constitutes the life-dream of the man who wills, we see that peace that is higher than all reasons, that ocean-like calmness of the spirit, that deep tranquility, that unshakable confidence and serenity, whose mere reflection in the countenance, as depicted by Raphael and Correggio, is a complete and certain gospel”.

Strange that such a peaceful quote sums up such a furious noise.

(All quotes Schopenhauer.)

By Matt Wellins

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