There may be rather few people who have an interest in both, but I am one so I am going to write about this weekends clash between the two. Black Sabbath did a concert in Berlin, 17000 people went to see them, I wasn´t one of them. Why bother? Since I was, say, 15 years old I have a sweet spot for this raw Heavy Metal formation and still I do enjoy their music. So this is what I missed:
Did you notice the keyboard sounds during the guitar solo? Did you notice there´s no keyboard player on stage? Well, that is Adam Wakeman, son of prog rock keyboarder Rick Wakeman, who is standing hidden on the side of the stage, adding keyboards and rhythm guitar parts. This reminds me of an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, where the musicians are hidden in a seperate room so that they do not distract the viewers. Adam Wakeman seems to be kept out of sight so that the aura of the four old rockers is kept intact, to protect the brand. Somehow, this makes me smile.
Well, I did miss to see them this time, but I saw Black Sabbath some ten years ago in the original lineup with drummer Bill Ward in the Arena in Oberhausen. Sitting next to me was a friendly polish engineer who worked in Cologne at that time, together with his son who had come to Germany just for this concert. Both were diehard fans, the son even was the chairman of the polish Black Sabbath fan club. Well, we were not exactly sitting. When the concert started, everyone get up and did not sit down till the end of the concert, singing along all the wicked lyrics bass player Geezer Butler made up. A great concert experience, at least for me. Later, I met someone who had been in the first row at that concert and was pretty irritated by the fact that singer Ozzy Osborne was reading all of these lyrics from the teleprompter in front of him.
If you liked the live version of the song ‘Snowblind’, then do not miss the version on the original recording, the ‘Volume 4’ album. Listen how drummer Bill Ward does not manage to keep the time and how the song is slowing down and speeding up. I love it. In this age of quantized beats loose, imperfect playing like this has become rather rare.
So, by now it should be clear that I love this band for their imperfection, but I´m not cynical nor do I seriously want to make fun of them. I really do like their music.
So, why not take this opportunity and see them play live?
This is were I have to introduce contact improvisation. This is an improvisational form of dancing, or, maybe sometimes more fitting, a form of moving. It is not based on moving rhythmically to music, nor does it aim at telling a story through movement. It is not even concerned with aesthetics in the first place, no, the starting point for contact improvisation is the physical movement of the body, the physics and mechanics of bodies in relation to gravity, space. It´s about leaning into each other and solving the problems that occur in such an unstable situation.
I am a musician, not a dancer, but I understand that this approach has brought a new perspective on what dancing, or a practice of movement, can be. As contact improvisation warmly welcomes unstable constellations it has an affinity towards risk taking and potential failure. This is true on the physical level, but it is also relevant aesthetically. There is something deeply disturbing in the early contact improvisation experiments shown in the video above. Treating the body wholly from the perspective of it´s characteristics as a moving object questions the dignity of any individual person. The feelings I get when watching it are comparable to watching someone slip on a banana peel or being kicked in the butt. Or watching Ozzy Osbourne who impersonates a tragic clown so well. This man is the single most succesful singer in Heavy Metal, and this success may have to do with a human interest in vulnerability. The falling and colliding contact dancers also display this quality.
For those who practice contact improvisation, it seems to be quiet rewarding, offering thrill and intense experiences, enjoying one´s own body and it´s movements as well as the spontaneous interplay with others.
For me as a musician, it is an interesting and challenging field to play as it is so different to other couplings of movement and music. And of course, Jennie is an enthusiastic practitioner of contact improvisation so when we were offered the opportunity to improvise our music at the Pfingst Jam contact improvisation event in Potsdam we headed there enthusiastically and did not regret it, for it turned out to be a couple of marvelous days.
So, maybe next time (well, if there is a next time) I can get some contacters to do an excursion to the mosh pit at a Black Sabbath concert…