Roscoe Mitchell on AEOC, ECM and the sweet sound of silence
What did ECM bring to the group?
One thing I appreciate about my career is that no-one has ever told me what to do! ECM have always seen what we’re doing. They give us freedom. ECM boss Manfred Eicher is very helpful in the studio – he has a good set of ears and is a musician, and is always encouraging as a producer.
How important was John Cage to the way in which the AEOC use silence?
I first met John Cage in the 1960s when he played a set at Chicago’s Hyde Park Theatre with Joseph Jarman, before Joseph joined the Art Ensemble. His ideas about silence were very similar to the conclusions I’d come up with. Silence is 50 per cent of music, and every time you interrupt it you have to make sure that the sound you make is as good and as interesting as the silence.
How many instruments are you currently using on your European tour?
It’s still more than 100. I like coming on stage in a big jacket and taking out different instruments from different pockets. Ha ha!
After the deaths of Lester Bowie and Malachi Favors, can the Art Ensemble Of Chicago survive you all and continue, like a symphony orchestra or a football team?
Yes, we often talked about that, even way back in the 1960s. We were lucky to emerge at a time when other creative people had a similar vision. And we now work with people who can carry these ideas forward.