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On the Significance of FMP FREE MUSIC PRODUCTION in the Process of Cultural Development Between Eastern and Western Germany

Dr. Bert Noglik

Since 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 own circle.
 
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 East.
 
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. Leipzig 1993.

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


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