Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Canterbury Scene

@ Wiki
The Canterbury scene (or Canterbury sound) is a term used to loosely describe the group of progressive rock, avant-garde and jazz musicians, many of whom were based around the city of Canterbury, Kent, England during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Many prominent British avant-garde or fusion musicians began their career in Canterbury bands, such as Fred Frith, Allan Holdsworth, and Peter Blegvad. Over the years, with band membership changes and new bands evolving, the term has been used to describe a musical style or subgenre, rather than a regional group of musicians.

Definition
The Canterbury scene is largely defined by a set of musicians and bands with intertwined memberships. These are not tied by very strong musical similarities, but a certain whimsicalness, touches of psychedelia, rather abstruse lyrics, and a use of improvisation derived from jazz are common elements in their work. “The real essence of 'Canterbury Sound' is the tension between complicated harmonies, extended improvisations, and the sincere desire to write catchy pop songs.” “In the very best Canterbury music...the musically silly and the musically serious are juxtaposed in an amusing and endearing way.”

There is variation within the scene, for example from pop/rock like early Soft Machine and much Caravan to avant-garde composed pieces as with early National Health to improvised jazz as with later Soft Machine or In Cahoots. Didier Malherbe (of Gong) has defined the scene as having "certain chord changes, in particular the use of minor second chords, certain harmonic combinations, and a great clarity in the aesthetics, and a way of improvising that is very different from what is done in jazz."

There is debate about the existence and definition of the scene. Dave Stewart has complained at the nomenclature as he and many other musicians identified with the Canterbury scene never had anything to do with Canterbury, the place. The former Soft Machine bassist Hugh Hopper, who lives in Whitstable, near Canterbury, has said: "I think it's a rather artificial label, a journalistic thing... I don't mind it, but people like Robert [Wyatt], he in fact hates that idea, because he was born somewhere else and just happened to go to school here. In the time when the Wilde Flowers started we hardly ever worked in Canterbury. It wasn't until Robert and Daevid went to London to start Soft Machine that anything happened at all. They weren't really a Canterbury band if it helps people understand or listen to more music then it is fine."

History
The scene had one main root in the Wilde Flowers, a band formed in 1964 which, at various times, was home to most of the founding musicians of both the Soft Machine and Caravan, bands which in turn provided the musicians of several later bands. The genesis of the Canterbury Sound may, in part, be traced back to 1960, when Australian beatnik Daevid Allen lodged at Robert Wyatt's parents' guest-house in Lydden, ten miles to the south of Canterbury. Allen brought with him an extensive collection of jazz records, a different lifestyle, and the jazz drummer George Niedorf who later taught Wyatt the drums. In 1963, Wyatt, Allen and Hugh Hopper formed the Daevid Allen Trio (in London) which metamorphosised into the Wilde Flowers when Allen left for France. Wyatt, Allen, Kevin Ayers (from the Wilde Flowers) and Mike Ratledge (who had played on occasion with the Daevid Allen Trio) formed Soft Machine in 1966.

Other key early bands were Delivery and Egg, whose members blended into the Canterbury scene in the early 1970s. For example, Phil Miller of Delivery went on to found Matching Mole and Hatfield and the North, the latter with Dave Stewart of Egg. Both were later in National Health, while Steve Hillage, who dropped out of a degree course at the University of Kent at Canterbury, had worked with the members of Egg in a previous band, Uriel, was later in Gong with Allen.

The Canterbury scene is known for having a set of musicians who often rotated into different Canterbury bands. Richard Sinclair, for example, was at different points of his career, in the Wilde Flowers, Camel, Caravan, Hatfield and the North and, briefly, Gilgamesh; he also worked with National Health. His cousin Dave Sinclair was in Caravan, Camel, Matching Mole and, briefly, Hatfield and the North. Robert Wyatt was a member of the Wilde Flowers, Soft Machine, Matching Mole, and also did work as a solo artist. Pip Pyle was in Delivery, Gong, Hatfield and the North, National Health, Soft Heap and In Cahoots. Hugh Hopper was in Soft Machine, Isotope, Stomu Yamash'Ta's band, Soft Heap, In Cahoots and, with Pyle and Allen, Brainville, Hughscore, as well as doing numerous of his own group and solo projects and working with non-Canterbury bands such as Bone.

Other individuals peripheral to the scene but with connections include Mike Oldfield (who played in Kevin Ayers' band), Bill Bruford (briefly drummed in Gong and National Health and employed Dave Stewart in his late 1970s Bruford Band) and Allan Holdsworth (who worked with Soft Machine, Gong in their jazz rock period, and the Bruford Band).

Bands and Musicians
The five central Canterbury bands, according to the Calyx website, are Soft Machine, Caravan, Gong, Hatfield and the North and National Health. Other bands were Egg, Gilgamesh, Henry Cow, In Cahoots, Khan, Matching Mole, Bruford, Camel, Caravan of Dreams, Comus, Delivery, Isotope, Mashu, Mirage, Ottawa Music Company, The Polite Force, Quiet Sun, Rapid Eye Movement, Soft Heap, Short Wave, and the Wilde Flowers.

Key Canterbury musicians include (with example bands):
* Daevid Allen (Soft Machine, Gong, Brainville)
* Kevin Ayers (Wilde Flowers, Soft Machine, Gong)
* Mont Campbell (Uriel, Egg, National Health)
* Lindsay Cooper (Henry Cow, Feminist Improvising Group, Mike Oldfield, National Health, Mike Westbrook Orchestra, News from Babel)
* Lol Coxhill (Delivery, Kevin Ayers & The Whole World)
* Chris Cutler (Ottawa Music Company, Henry Cow, Art Bears, News from Babel, Peter Blegvad Trio)
* Elton Dean (Keith Tippett Sextet, Soft Machine, Just Us, Centipede, Soft Heap, In Cahoots, Pip Pyle's Equip'Out)
* Fred Frith (Henry Cow, Art Bears)
* Alan Gowen (Gilgamesh, National Health, Soft Heap)
* John Greaves (Henry Cow, National Health, Soft Heap, Peter Blegvad Trio)
* Jimmy Hastings [2] (Caravan, Caravan of Dreams, Hatfield and the North, National Health, Soft Machine)
* Mark Hewins (Sinclair and the South, The Polite Force, Soft Heap, Gong, Mashu, Caravan of Dreams)
* Steve Hillage (Uriel, Khan, Kevin Ayers, Gong, System 7)
* Tim Hodgkinson (Henry Cow)
* Allan Holdsworth (Soft Machine, Gong, Bruford)
* Hugh Hopper (Wilde Flowers, Soft Machine, Isotope, Soft Heap, In Cahoots, Pip Pyle's Equip'Out)
* Karl Jenkins (Nucleus, Soft Machine, Adiemus)
* Geoff Leigh (Henry Cow, The Black Sheep)
* Phil Miller (Delivery, Matchine Mole, Hatfield and the North, National Health, In Cahoots, Richard Sinclair Band, Hugh Hopper Band)
* Pierre Moerlen (Gong, Mike Oldfield Band, Gongzilla)
* Fran├žois Ovide (John Greaves Group)
* Pip Pyle (Delivery, Gong, Hatfield and the North, National Health, Soft Heap, In Cahoots, Pip Pyle's Equip'Out, John Greaves Band, Hugh Hopper Band)
* Mike Ratledge (Soft Machine, Adiemus)
* Geoff Richardson (Spirogyra, Caravan)
* David Sinclair (Wilde Flowers, Caravan, Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North, The Polite Force, Camel)
* Richard Sinclair (Wilde Flowers, Caravan, Delivery, Hatfield and the North, Sinclair and the South, Camel, In Cahoots, Caravan of Dreams)
* Gilli Smyth (Gong)
* Dave Stewart (Uriel, Egg, Ottawa Music Company, Khan, Hatfield and the North, Gong, National Health, Bruford, Rapid Eye Movement)
* Andy Ward (Camel, Marillion, Caravan of Dreams, Mirage)
* Robert Wyatt (Wilde Flowers, Soft Machine, Matching Mole) =>>>>>>>>>>>

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@ Calyx Club

What Is Canterbury Music?

The musicians' opinion :

Richard Sinclair (The Wilde Flowers and Caravan)
"People say, what is the Canterbury scene? I think you have to come to Canterbury and see it and hear it ! I think Kent has got a particular sound. We've sung it in our schools here, we were all at school in this sort of area. I was part of the Church of England choir : up to the age of sixteen I was singing tonalities that are very English. Over the last three or four hundred years, and even earlier than that, some of the tonalities go back. So they are here, and they are a mixture of European things too. The history is very much that. A very historical centre of activity is Canterbury for the last hundred years. So it's quite an important stepping stone of whatever this thousand years have covered. I think it's not to be mocked because it's a centre of communication here and it's a meeting point - many nations come here to visit the cathedral, so you get a very unique situation happening".

"A lot goes on here, it's quite cosmopolitan, Canterbury, to a degree... But that's because of the tourists, not from the people who actually live here : they are very conservative, not cosmopolitan at all, not particularly worldly, I don't think. The music happens outside, gets written here and taken out. This is the Canterbury scene for me. It doesn't really exist here, but it forms here. Musicians, friends join together and play music together, and then they head off around Europe and play their music and get noted for this type of sound".

Hugh Hopper (Soft Machine)
"I think it's a rather artificial label, a journalistic thing... I don't mind it, but people like Robert [Wyatt], he in fact hates that idea, because he was born somewhere else and just happened to go to school here. In the time when the Wilde Flowers started we hardly ever worked in Canterbury. It wasn't until Robert and Daevid went to London to start Soft Machine that anything happened at all. They weren't really a Canterbury band... So, it doesn't worry me... if it helps people understand or listen to more music then it is fine".

"Canterbury has never been a really good place to play. I played one gig last Friday and it was the first I played here for about two years. It's not virtually a musical place. There are lots of people who've come from it. There are few pubs here, but it's not really a musical hotbed at all... I was born in Canterbury and I lived here until I was about nineteen and then I lived in other places in France and London, other places in Kent... And I gradually came back this way - it wasn't really a plan, it just happened this way. So that Canterbury thing, it's a nice idea because it's a nice little town, it's got a cathedral and in the Summer it looks good. But not much is happening here, really".

Robert Wyatt (Soft Machine)
"I couldn't tell you much about that... I don't remember any particular movement happening there. I was at school there, I got married there and I lived there for a while. The school I went to had nothing special, there wasn't any particular interest for art, and I grew bored because I wasn't really good at school... If there ever was a Canterbury scene, it was when the Wilde Flowers became Caravan : they were Canterbury people...".

"I didn't even know it meant me until interviewers started asking me about it. As I say, because I'd bussed in from outside to go to school there I didn't really consider myself a Canterbury person. I think it really means people like Hugh Hopper and Richard Sinclair, who are genuinely based in that area. I met them there and I'm eternally grateful that I met someone like Hugh who provided something I don't think anyone else could have provided. My mind doesn't dwell on it as a place though, if I recall a former fantasy world upon which I draw, it's Harlem in the Forties and not Canterbury in the Fifties...".

Didier Malherbe (Gong)
"The Canterbury School can be defined musically : certain chord changes, in particular the use of minor second chords, certain harmonic combinations, and a great clarity in the aesthetics, and a way of improvising that is very different to what is done in jazz. I really loved Soft Machine around the time of Third for that. The way they were playing the arrangements was of an absolute clarity".

Bill MacCormick [about latter-day Soft Machine]
"Well, call me a mouldering old hippy if you like but I have some sympathy with the view expressed [that post-Wyatt Soft Machine was 'crap']. Well, sort of. It's not so much that everything else is 'crap' but a lot of it (especially post Robert leaving the Softs) doesn't have anything much to do with the original 'Canterbury' feel (ethos?). Certainly, the band called Soft Machine that we (Matching Mole) toured with in 1972 in Holland and Belgium had precious little to do with the 1966-71 version in either feel or approach in my humble opinion, in spite of the presence of Ratledge and Hopper (and I may be wrong but I always felt Hugh wasn't over the moon about it either). After that, when these two had left, the Soft Machine was just a brand label being passed around. To be honest, Robert always had a great grievance that the Softs retained the name when he left... when Mike and Hugh left the name should have died with them. Instead it was just commercially exploited for what it was worth. It had nothing to do with Canterbury... as did none of the musicians. I didn't like their music either (you guessed didn't you?)...". =>>>>>>>>>>>

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@ Rare Vinyl
Canterbury music scene originated in the Canterbury area of Kent (UK) in the 1960's. It was a very vibrant scene, out of which come a lot of musicians, many of whom are still active today: Robert Wyatt and Hugh Hopper (Soft Machine), Richard Sinclair (Caravan), David Allen (Soft Machine and Gong), Steve Hillage (Gong), Kevin Ayers, Dave Stewart and Phil Miller (Hatfield & The North), Mike Oldfield, Chris Cutler, John Greaves, Fred Frith (Henry Cow) and many others. The prototypical Canterbury band was the the Wilde Flowers, from whom emerged the Soft Machine and Caravan, Kevin Ayers and Gong. Meanwhile in London, a band called Uriel was formed whose ashes spawned Egg and Khan. About the same time Delivery was also formed in the London area soon to break-up. The break-up of some of these bands and personal departures led to the next generation of Canterbury bands which included Matching Mole and later Hatfield & The North. The real essence of 'Canterbury Sound' is the tension between complicated harmonies, extended improvisations, and the sincere desire to write catchy pop songs. In the very best Canterbury music - all of Hatfield & The North and Matching Mole, early Soft Machine (with Robert Wyatt), early Caravan (pre-Cunning Stunts), and early Gong (pre-Shamal) - the musically silly and the musically serious are juxtaposed in an amusing and endearing way. Probably Soft Machine loose all their 'charm' when Robert Wyatt stopped singing (and eventually left). Much the same can be said of the various post-Allen and post-Hillage editions of Gong in which Pierre Moerlen was the prime mover. As great as the post-Wyatt Soft Machine music was a lot of the humor and silliness was gone. Another well-known aspect of the 'Canterbury Scene' is the circular nature of personnel changes in the various groups. Without going into gory detail, it always seems that the same players were turning up in each others' bands. This phenomenon explains why there is a 'Canterbury Sound' at all. After all, musicians are the ones making the sounds!

Similar scenes have emerged in France (Komintern, Zao, Heldon, Art Zoyd, Lard Free, Etron Fou Leloublan, Potemkine, Magma, Urban Sax, Weidorje…) and Belgium (Univers Zero) to much the same effect. In contrast, Daevid Allen's 'New York Gong' albums bear absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to Canterbury music. This is a great example of the importance of this rotating cast of musicians to the 'Canterbury Sound'. Of course, there are always exceptions & so there are some very Canterbury-sounding (...but also very original-sounding) bands from Japan & Italy. Another peculiar aspect of the 'Canterbury Sound', and the tendency towards complex structures and lengthy improvisations, is the use of the vocals, delivered in very 'British' manner, with absolutely no attempt to ape American blues and pop singers. The lyrics betray a strong sense of the absurd (pataphysical humour from the Alfred Jarry's play 'King Ubu'). If they are 'about' anything, they're often hilarious and concerned with private jokes and/or various aspects of British domestic life. Hatfield & The North's lyrics about 'life as a pop star' from the first album are utterly hilarious!

While a number of these bands were adopting jazz improvisation into their sound, the ever changing Soft Machine had been actively exploring Jazz with jazz-trained musicians from the London school. In particular with members of the Keith Tippett Group (Centipede) from whom Elton Dean joined the band. As the Soft Machine veered towards jazz-rock, their personal changed again eventually bringing in John Marshall, Karl Jenkins, Roy Babbington & Alan Holdsworth, all of whom had at one time played in Britain's other premier jazz-rock outfit, Ian Carr's Nucleus. Virgin records was formed in the early 70's and proved to be a good label for Canterbury musicians signing up Mike Oldfield and David Bedford both former members of Kevin Ayers' Whole World as well as Gong, Robert Wyatt, Hatfield and The North which comprised former members of Egg, Matching Mole, Gong, and Caravan and later Steve Hillage. Also signed to the label were Henry Cow and Slapphappy, members of whom later collaborating with Canterbury musicians forming a new generation of bands: Art Bears, News From Babel and Cassiber. Among these were National Health and Gilgamesh which basically redefined the Canterbury sound as well as explorations into more improvised jazz by Hugh Hopper & Elton Dean in Soft Heap. Richard Sinclair on leaving the Hatfields joined Camel a more straight-ahead progressive band while Henry Cow and Slapphappy merged before breaking up to form the Art Bears and the John Greaves and Peter Blegvad collaborations. Of the early the Soft Machine members, David Allen is till active performing solo and with former Gong members. Hugh Hopper and Elton Dean are probably the most prolific still playing together and with a variety of other musicians as well. Robert Wyatt has released a new album during the 1998 (Shleep) and his back catalogue is currently being re-released. Gong reformed for a 25th Anniversary tour and live double CD in 1995. Caravan with Pye Hastings, Richard Coughlan and Dave Sinclair are still active and touring. Many previously unobtainable vinyl releases are now being re-released on CD. Former Delivery (another important musician is the amazing saxophonist Lol Coxhill, founder member of Delivery with Phil and Steve Miller and Pip Pyle), Matching Mole, Hatfield & the North & National Health guitarist Phil Miller now has his own band In Cahoots which from time to time has featured Hugh Hopper, Elton Dean and Pip Pyle. =>>>>>>>>>>>

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@ All Music
A fraternal collective of musicians clustered around the Kentish tourist town that is home to the Church of England's Archbishop, the Canterbury Scene provided the cradle for a half-dozen of the most freewheeling British bands of the post-psychedelic era. Though the direct musical similarities between Canterbury's major bands -- the Soft Machine, Caravan, Gong, Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers, Hatfield & the North, Egg, National Health -- aren't overwhelming, each featured a clever synthesis of jazz improvisation and rock rhythms with clever, intellectual songwriting tied to psychedelia. It's no wonder the Canterbury bands became so close, since many of its major figures began their musical careers in a beat group called the Wilde Flowers. Together from 1963 to 1969, the Wilde Flowers included most of the figures who later formed Canterbury's two best bands, the Soft Machine (Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers) and Caravan (Pye Hastings, David Sinclair, Richard Sinclair, Richard Coughlan). After both the Soft Machine and Caravan released their debut albums in 1968, they became popular in England's psychedelic underground. By the early '70s however, a series of fragmenting lineup changes and the subsequent formation of new bands soon multiplied the force of the Canterbury scene. Early Soft Machine member Daevid Allen formed Gong, and both Kevin Ayers and Robert Wyatt eventually left the Softs to begin their own solo careers. The musicians that led the new incarnation of the Soft Machine, including Elton Dean and Hugh Hopper, began pushing the band in the direction of instrumental jazz-rock. By the mid-'70s, many of the remaining Canterbury bands had progressed from psychedelic and prog-rock to embrace extended fusion jams with few lyrics. Many of Britain's better avant-garde or fusion musicians of the 1970s and '80s -- including Fred Frith, Allan Holdsworth, and Peter Blegvad -- also began their career playing in Canterbury bands. =>>>>>>>>>>>

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1 comment:

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