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June 25th, 1969

'That's Not Music' And They Were Right

By Reg Silvester

Al Neil, a short man with a long reddish beard, sits beside his piano after a performance and says "I don't play music."

"If it was music, I'd be a musician, and if I was a musician, I'd be one step removed from the source-the being."

So if anyone walked out of Neils performance at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria Wednesday night grumbling "thats not music," they were right.

The audience thinned considerably after intermission. But those who were left seemed to be trying harder to understand what Niel was doing with his piano, his tapes, his toys, and his assorted noisemakers.

The 45 year old Vancouverite might be called an avant-garde jazz musician. He played what he called be-bop until three years ago when he discovered that music was getting in the way of what he was trying to communicate.

So he cast off those bonds, and let his hands reach out and make whatever sounds would happen.

Perhaps the secret to understanding Neil is to cast off your own bonds, stop listening to the sounds, and try to get his feelings.

His wife Margarete plays an electrically amplified violin in the group, and Greg Simpson is his drummer.
Simpson used his sticks on everything around him including the strings of a guitar. Margarete got sounds from her violin by tapping it on the bottom. stroking the strings with sandpaper, as well as with the bow.

Neil picked and pounded the strings of the piano, he also used the keys, battered an autoharp with a shaving brush, rattled a metal divider from an ice tray, accompanied himself vocally with nasal chanting.

The Al Neil performance was the last of three such assaulting evenings at the Art Gallery, which has included; film, music, and poetry, in mixed media form, from the Vancouver group called Intermedia.


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