Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



A band of UK musicians playing original music that defies categorization, including group improvisation, prepared piano, maybe a transistor radio, altering the sound of the electric guitar by bowing the strings or inserting foreign objects etc, the idea being to create a sound world of shifting colours including every conceivable timbre, often sounding like a much larger group. It was formed in 1965 as a free jazz group by percussionist Eddie Prévost (b 1942), Keith Rowe (b 1940) on guitar and electronics, Lou Gare (b 1939) on tenor sax; Lawrence Sheaff (b 1940) joined on cello and accordion and Cornelius Cardew (1936-81) on piano for the first LP AMM Music '66 on Elektra (reissued '97 on ReR CD). Cardew was a composer who had founded the Scratch Orchestra at about the same time, improvisations and compositions by people of no great skill, the idea being that everyone could be a musician (which of course is the case in 'primitive' societies); he was the best-known member of AMM (at one point mistakenly labelled the Cornelius Cardew Quintet); he found his Maoist theory shaken by the need for absolute freedom in the music, but Prévost wrote that Cardew's 'The Tiger's Mind' was 'the description-cum-composition to come nearest to ... the AMM experience'. (They did not record it.)

Among AMM's aphorisms: 'AMM started itself. It was there a few minutes before we thought of it.' And 'The reason for playing is to find out what I want to play.' Sheaff left; Christopher Hobbs (b 1950) joined on percussion; Live Electronic Music '68 on Mainstream had Musica Electronica Viva on the other side, a group mostly of Americans living in Italy at the time. The Crypt -- 12th June 1968 was released '80 on Matchless; Hobbs left; Cardew left '72 (later killed in car crash). At The Roundhouse '72 was on Incus, To Hear And Back Again '74 on Matchless, both by AMM II (duo of Gare and Prévost); Gare left '77; It Had Been An Ordinary Enough Day In Pueblo, Colorado '79 on Japo was AMM III (Rowe and Prévost); John Tilbury (b 1936) joined on piano in 1979, had worked with Cage, Morton Feldman, Cardew etc; Generative Themes '82 on Matchless was a trio. Rohan de Saram (b 1939) joined on cello in 1985, an international concert artist who studied with Gaspar Cassado and Pablo Casals and worked with composers from Kodály to Berio. Ian Mitchell (b 1948) joined on clarinet in 1987; The Inexhaustible Document '87 was released on Matchless. Rowe played with Mike Westbrook and Cardew's Scratch Orchestra, interprets Cardew's Treatise, a synthesis of graphics and notation; Prévost leads a free-jazz quartet, also played in Supersession (with Rowe, saxophonist Evan Parker, bassist Barry Guy). Rowe, Tilbury and Prévost released From A Strange Place '95 on PSFD, a single 68-minute improv recorded in Tokyo. An AMM performance usually consists of continuous improvisation '...something like having one's free associations ... turned into sound' (New York Times). They have been an influence on other improvisers and avant-garde pop groups.

that mysterious forest below London Bridge 2008 on Matchless features three groups of free improvisers performing on the same night at the Shunt Lounge, an art bar located under London Bridge. The musicians are all familiar from previous Matchless projects and Prévost’s on-going improvisational practice and workshops. A quartet of Tom Chant on saxophones, Ross Lambert on guitar,
 Sebastian Kexer on piano and laptop, and Matt Milton on violin is followed by a trio of James Coleman on trumpet, Mark Wastell on Indian harmonium and Seymour Wright on alto saxophone, and the final track has the current duo version of AMM, Prévost and Tilbury. Prévost has participated in duo versions of the group/idea with both Lou Gare and Keith Rowe, but this is the most serene, with passages so quiet that they seem to embroider silence. (Thanks to which see.)