On the Significance
of FMP FREE MUSIC PRODUCTION in the Process of Cultural Development Between
Eastern and Western Germany
Dr. Bert Noglik
the beginning of the 70's, Free Music Production from West Berlin acted
as a cultural factor within the German Democratic Republic. FMP encouraged
independent developments in the East and brought them in connection with
international musical currents. Numerous intellectuals in the GDR saw
FMP's activities as an alternative to commerce and as a compromise with
the expectations of the East German cultural bureaucracy. Under the omen
of a general insulation enforced by GDR rulers, the sign of cultural engagement
from the West became extraordinarily significant.
The consistency and quality of FMP productions and events met with great
interest within the cultural scene of the GDR - even when they could only
be perceived there through mediation. In many different ways, Free Music
Production opened up contact between East German musicians and their West
German or West European colleagues. Through ist determined orientation
towards highly authentic improvised music, FMP set bearings for both jazz
musicians as well as for several composers of new music in the GDR.
In a long lasting process within the GDR, the freedom won since the 70's
and their differentiated arrangements were significantly influenced through
FMP's activities. FMP successfully encouraged a circle of musicians, those
who were not regulated in the same measure as literary and artistic productions
in the GDR, to find a connection to international developments, and at
the same time it helped them develop an anchored identity within their
Already at the beginning of the 70's, FMP made meetings possible and initiated
the travel of Western German and Western European musicians to East Berlin.
Within the scope of the possibilities - often only in the span of a one-day
visa - communication progressed, but also informal musical meetings resulted,
from which grew numerous stimulations in the course of the years, as well
as group constellations later.
Also constantly endeavoring to document musical developments, Jost Gebers
paved the way, already in 1972, for contact to the radio network of the
GDR. Under difficult conditions he succeeded obtaining the license rights
to recordings of the GDR radio, and in this way, produced a music on record
in the West that was still mistrusted by the Eastern German cultural authorities.
For the musicians in the GDR this meant an enormous recognition and encouragement,
and, even with small production runs, remarkable feedback reached the
Later, as well under the initiative of Jost Gebers, a series of coproductions
occurred between FMP and the VEB record company in East Berlin. Through
persistent efforts of FMP, musicians from the GDR were able to perform
live on Western stages and to realize in-house FMP productions. At the
end of the 70's, travel limitations for several jazz musicians began to
loosen, substantially due to FMP's unremitting engagement. Again and again
exemplary signs were set, ones that caused a sensation in the West and
that were precisely noticed in the East.
Put on by FMP in Berlin in 1979, the concert series ‚Jazz Now' presented
for the first time a program representative of certain innovative developments
in the GDR with numerous musicians for the West. From that time on jazz
musicians from the GDR were integrated in the mostly internationally conceived
concert and event series of FMP.
Without the activities of FMP, substantial phases of the musical development
in the GDR would have remained without documentation. Particularly those
currents of improvised music that were at first able to gain acceptance
against the reservations of GDR's cultural politics have been captured
on records by FMP and distributed according to ability and possibility.
In the FMP catalogue one finds evidence of practically all the exceptional
musicians of the GDR in the circle of contemporary jazz/improvised music:
Conrad Bauer, Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky, Ulrich Gumpert, Günter Sommer, Johannes
Bauer, Helmut ‚Joe' Sachse, Manfred Schulze and many others.
In contrast to the cultural influence of Western institutions that are
directed at short term effects or concrete political goals, FMP constantly
pursued a long term encouragement of East German musicians as well as
their surrounding public. It supported a network of personal contacts
that rested on a basis of musical quality and authenticity, and that have
proven themselves in the present as solid, productive and inspiring. In
contrast to superficial campaigns, FMP has been setting processes in gear
that will shape the European cultural landscape for many years to come.
Dr. Bert Noglik, , Leipzig, is a musical scholar,
author, radio publicist and curator. His publications include ‚Jazz in
Conversation' (Verlag neue Musik), Jazz Workshop International (Verlag
Neue Musik), Jazz Workshop International (Rowohlt Verlag), Sound Traces:
Paths of Improvised Music (Fischer Verlag).
Translated by Bruce A. Carnevale