Excerpt of an article by Martin Laurentius
"Folklore Imaginaire"

"Autonomous and single-minded"

Intent upon keeping the works of his various ensembles - Pata Masters, Pata Horns, Pata Trio, Pata Blue Chip and Pata Multiphonics - free from the manipulations of record companies and producers,  Norbert Stein established his "Pata Music" label in 1986. The composer and saxophone player was one of the first to graduate in jazz studies when the course was newly instituted at the Cologne Conservatory of Music in 1970.   He can also look back to being one of the founder members of the Cologne Jazzhouse Initiative (IKJH): "I was totally committed to this enterprise" recalls Stein,  "as a musician, I  could connect completely with what the Initiative wanted to achieve and how it wanted to achieve it.  My personal interests and aspirations were entirely in sync with those of the Jazz House Initiative in its early years".

As time Sheet music in circles with flowing texturewent by however, Stein increasingly distanced himself from the IKJH and started to go his own way. "Hierarchies and the emerging power elite prompted me to leave after more than a decade".   But life as a performing itinerant was out of the question for Stein. On the contrary, he wanted to apply what he had learned as producer and manager with the IKJH in a business which would give precedence to his own needs.  "Having a free rein on the commercial side was the key to independent productions", explains Stein. 

The word "Pata" has genuine roots and was coined in 1898 by the French writer Alfred Jarry in his novel, "The Exploits and Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, Pataphysician".  In the German version of the novel, translator Klaus Völker writes: "Pata physics is 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". Stein had read the book when he was seventeen, and these words came back to him as he was looking for a suitable name for his label. "On the one hand I was looking for a name which was an unwritten page musically and entirely free from contextual baggage. On the other,  it had to have a significance sufficiently weighty to withstand fluctuations, such as changes in my band configurations. What I was really looking for was a kind of corporate identity,  and during this search I was suddenly reminded of Alfred Jarry. Pata physique - Pata musique - Pata music".

As a musical concept, "Pata music" is open on many sides.  Stein's compositions create spaces in which the musicians of his various Pata line-ups meet and interact spontaneously. Since he rarely presents his players with detailed or finalized scores, they are free to spread their creative wings and fashion these spaces at will.  Moreover, "Pata music" makes no attempt to set itself apart from other musical styles, genres or categories.   On the contrary, Stein has the wherewithal to bring together very different and sometimes contradictory musical vocabularies without producing banal or just plain arbitrary results. "It is not necessary", explains Stein, "when listening to "Pata physique" or "Pata musique" to know their precise literary background.  There is no instruction manual for understanding Pata music".

He goes on to say: "For me, avante-garde captures the here and now and the creative forces which exist within it.  Avante-garde is testimony to art's vitality".  Many of Stein's Pata projects demonstrate with music how cosmopolitan and tolerant today's avant-garde can be. "Although I'm constantly venturing onto new musical territory, I always try to give my compositions a touch of what is closer to home". Hence "Pata Masters"  and the Indonesian Gamelan group "Kua Etnika" (translating "the ethnic way") got together as "Pata Java". This was no fashionable "Jazz meets the World" experiment with the inevitably whimsical musical outcome.  Although both ensembles originated from quite different musical backgrounds, they came together as a heterogeneous group and found a musical vocabulary in which both sides – "Pata Masters" and "Kua Etnika" -  could accompany one another in crossing  borders. "That is the beauty of Pata music" enthuses Stein, "each improvising musician donates his own musical voice and steers the music-making process".

Stein is manager, producer and publisher of "Pata Music" and of course seller and distributor of its productions.  The company's structure is as sprawling and ramiform as the concept of Pata music itself.   Stein consorts with musicians worldwide, organises concerts and tours for his various ensembles and does his best to nurture the community which has sprung up under the "Pata" umbrella. For Stein,  the Worldwide Web is more than just a sales channel for his CDs.: "I  recently set up a virtual collective or forum called "Parliament of Music" in which I present my own  ideas and works in border-crossing and those of like-minded colleagues. It is very important for musicians like us to seek alliances and contacts, and internet links are a simple and informal way for a loose collective like this one to carry its mutual interests into the public domain. And such cooperatives always have a political dimension".

from "Folklore Imaginaire" by Martin Laurentius
(translated by Maresa Pooler)

Published in "MUSIK//POLITIK - Texte und Projekte zur Musik im politischen Kontext"
Edited by Ute Canaris, Kamp-Verlag ISBN 3-89709-350-2