Collectivity versus individuality

Collectivity versus individuality

Like a lot of ensembles within the field of improvised music, both Huntsville and Dans les arbres are collectively oriented. From an atmosphere of trust and sense of responsibility, we are establishing collective bodies of sound, rather than subjecting ourselves to a conventional system of group and soloist(s).

Interestingly, this collectivity seems to be best achieved through a great deal of self-centeredness and individuality. Or is it perhaps in spite of? My own playing, and my interpretation of the band members’ playing is that it is both self-centred/independent and collective/highly dependent at the same time. In a dialectical process of opposing forces we are operating a mind-set that is both individual and collective-oriented at the same time. Collectivity is depending on individuality, almost selfishness. Composites are depending on interference between collectivity and individuality in order to become attractive.  

Eddie Prevost of the improvising group AMM states:

The personalities within the ensemble are clearly defined. They have maintained their integrity. Part of AMM’s philosophy, its ethos if you like, is the idea of concurrent commentary: separate voices speaking at the same time, interweaving and interleaving. But each voice is not atomised or individuated. Paradoxically, it may be that individuality can only exist and develop in a collective context. So when the musical situation seems chaotic, when we are caught up in the maelstrom of sound, in which at times it is almost impossible to tell who or what is going on, that is the point when you have to ‘distinguish’ yourself, delineate your contribution, or else the enterprise is a meaningless cacophony. And, in the final analysis, it’s up to each musician to ensure that this does not occur. 1


1 Derek Bailey, Improvisation: its nature and practice in music. Ashbourne, England 1992 (1980). Moorland Pub. in association with Incus Records, p129.