Pondering the present and the future are always, for obvious reasons, obvious facets of analysing and following the free music movement. With the chaotic freedom offered to those artists involved this corner of the musical world more than any gives way to experimentalism or even simply messing around with sound.
Everyone from avant garde, near impossible to get into sound-scapers to more traditional instrumentalists is free to modify and manipulate their efforts without the looming demands of a commercialised or dictated crowd. Infinite choice leads to infinite variety, a fact which the framework of the commercial mainstream belies in it’s insistence on moulding the path of musical progression in tune with manageable, predictable trends. Indeed even the greater freedoms of the Indie scene can’t afford to indulge the truly eclectic given that, nine times out of ten, the experiment fails regardless of the hope behind it – but that odd one out, the time when an unthought of musical structure works to the point where it becomes a foundation from which to launch even greater explorations is well worth the jarring attempts which fall short. It’s a liberty which from genre to genre calls for a ‘sonic squirrel’, eclectic enough to indulge the oddities but also aware enough of where musical paths lead to know what’s worth following. The next album, the next track, the next EP – the future’s an easy pre-occupation to have.
The past however is still something of a novelty within the free music movement. No doubt the tradition has increasingly deep roots, grown with insularity and forming the initial foundations for something which merits far more attention. But the memories are blurry, the time line sporadically noted. Going from site to site, from label to label and artist to artist there are few, if any, connecting lines – few ideas, projects or acts can be said to hold a place within the cultural history of our community. Not surprising, of course, given the immense scope of the net labels alone, never mind the artists or the myriad others who make up the free music world where there’s no real obligation to collective sensibilities over islands of interest. That, in itself, is perhaps fine but the lack of a coherent past does occasionally lead not just to duplication of efforts but also to a waste of efforts as disparate parts of the scene operate as if wholly isolated, generating ideas and projects which could only benefit from being allied with similar efforts elsewhere. An overarching sense of history or continuity, no matter how loosely manifested, could to some extent ameliorate the limitations our greatest strength, absolute freedom.
Externally too the lack of recognisable consistencies does the scene limited good. Arrive at one point within the free music world and you may end up missing 90% of the rest as even the seemingly largest of projects ends up being anchor-less in relation to everything else and the first community found has no context to offer to the greater movement beyond its own small corner of work.