Surreale menschliche GemeinschaftEverything is interchangeable, but nothing is arbitrary

(Interview on the occasion of the release of the CD Norbert Stein PATA MASTERS "PATA JAVA" Pata 16)

Pata physics – "A science building on the concept of an imaginary logic and a new reality beyond the material world and the accepted laws of cause and effect"  Even the most die-hard rationalist would be hard put to nowadays to deny that "there are more things betwixt heaven and earth than dreamt of in our philosophy",  but why has something which can neither be measured, explained or identified through the laws of science been given a scientific name? Talking on the radio in May 1959,  para-physicist Boris Vian offered the following explanation: "One of the basic principles is that of equivalency. Which perhaps explains our reluctance to make absolute distinctions, to  separate what is serious from what is not. In Pata physics, everything is one". Composer Norbert Stein talks about "carved spaces" and derived the name "Pata music" from "Pata physics", the neologism coined by Alfred Jarry. "Pata"  subsequently became his watchword for a whole range of musical projects.

  • What is the thinking behind "Pata"?

I give the name "Pata music" to works which I have crafted out of my own experience and my own possibilities, where I have been entirely free to choose whatever form of expression I feel best articulates what I have to say.

  • What does "Reflective Sounds of Imaginary Folklore" have in store for us?

This is the title of a joint project between Pata music and Arfi (Association à la Recherche d'un Folklore imaginaire), a musical fraternity from Lyon. Eighteen musicians got together on two evenings of the MusikTriennale in Cologne in 2004 to play stirring music which was subsequently hailed as "bubbling springs" by the critics.

  • In my opinion, the theory that anything and everything is interchangeable is based on an illusion. To what extent is your music really free? Don't your arrangements, just like all living things, depend on absolutes?

To loosely quote Jarry,  the Pata-physical statement goes like this: "Everything – objects, time, space -  can be shuffled around, transformed, reversed, replaced.  And yet nothing is arbitrary or haphazard, each piece in the complex pattern colours and is coloured by the rest". Taking a modular approach, the composer concentrates on overall form and avoids arbitrary elements.  In my own compositions I strive to make precise thematic, harmonic or structural statements and to shape and balance cues and textures for the improvising musicians. Whilst I like to have my guidelines followed as closely as possible, it is also important to leave the players maximum scope to display their energy and abilities.

  • The free-jazz phase was short-lived. Probably because musical anarchy ran contrary to human nature and its notions of harmony. What is your opinion on this?

I first came across free jazz when I was about 18.  I found existentialist rejuvenation in this music and a navigational light for my own course in music making. It gave me the courage to go back to the core, to devote myself to the essence of things. People like Cecil Taylor and Iannis Xenakis spring to mind here as masters in the depiction of elementary forces. What impressed me about these free-jazz musicians was their courage, their existentialist urge to probe the artistic boundaries and come back and report their findings. Musical argonauts.

  • How did your interest in Indonesian culture and music come about?

I first heard Gamelan music in the seventies on an LP of traditional music from around the world released by UNESCO. At the same time,  I was listening to John Cage's compositions for prepared piano, and found  references in the liner notes to similarities with Gamelan music.

  • What is it about what we call "ethnic music" which so fascinates you?

Absorbing the music which is indigenous to here was obviously part of my musical socialization. This made me all the more receptive to musical identities, rules and cultures from elsewhere.  I found myself suddenly captivated by the richness and fertility of other musical traditions.

  • You have now moved away from mainstream jazz. Had it become restricting, despite its versatility?

For me, what we call "jazz" is loosely organized, speaks in many voices and exists in a continual state of flux. Only when it is set down as the definitive set of rules or blueprint for making familiar or conventional patterns do I find it  restricting.  When that happens, and the thrill of "capturing in sound your identity in today's world” has to take a back seat,  jazz has lost its flame.

  • You don't apparently regard chamber music, jazz, folklore and electronic music as incompatible style elements.  Is "All is one and one is all"  the concept for the future?Surreale menschliche Gemeinschaft

The term "Pata music" suggests the whole spectrum of aesthetic expression, which is why I chose it. But you can only work according to  your lights. What matters is that your creation is sincere and bears an individual signature.

  • You work all over the world with different line-ups and orchestras.  How are these projects financed?

Some works such as "Die wilden Pferde der armen Leute" and "Ritual Life" were commissioned for the bigger music festivals.  We  joined up  with ARF, the French musicians' collective,  at exhibition concerts organized by the cultural department of Bayer. These were the venues for "News of Roi Ubu" and "Beauty and the Beast".  However it was the Goethe Institute that opened the door to exciting projects overseas such as "Pata Bahia", "Pata Maroc", "Live in Austrailia" and "Pata Java".  And these projects had many other patrons to help them along the way – "Pata Bahia" was sponsored by the Federal State of Bahia, for example, and DaimlerChrysler backed our latest  production of "Pata Java" as part of their "Culture in Motion" program for cooperation with Asia.

  • You have a long-standing association with the Goethe Institute.    Does this go back to the Kölner Jazzhaus Initiative?

I can happily look back to many successful alliances with the Goethe Institute, beginning in the heyday of the Cologne Jazz Initiative in the early eighties. However the driving force of  our association was always a mutual passion for music.

  • You produce your own label and arrange your own concerts.  Does the organizational side leave any time over to Norbert Stein the musican ?

These jobs are all part and parcel of being a self-employed musician. I run Pata music as an independent label, so naturally certain tasks fall to me.  The internet is excellent for making on-line presentations and running mail order services,  but all this takes time. Equally demanding are CD productions,  because there are various phases to be run through individually. The creative side - rehearsing, composing, performing, thinking up projects and seeing that they materialize - has to happen simultaneously. Keeping everything in balance is an ongoing challenge.

  • You recorded your CD in Yogyakarta.  Were you invited by Djaduk Ferianto, or how did the project come about ?

The "Pata Java" project came about during Pata Masters' first trip to Indonesia in 2001 following their Australian tour and the "Live in Australia" CD. It was at the Goethe Institute in Jakarta that we hit upon the idea of an encounter between Pata Masters and Gamelan musicians.  However it took two years to get things off the ground.

  • Did you find it interesting to work with a Gamelan orchestra?

We had a full ten days to fuse our ideas, working against the backdrop of the countryside around Yogyakarta, which was an unforgettable experience.  This work culminated in concerts in Yogyakarta, Bandung and Jakarta which were very well received. At the end of our stay, we managed to record our "Pata Java" CD in just three days in a studio in Jakarta. It was thrilling to find our Kua Etnika colleagues so open and committed to this musical exchange,  despite their very different musical traditions and instruments, and this openness paved the way to our making heartfelt music which kept our separate identities intact. This was an intense encounter between two musical cultures on an absolutely equal footing.

  • Are concerts with Kua Etnika planned in Germany? 

We are planning to bring Pata Java to the stage in Germany.  However a date has yet to be set for the next crossover of cultures and continents.

Klaus Dieter Zeh, Jazzpodium (translated by Maresa Pooler)