The first and only authorized biography there will ever be about Keith Rowe, his solo career, and his influence as the guitarist in the cult British "jazz" band AMM, a group who counted Pink Floyd, The Who, and Cream as admirers.
Brian Olewnick is a new-music writer and visual artist. He
helped run the avant-garde jazz loft Environ from 1976-1980 and was
eventually seduced into writing about contemporary music in various
forms from jazz to modern classical, free-improvisation and beyond.
He has written for All Music Guide, The Wire, Time-Out
New York and other publications in addition to his blog, Just
Outside, one of the principal sites for analysis of new music,
where he has published over 2,000 reviews since 2006. He has given
talks on the craft of writing about contemporary music in
Philadelphia, V ster s, Sweden and Sokolowska, Poland. He lives
with his wife, Betsy, in Kinderhook, New York.
Keith Rowe (b. 1940, Plymouth, England) is an improvising guitarist and electronicist. He is a founding member of the ensemble AMM (1965), a group combining aspects of avant-garde jazz and post-Cageian contemporary music and one of the most influential and revolutionary musical ensembles of the past 50 years, drastically revising what was possible in music and stripping much baggage from the existing forms- no repertoire, no solos, no regular rhythms, no stars, no necessity of playing at all. Their influence has been felt from rock (early Pink Floyd and Yoko Ono to Sonic Youth, David Sylvian and beyond) to "classical" (Christian Wolff and Merce Cunningham through the Wandelweiser school). His conceptual and technical advances have been adopted by scores of musicians through the years while he continues to move on into uncharted territory in recorded works, interactions with videographers and dancers, graphic art and more. He has appeared on over 200 recordings and has been the subject of several exhibitions documenting both his sound and visual artwork. He lives with his wife, Stephanie, in Vallet, France.
"A very readable and well-researched account, with lots of great anecdotes." --The Wire
Whether you've attended to Keith Rowe's music for mere minutes
or for decades, Brian Olewnick's terrific biography brings home the
fact that much of what you know about this crucial artist likely
contains significant gaps. No longer. This marvelously researched
life in its similarly fine telling--not to mention the
bringing-together of a tremendous collection of written materials
on Rowe and AMM--occupies a much-needed place in the literature on
improvised and experimental music from the 1960s forward, and its
nexus in Rowe of performance, politics, and visual art.
--David Grubbs, Musician and author of Records Ruin the Landscape: John Cage, the Sixties, and Sound Recording
Despite having extreme music as his subject, along with even more extreme politics, bitter feuds and the convoluted history of AMM and free improvisation, Brian Olewnick brings clarity, even-handed compassion, wry humour and insight to one of the great stories of post-war avant-garde music.
--David Toop, author of Ocean of Sound and Into the Maelstrom "For someone interested in going 'beyond' with music and with guitar, this essential history will help you set your sights on places no musician has gone." --Henry Kaiser for Guitar Moderne "Keith Rowe, it seems, was always an original. But even avowed admirers of his work will glean from Brian Olewnick's weighty and exhaustively researched biography a new understanding of just how original the now-seventy-eight-year-old performer was and still remains. The book provides an invaluable explanation of how Rowe developed his entirely unprecedented approach to the guitar--and why his influence primarily has been felt second hand, through the more widely publicized efforts of acolytes such as the psychedelic-rock innovator Syd Barrett and the indefatigable improviser Fred Frith." --musicworks "One can not underestimate the importance and innovation of the work undertaken by Brian Olewnick." --Ondarock "If you have even a passing interest in AMM, Rowe, or the artist's path, this book is essential."
As seen in Jazz Word, 15 Questions