Zavod Sploh

Luka T. Zagoričnik: Common Ground In A Sea Of Differences

Liner notes for the album The Ear is The Shadow Of The Eye, by Tomaž Grom and Zlatko Kaučič


At the turn of the millennium, at a time when my ears were sailing deeper into free improvised music, there were only two musicians in Slovenia who were distinctly committed to it: drummer and percussionist Zlatko Kaučič, who trained as a musician abroad where he joined numerous musicians and scenes; and younger contrabass player Tomaž Grom, who paved his own way with rare occasional supporters. Their meeting was inevitable, taking place almost 25 years ago in the form of a short tour as part of a trio in which they were joined by the guitarist Igor Bezget. Until today, Grom and Kaučič have only occasionally played together, including once as a duo at the Mariboring festival in 2010. It would be nine years before the two played together again, at the home of Zlatko Kaučič in Goriška Brda, where the recordings of this present album were made. This work was created in an essentially different environment than the one which existed in the beginning of the new millenium, when I started immersing myself more deeply into their music. The Slovenian music scene in the field of free improvised music is blossoming. Numerous protagonists are active at home and abroad, already enjoying their own international success stories, opening up new spaces, creating concert series, festivals, publishing houses and devising new working methods in this fragile artistic organism, divided between self-initiative and self-organisation as well as the co-dependance on institutions and different co-financing mechanisms. Kaučič and Grom are strongly involved in the international scene, while staying active at home. If anything, as a writer on the subject of music and occasional collaborator, it is due to their creative work on the scene that I have become even more aware of, not only the required involvement in the development of this scene, but the necessity of a healthy and strong local environment that international players can join and in which they can create connections and new opportunities. In this context, the improvisor also becomes the organiser, promotor, publisher and creator of a new space which can then be occupied by others who enrich it and increase its ability to be seen and heard. This is the basic condition which later allows the development of different approaches, aesthetic tensions and in short, their antagonisms within every scene. Their path, which condenses in sound form on the following album, is in this space full of convergences and divergences that are embodied in their own way in the present music. Kaučič is cosmopolitan, but committed to the fringes whereas Grom works in the centre, but is drawn to the fringes. The first formed his strong initial connections abroad, where he immigrated to as a youngster, whereas Grom formed them at home. They each created their own concert series and opened up new concert spaces, later founding the main international festival of improvised music in Slovenia, as well as their own publishing houses and associations through which they publish their own works and support others. Kaučič has already educated four generations of younger musicians through his school, while Grom has offered them a creative platform in the form of a workshop titled Research, reflection. They also co-iniciated two international improvisational orchestras, Kaučič Orchestra without borders / Orchestra senza confini and Grom Šalter Ensemble, but most importantly, they have co-created mechanisms and strategies through their work and involvement that enable free improvised music to have a place in the wider Slovenian cultural landscape. Both players realise that this position is not self-evident and can quickly change, despite different working methods and aesthetic bases. In his creative work, Kaučič is much more committed to the heritage of jazz and various free jazz styles, although he includes string quartets, choirs, operetta singing, songs and poems, while Grom is into the more modern branches of free improvisation, which originate from his experience in the sonic environments of modern electronics, electroacoustics and experimental music as well as past “reductionisms”, bringing them face to face with modern dance, poetry, performance and the field of audiovisual arts. This is revealed through each of their collaborations; Kaučič with Evan Parker, Agusti Fernandez, Joelle Leandre, Peter Brötzmann, Steve Lacy, etc, and Grom with Seijiro Murayama, Michel Doneda, Jonas Kocher, Axel Dörner, Tao G. Vrhovec Sambolec, Martin Küchen, Radu Malfatti, etc. These are also lines of force which spill into the music on this album, strongly resulting from their creative restlessness and perpetual exploration of sound. The latter has led Kaučič to floor drums, percussion sets, numerous everyday objects and electric zither, through which he can partly step away from the percussions sensibility, as for Grom it led him to use electronics and the dissection of sound in the space. The album is appropriately titled The ear is the shadow of the eye. The music is extremely physical, gesticulative and visual in some way, while firmly anchored in the acoustics and their shades, as well as the tranquillity and focused listening. It all exquisitely pours into an intense and uniform sound entity of convergences and divergences, which spread, condense and dilute, come together and move apart in a common sonic space, in a game of sounds and their dissections, noise, pulses and rhythming, constantly moving between them. After more than 20 years of meetings and separations, concentrated into this in-between space of convergences and divergences, the resulting music is not what I would have expected, despite knowing them both. In this concentration lies their music “here and now”, which apparently had to happen after so many years.

Luka T. Zagoričnik

Translated form Slovenian by Mirella Habr

design: Matej Stupica and Nejc Prah
design: Matej Stupica and Nejc Prah

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