Cara Tolmie

Now let us make clear that to identify with history does not necessarily refer to the past. It can refer equally to the newest and extreme developments in art. We were concerned with sound itself. And sound does not know its history. -Morton Feldman.

Now in its third year, Counterflows is a contemporary music festival produced by Alasdair Campbell of AC Projects in partnership with Hamish Dunbar of Cafe Oto. It has been devised as a collaboration between two organisations committed to promoting challenging and thought provoking work in the context of what might be called the experimental music scene, looking at marginal music practice within an extensive list of music genres: Free Jazz, electronica, psychedelic pop, drone, hypno-psych voodoo groove, industrial, installation, anachronistic-field recordings, song, non-systematic classical, folk and more. We caught up with Alasdair who told us what to expect from this year’s programme…

The festival is about exploration and collaboration and brings together networks of artists, audiences and producers internationally and locally who share an adventurous outlook to the arts and are willing to participate and examine different practices and methods with the goal of creating new experiences within music and the arts.

A first glance at this year’s festival line-up may incur a confused reaction to the panoply of disparate artists performing. But of course this is anything but confusion. The intention to bringing the different styles and forms together under the banner of Counterflows is to really explore the vast expression of sound that is out there. As critics invent ever more genres and sub genres to classify theses musical endeavours Counterflows’ concerns are with the music itself. Juxtaposing artists whose practices may seem miles apart in the programme is exciting to me and may reveal to us something new that we had never thought of.

Joe McPheeby Peter Gannushkin

This leads nicely on to Joe McPhee, featured artist of this year’s festival. Joe ostensibly comes from the Jazz tradition from the line of Davis, Coltrane, Dolphy and so forth and on through his near contemporaries, Roscoe Mitchell, Henry Threadgill and Anthony Braxton who all share Joe’s multi-instrumentalist approach. But Joe, like all these musicians, creates music that refuses to be pinned down. Throughout the festival Joe will be collaborating in various contexts beginning with a solo set on Friday night before the new free funksters Whilst. Joe playing with Whilst could be a wonderful spontaneous happening.

There are threads that link performances throughout the festival. This is the intention and notion behind Counterflows. Maya Dunietz and Ghedalia Tazartes bring their intriguing exploration of voice to Saturday evening at CCA with Maya also performing the sublime music of Ethiopian born Emahoy Maryam Guebrou. The influences in Emahoy’s music are ancient and modern, African, European and everything else between. This links neatly with John Butcher’s new project Tarab Cuts which he’ll perform at the CCA with Mark Sanders. Tarab Cuts uses digitally transferred music from the Sufi Tarab tradition sourced from 78’s with Mark and John improvising themes and new music with and on top of these sounds. Again a clash of the ancient and modern.

Of course another theme to Counterflows is the commissioning of new projects. And this year is no exception with new work from Cara Tolmie & Paul Abbott, Luke Fowler, Mika Vainio & Lee Patterson and the beginnings of a new collaboration between Ela Orleans and film maker Maja Borg. The Counterflows residency will also explore new things this year developed by Rob Kennedy, Pete Dowling and Karena Nomi. There will be opportunities to find out what they are up to in the CCA’s Creative Lab from 4 – 7pm each evening from the 31 March to 5 April.

Mouth Speaker

What to expect from these new ventures cannot be disclosed, that is the excitement of the process. -Alasdair Campbell

In music, when you do something new, something original, you’re an amateur. Your imitators – these are the professionals. -Morton Feldman


Counterflows runs from 4-6 April at various venues throughout Glasgow. For more information see the Counterflows website.

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