Introduction to Theoral 12

Introduction to Theoral 12

April 19, 2016

Written by:

Philipp Schmickl

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This is the introduction to theoral no. 12 - conversations with Hamid Drake and William Parker. The book will be published in May. Get it here.

Philipp Schmickl - Vienna, April 2016


Hamid Drake I - Nickelsdorf, July 15, 2015
Racism and classism in the US ..................... Being a bridge ..................... The open palm ..................... Growing up in Glencoe ..................... First teachers ..................... Family ..................... Fred Anderson

Hamid Drake II - Nickelsdorf, July 16, 2015
Leadership and the wisdom of insecurity ..................... Own groups and musical background ..................... Don Cherry ..................... Entering the jazz world ..................... Many deaths..................... Improvisation ..................... William Parker ..................... Wedded traditions

Hamid Drake and William Parker - Vienna, September 11, 2015
Native Americans/Indians ..................... You can't tell where anybody's from ..................... Reservations and housing projects ..................... Racism ..................... Billy Bang..................... Learning and teaching and playing ..................... Generosity

Krzysztof Wójcik, Paul Lovens, Hans Falb, Philipp Schmickl - Warsaw, Pardon, To Tu, January 12, 2016

Our home, the music - this thought has a kind of healing quality.

Home is where the music is.

Until the lion learns to speak

The tales of hunting will be weak

K'Naan, The Dusty Foot Philosopher

It took more than two years to finally find the time (and space) for a lengthy conversation with Hamid. We had to come home for it and home is where the music is: Jazzgalerie Nickelsdorf.

For some - for many - home is where the hatred is. This line from Gil Scott Heron meets the reality of a large part of the people in the world, I think. Of some we will speak in this book, of others not. The ones we mention, or Hamid talks about, are those who were also meant by Gil Scott Heron: African Americans in the United States who are suffering from racism. The other people I am thinking of who find a lot of hatred in their homes are those who are currently fleeing their homes and seeking refuge and help and then, they find hatred again. And I am thinking of myself. I am living in Vienna, a kind of home, and although I am not personally confronted with hatred and violence, I live in surroundings that are oftentimes governed by hatred and fear. It is spread by the media (even the so-called serious media), it is inhaled and exhaled day by day by everyone who does not want to stop it.

Our home, the music - is tied to physical places and one of these places is the Jazzgalerie which happens to be in Nickelsdorf. Last July Hamid arrived on a Tuesday, two days before the festival Konfrontationen started and spent almost a week with us. Therefore we could sit down and develop a conversation on Wednesday and Thursday, which was also the first day of the festival. While we were having our conversations the Nickelsdorf-people were preparing the restaurant and Gina Southgate was hanging her paintings and listening. In the middle of our first conversation Malli (Andreas Malleschitz) had to step on our table in order to put cables through a window, so we had to move over. On the recording, behind Hamid's voice, I can listen back to all the hammering, drilling and the loud voices that constitute the preparation of the festival.

When I was transcribing the conversations this February a strange thing occurred: last September I spent a week in Warsaw with the lovely people from Pardon, To Tu: Magda and Daniel. On the train back to Vienna I was listening to the conversations with Hamid that I had recorded in July and, as you do on a day train, I was watching the landscape - four, five hours I was listening to Hamid and watching the landscape. So, when I was transcribing these conversations in February I was transported back into this train riding through the suburbs of Warsaw and down towards Prague. I had visions of the landscape passing by. I also had visions of a certain bridge in Prague right next to the Praha Masarykovo nádraží (train station) under which I was passing regularly some years ago when I was staying at Petr Vrbas place in Zizkov during the Babel Festival. I never experienced a similar thing before.

Two or three days after this train ride back from Warsaw - the real one in September - Hamid was playing with John Dikeman and William Parker in Blue Tomato in Vienna. The day after the concert, together with William, we recorded the third conversation for this book while having breakfast at Hotel Fürstenhof. Across the street at Westbahnhof there was a lot of police because this train station served as a transit station (with supply of food, clothes and medical care) for refugees who were going to Germany. The supplies were almost exclusively organized by private people. The government was watching and when they realized that people also came to stay in Austria, they closed the borders.

Another thing that occurred when I was transcribing, is that I was not only seeing landscapes and hearing familiar voices. In these days in February I also started to dream of a person who I was close to at the time in July when the first interviews were made but who had burned her bridges by August.

The Original Affluent Society

Our home, the music - this thought has a kind of healing quality. Because I am thinking a lot about leaving Middle Europe with this passionately unrealistic but not untrue thought: I want to go where the people are (apparently) poor, I mean, where they don't have much and don't need much - The Original Affluent Society. I don't want to live/die in a rich country with closed borders where fear and hatred of and contempt for the weak (and not for those who exercise power) is the day to day business. A country where music playing in the streets is forbidden. Where they are shifting funds to the ridiculous military, wherever they take them from. But wait, there are a lot of poor people here as well. But they are invisible and I think most suffer from it. In my case, I earn what you need to surf on the poverty line. I could earn more if I would work more for the money but then this book would have stayed a dream, maybe a nightmare in lucid nights, and this would create a lot of frustration, a lot more than not having money.

With theoral we are not loosing money, but we're not making it either. Two times in the last years we got a little funding from the Austrian government but recently I received a letter saying that we won't get any money any more from the Bundeskanzleramt which takes care of the funds for cultural matters. Only the city of Vienna helped us with € 500,-- for printing this book. The Bundeskanzleramt is the office of our chancellor and here we are back to what I was saying before about the people fleeing their home is where the hatred is because they can't live there any more. This chancellor, his party, his political partners and large parts of the so-called opposition (the names of the political parties do not matter any more, neither do the names of the politicians), together with the media, are creating the hatred and fear with which the people who are seeking for help are received at our borders. It is their game in order to keep their power and their place in society, their intermediary position between the one and the ninety nine percent - they function as a pipeline that transports wealth up to the top of the pyramid. So, why should they fund us and many others trying to show real alternative ways to deal with the world?

This situation is one of the reasons that makes me wanna leave. I rather see myself having Cajuína cristalina em Teresina with the young Gal Costa. But, as my travelling friends tell me, Brazil is becoming very expensive as well.


Tout change, tout évolue

Seuls les imbéciles ne changent pas

Alpha Blondy

Everything changes, everything develops / Only the stupid don't change.
Back to politics: In the last months some terrorist attacks happened in Europe. When it happened in Bruxelles I was lying in bed dreaming of heavy rain. When I got up I listened to the news and there was a lot of fear-talk and retribution-talk and our-values-talk &c. I can only repeat myself: Those fear and hate talkers are the ones who import the violence. They do not protect us like they say. What they do is to cut down every social achievement and liberty our elders have grown up with. They expose us, they create this climate with their foreign policy. Who is throwing bombs and destabilizing societies all over the world? It is the responsibility of our Western politicians who we are paying with our taxes. So, let's not blame a religion, let's blame greed, the will to dominate others and the hypocrisy that comes along with it. They are the characteristics of our highly armed governments. But I suppose, you know all this. And here's the problem. How to explain this to those who don't know and/or don't want to know?

Even within Europe: The rich central states try to force and blackmail the poor fringe-states or regions to act as their contract killers by telling them to not let any refugee put a foot on European soil. We know that all this is WRONG but we're just watching. (Quand ils gagnent plus de 10.000 Francs par mois, mon sentiment c'est, les Français se laissent dicter leur vie. / When they earn more than 10.000 Francs (ca. € 1.500) a months, I have the feeling that the French let them dictate their life. In: Jean Luc Godard, Éloge de l'Amour, 2001) I can't change it but I don't agree. And if you are tempted to tell me to vote next time, then I answer with Emma Goldman: 'If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal.'

Estamos guardando un silencio bastante parecido a la estupidez. (Según la Junta Tuitiva de La Paz en 1809).

Our place, the music - compared to the world in general it seems like a perfect place, a utopia, Cajuína cristalina em Teresina with Gal Costa. I think it is because there is improvisation and in my opinion improvisation is the method to fight the fact that we are governed - improvisation can keep a balance between the social constraints and our own wishes. Once I took a note after a quick thought saying that improvisation is revolutionary because it is about the letting go of control (of the energy) in opposition to our every day politics of power and domination. Improvisation has the great potential to work like an open palm, ready to give and receive at the same time.


There are two more things I want to hint at:
i) Hamid says about a friend of his who is a painter: 'And that's something that Eric [Evans] really taught me. He taught me how to see color and balance and cue and negative and positive spaces and time, you know, from a whole other way.'

And Paul Lovens says in theoral no. 3: 'Maler: Licht, Form, Farbe. Und Musik? Ist fast identisch mit der Malerei. Dynamik, Rhythmus, sind die Hauptsachen, ja, schon. Melodie ist fast zweitrangig. (Painter : light, form, colour. And music? Is almost identical with painting. Dynamics, rhythm, are the main things, yes. Melody is less important.)'

ii) When I was listening to Hamid talking about Fred Anderson, to me, he was also talking about Hans Falb.

The interview with William Parker and Hamid at Hotel Fürstenhof was a very beautiful experience. William was sitting with us, eating and having English Breakfast Tea and not saying a word for a long time and when he did, he asked questions about Nickelsdorf and the Ponderosa. But then, when he started talking about the D Train and his youth in the housing projects in New York, we all got the flow and the conversation took it's path. I was very very impressed by his knowledge about so many things and behind his stories you could feel reverberating all the other stories, worlds of knowledge. I hope that one day we will be able to continue our conversations.

Another thing I want to mention is the Appendix. It is a transcript of a panel discussion about theoral that was organized in Warsaw by Magda and Daniel in Pardon, To Tu and which was followed by a concert with Raphael Rogiński [guitar] and Paul Lovens [drums]. The young and very committed journalist Krzysztof Wójcik was our master of ceremonies, he directed the hour of our talk. Guests where Paul Lovens and Hans Falb. The idea of publishing a part of this discussion was born because both of the guests told us very interesting things - not necessarily referring to theoral - and it is also because of the way they did it that I want to share them.

I also want to thank the Austrian Cultural Forum in Warsaw that helped to make this evening possible. It made us very happy that the larger part of their staff attended the talk and the concert. The Austrian Cultural Forum bought all available numbers of theoral plus the next five to come for their library.

And in the end I would like to thank the person that sprayed HAMID on the wall of the building I am living in.

*extract of the third conversation. William Parker on Billy Bang

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Philipp Schmickl

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