Spring Garden Music     presents   

 No  Net sessions and other large groups

 return to Spring Garden Music

No Net was a series of seven weekend workshops of improvisers I (Jack Wright) organized in 2004 and 2005, with a significant pre-history leading up to them. The sessions of around nine players each were held in a spacious room with rich acoustics at the Spring Garden Music house in Philadelphia. Playing began on a Saturday noon and continued through Sunday night, with breaks for eating, socializing, and sleeping, and a public performance at least one of the nights.

The music differed from one No Net to the next, depending on the players and instrumentation. Our starting point was quiet dynamics--at times barely a whisper-- sustained textures and spaces, and a slow pace. The overall orientation was the sensuality of sound, the more unconventional the better, getting away from musician training and opening our imagination.

Since the eighties I have been interested in large groups, occasionally calling for any interested sax players in Philly or another city to come together for a concert or session. I called those "Saxophone Soup," with the idea that the sound of the saxophone alone would be a unifying element. (In 2015 after a long hiatus I organized one in Philadelphia--eleven saxophones in a huge, "wet" acoustic. It produced a near-deafening roar, upsetting for some of the audience, ecstatic for others.) In 1984 I invited musicians to the First Annual East Coast Free Music Festival, and then again the next year. They followed the principle at the time of ad hoc mixed groupings, initiated by British guitarist Derek Bailey’s Company Week, and common at the time for American free improv performance.

In the early nineties, while living in Boulder, for two years I organized summer weekends of Front Range and the West Coast musicians called “Improv Campout” in Questa New Mexico. Around the same time, sessions in Boulder included as many as twenty-five people, not distinguished as “musicians, dancers, artists” but simply coming together for a full afternoon of free play—sound, visuals, movement, words. These were both frightening and exhilarating, as psyches were let loose and dramas were constructed spontaneously. There was no pressure to do anything, so people participated to the extent they wanted, some only observing, such that the player/audience divide was reduced to a minimum.

Later I made attempts with large groups of musicians in Philly and NY, but these became free-for-alls without subtlety or musical value, in my opinion. If only one person thought of it as a blowing session, the entire group would have to go that direction. In 2000, while on tour with saxophonist Bhob Rainey, I organized a session of nine Bay Area improvisers. The large number seemed dangerously close to producing cacophony, but we were able to interact aesthetically rather than release emotion. (Later that spring Rainey went on to organize the BSC in Boston, which unlike No Net was a band, with roughly continuous personnel.) Guitarist John Shiurba made a recording and released it on his Limited Sedition label as the “Jack Wright Large Ensemble.”

This was followed by a gathering in Boulder/Denver in July 2002 of eight players, and since many came from a distance--Seattle, Salt Lake, Chicago, Questa, and Minneapolis--it made sense to make a weekend of it. Electronicist Bob Falesch recorded it and Aaron Hansen made an edited version available online here.

After I moved back east in 2003 I brought the large group concept to the east coast. I was inspired by the four-day No Idea festival in Austin Texas in April 2004 (and later helped finance by paying for a double CD of that name, now out of print). I was impressed that the first night of the festival most of the audience consisted of the other players, making it more like a session of players in rotation than a conventional performance. After a couple days of playing in different combinations we grew musically, and in our sense of community. At the end of the weekend the festival moved to Houston, where we were able to take that culmination of listening and playing to a significant audience of non-players, who responded beyond our expectations. The end of the festival flowed more freely than the beginning; even the most solo-oriented players became equal contributors to the group.

From this it was obvious that a large workshop could be rewarding to the musicians as a collectivity, a very different event from the conventional spectacle of a festival. Each gathering would take a configuration of players through a unique process of discovery, different ideas of where the musical imagination can go. And at a performance listeners would get the benefit of a fully centered group of players, not a collection of performing egos with individualized styles.

At first I articulated an explicit guideline of "lower-case" music--sparse, quiet, and with possible "empty" space, but I soon found that I didn't need to say anything. Through some generational cultural change since the eighties, many wanted to connect rather than express themselves, and preferred a different kind of intensity. The music was about sound, and there was usually a balance of acoustic and electronic instruments that helped it go in that direction. We were choosing when to enter and could play textures rather than making “statements.” This was the direction of careful playing, not fearing to make a wrong move but letting spontaneity make the flow happen rather than interrupting it. To create a collective aesthetic was a radically new discovery for improv, distinguishing it from its earlier free jazz “letting-go,” henceforth two different sensibilities.

For me No Net was neither a cause, nor an avant-garde concept, nor an advertised workshop. It reflected my own musical interest in greater precision and detail, which I had gained from playing with musicians in Boston and Berlin. This also led me to become more selective in choosing partners, musicians who enjoyed the interaction rather than playing parallel lines to each other. Generally, it filled a need for us as musicians I had not recognized previously, to satisfy ourselves aesthetically. The social pressure is against that; today’s musician is expected to be the performer-entrepreneur, who aims for the maximum audience, and that means to shape the music around its entertainment needs. For that figure, sessions for one’s own aesthetic enjoyment take the back seat.

The weekends of playing, where there was room to enjoy each other personally, were the hint of a dream--to play collectively and continuously our entire lives. It was an outgrowth of Spring Garden Music, which I created in 1982 with the vision of a pool of players who are open to newcomers yet close as friends who choose each other. It creates the kind of improv where we are almost reaching around and playing each other’s instruments.

After 2005 I stopped organizing No Net sessions, partly because the enthusiasm of musicians, audience, and event organizers for improv was declining, as was the flood of new players. Musicians were turning away from large group improvisation towards the norm of performance-oriented groups and careers. I never meant for No Net to become an institution; it had its time, which had passed.

In April 2016 I organized a large group performance of eight, of which Kevin Reilly made a video recording, available here. Then in 2018 I put together the Third East Coast Free Music Festival; two-days with twelve musicians, arranged in sets of ad hoc combinations, most of them playing together for the first time (one of the videos here). The next event and project depends on a new resurgence of interest in free playing on the part of musicians, audience, and organizers. At the moment (2022), artistic creativity for its own sake is at the bottom of the world’s apparent interest, but no doubt a few will discover this always-new and unheard music once again.

The players:

March 7, 2000 Mills College, Oakland CA

Jack Wright, saxophones
Matt Ingalls, clarinet
Bhob Rainey, soprano saxophone
Morgan Guberman, contrabass
Matthew Sperry, contrabass
Tom Djill, trumpet
Ron Heglin, tuba, voice
John Shiurba, guitar
Karen Stackpole, percussion

July 12-13, 2003 Boulder and Denver CO

Jack Wright - Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Contra-alto Clarinet, Piano, Trombone
Aaron Hansen - Tenor Saxophone, Bass Clarinet, Eb Clarinet, Short Sax, Calls
Gust Burns - Piano
Davu Seru - Percussion, Piano, Contrabass
Jonathan Fretheim - Viola, Voice
Michael O’Neill - Guitar, Voice Bob Falesh - Metapiano
Ben Wright - Contrabass, Baritone Tuba, Saw

July 17-18, 2004, Philadelphia

ten of the following appeared the first day and nine the second:

Ricardo Arias, balloons, NYC
Mike Balistreri, bass, Albuquerque, NM
Dan Blacksberg, trombone, Phila.
Dan Breen, mechanical electronics, Baltimore
Charles Cohen, buchla music easel, Philadelphia
Mazen Kerbaj, trumpet, Beirut, Lebanon
Paul Neidhardt, percussion, Baltimore
Anna Troisi, electronics and amplified objects, Bologna, Italy
Vic Rawlings, cello and electronics, Boston
Nate Wooley, trumpet, Jersey City NJ
Jack Wright, saxes, Easton PA

The concerts were described in the fall issue 2004 of Signal to Noise as "a festival resplendent in great moments."

Aug. 21-22, 2004 :

Gust Burns, piano and tapes, Seattle
Bryan Eubanks, sax and tape recorder, Portland OR
Andy Hayleck, amplified gongs, Baltimore
Michael Johnsen, electronics and saw, Pittsburgh, PA
Andrew Lafkas, bass, NYC
Evan Lipson, bass, Phila.
Toshi Makihara, percussion, Phila.
Gregory Reynolds, alto sax, Seattle
Jack Wright, saxes, Easton PA

April 10-11, 2005

Gust Burns, piano, tapes, Seattle WA
Andrew Drury, percussion, Queens, NY
Evan Lipson, double bass, Philadelphia (Spring Garden House)
Carlos Santiago, violin, Philadelphia (Spring Garden House)
Dave Smollen, percussion, electronics, Philadelphia (Spring Garden House)
Ben Wright, double bass, Questa NM
Jack Wright, saxes, Easton PA

April 17, 2005--Rotunda Concert

Mike Bullock, double bass, electronics, Boston
Gust Burns, tapes, Seattle WA
Tucker Dulin, trombone, electronics, San Diego, CA
Chris Forsyth, guitar, Brooklyn, NY
David Gross, saxophone, Boston
Andrew Lafkas, upright bass, Queens, NY
Catherine Pancake, dry ice/cymbal percussion, Baltimore
Nate Wooley, trumpet, Jersey City NJ
Jack Wright, soprano and alto saxophone, Easton PA

June 18-19, 2005

Alban Bailly, guitar, France and currently Philadelphia
Andrew Dewar, soprano sax, Middletown CT (Weslyan)
Tom Djll, tpt, Santa Cruz, CA
Michael Johnsen, electronics, Pittsburgh PA
Chris Mueller, cello, St. Louis
Morten Nottleman, drums, The Hague, Netherlands
Mark Sarich, cello, electronics, St. Louis
Jack Wright, saxes, Easton PA

August 20, 21

Jonathan Chen, violin, Middletown NY
Rob Dietz, computer electronics, Bloomington IN
Andy Haleck, saw, bowed cymbals, Baltimore
Leonel Kaplan, trumpet, Buenos Aires Argentina
David Kendall, computer electronics, Los Angeles
Rachel Thompson, violin, Middletown NY
Jack Wright, saxes, Easton
Jonathan Zorn, analogue electronics, Middletown NY

Dec. 16-17, 2005

Maria Chavez, turntables, Brooklyn
Bryan Eubanks, electronics, Queens
Andy Hayleck, saw, Baltimore
Bonnie Jones, electronics, Baltimore
Andrew Lafkas, double bass, Queens
Wade Matthews, clarinet, flute, electronics Madrid, Spain
Paul Neidhardt, percussion, Baltimore
Jack Wright, saxes, Easton

April 12, 2016, Rotunda Concert, Philadelphia

Bob Marsh double bass and electronics, Pueblo CO
Jack Wright saxophones, Easton
Ilan Gold double bass, Phila.
Ben Bennett percussion, Phila.
Elizabeth Meredith viola, Baltimore
Alban Bailly cello, Phila.
Zach Darrup guitar, cello, Phila.
Mick Ricereto, B-flat clarinet, alto clarinet, Phila.

June 4 and 5, 2018, Third Annual East Coast Free Music Festival, Philadelphia

Ben Bennett, percussion (Philadelphia)
Ed Cho, guitar (Easton PA)
Patrick Crossland,trombone(Baltimore)
Zach Darrup, guitar (Philadelphia)
Joel Kromer, modular synth(Bethlehem PA)
Evan Lipson, double bass (Chattanooga)
Toshi Makihara, percussion (Phoenixville PA)
Andrea Pensado, electronics and voice (Salem MA)
Ron Stabinsky, piano and electronics (Wilkesbarre)
Matt Tomlinson, bass guitar (New Philadelphia PA)
Jack Wright, alto/soprano saxophone (Easton PA)
Walter Wright, electronics (Lowell MA)


for more info email
Jack Wright