Stephen O’Malley

ANNETTE PEACOCK reading (interviews, letters, reviews, photos, etc) PT II

Posted: Aug 25, 2013

Reprinted from


Volume IV, Number 6, Section I

by Roget Lockard

[Note: Xerox copy of this interview was included in the I'm the One press kit.]

Annette Peacock is going to make rock music soon, and I think it's going to be important. I've talked to her twice now, once at the Crawdaddy office and once at her home. While we were at the office I recorded our conversation, so I'm going to let Annette speak the way I did, and partly to tell you why I think she could become so influential:
AP: I'm married to Gary Peacock, but Paul Bley is the father of a very beautiful child of mine, and we're living together as a family unit now. Paul and the child and I. Gary is in Japan. He'll always be musical. everything ho does is music, whether be picks up his instrument or not. We did some tapes with him just before he left to Japan. He plays Fender bass, and it's beautiful...
>>>Paul has a kind of genius where he can lose whatever he's doing musically as far as he want to go, and always comes back. He's Scorpio, and I think Scorpions are very great improvisers. They're into that power thing; they like to control things all the time -- they like to come back and see how much power they have...
Annette is a very striking person. Her movement betray training in dance -- a liquid intensity and subtle purposefulness in each motion and gesture. She is tall and lovely, wearing dramatic clothing easily and naturally. When she talks to you her voice seems to be confiding in you, rather breathlessly while her dark eyes search your face for signs of understanding. When she feels that you've understood her, her eyes widen and her face breaks into a delighted smile, as though a very special thing has just happened. I felt awkward and without imagination next to her aura of freshness and grace, so I asked really clever questions like "What would you say has been the strongest influence on your music?"
AP: Drugs were probably my largest influence -- the music I make is a drug experience -- although I don't take drugs anymore because I can't work behind drugs; I can't produce the amount of I need to produce. I get distracted, you know? I decided I didn't want to take anymore because my body was dying -- dying on me, man. Like, my mind was racing and my body was just dormant. I'd had all kinds of groovy experiences, but I knew it wasn't a rehabilitating direction to go in.
>>>I went into electronics because that freed me again. Every once in while you get very aware of what you're doing and you start repeating it, see, and that's the danger. You have to always keep it fresh. Sometimes you have to provide artificial stimuli to keep yourself open.
Paul Bley is an experienced jazz pianist who has played with musicians like Sonny Rollins, Don Cherry and Albert Ayler. He is now playing, in addition to the piano, the keyboard of a Moog Synthesizer. The Synthesizer is an electronic sound machine, ordinarily triggered by a keyboard. Annette has modified the Synthesizer so that her the musicians are astronomical. A musician can't fall back on the predictable chord changes to bridge the gap between one burst of inspiration and the next; there aren't any necessarily predictable changes.
>>>Fortunately, a good number of musicians have proven themselves capable of handling these "demands of freedom." People like Albert Ayler, Don Cherry, Charlie Mingus, Frank Smith, Burton Greene, Sonny Rollins, Eric Dolphy, Cecil Tylor and recently Miles Davis, have shown that this kind of "anarchy" in music can be expressive in ways no other musical form can duplicate.
AP: I've spent five years in Avant-Garde music, and taken it as far as it will go for me, so I've gone backwards, now. In Avent-Garde music I'm dealing with no time and no changes; the melodies suggesting the hermonies instead of the hermonies suggesting the melodies. Now I'm going completely back to the bottom of music, which is Rock. I don't mean "bottom" in derogatory sense. It's the simplest, most direct way of expressing, so I'm going into it as a song form because I think that's where my genius lies at this point.
>>>I'm really fascinated by Rock, especially since I've become electrified. The thing that's groovy about Rock is that it's become electric. That gave it its unique sound. Rock is electrical music that deals with very simple levels, so the electricity can shine and become clear.
>>>I'm putting together a group now; I want them to be able to play both kinds of music [Rock and Free Jazz]. I want to be able to deal as much as possible with space and time. Space is Ying, expression, and time is Yang, contraction. When I was taking drugs, to give you an indication, I was very Ying, and spaced out, so free music was right where I lived. But the more macro-biotic I eat, the more Yang I become -- so the more Yang I become -- so the more attracted I am to time.
>>>I don't want to use Rock as it is; I want to do as an abstraction of it...
When I visited Annette in her lower-Manhattan apartment I climbed two or three flights of stairs and entered into the kitchen -- very clean, very sparse, with many white wooden cabinets containing tapes, promotional martial and I suppose, reams of music for the bands. (Annette does all the writing for present band; all the charts and arrangements, and is also composing for the proposed Rock band at the rate of two songs a day.)
>>>Four steps and a right turn brought me to the living room. I was immediately certain that I was going to trip over something. I didn't, because the room is in fact very well organized. But I was reacting to an impression of clutter; the feeling that the entire Columbia recording studios had been piled into this one rather small room.
>>>The room is dominated by a grand piano and, of cause, the Moog Synthesizer, both against the windowed wall at the far side of the room. All the other walls are lined with recording equipment, a mixing box, microphones, electric vibes, a smaller synthesizer, more tapes and records, everywhere a jungle of wires.
>>>Astonishingly, I was able to walk unobstructed to the corner where the Moog monster squatted, as Annette valiantly attempted to explain to me how and why it does what it does. Then to a chair beside a table. Sit me down and listen to a couple of tapes from past concerts. Very impressive music. Everybody in the group was very free and themselves, but really together. I was fascinated by Annette's voice It's low, very melodic and captivating.
>>>She sings words, but once they come through the synthesizer they're different somehow. I didn't usually understand them as words, but had the feeling that I could have if I'd anted to try. Maybe there was a subliminal perception, because the meaning seemed to be coning through anyway. The only words I was clearly and specifically aware of were there: " makes you want live forever..."
>>>Hazarding a definition, I would say that "Free" jazz, or "Avant-Garde" jazz, is the idea that music can be more expressive if the discipline springs from within the artists and their inter-action together, rather than being dictated by pre-determined "forms." Anything that expresses emotion well -- that makes you feel impassioned -- is acceptable.
>>>One of the features of this approach to music is that only the best can survive. he demands on the talent, technical powers. and demands on the talent, technical powers, and depth of spirit in voice, or any instrument, can be fed into it through a microphone. This signal is modified by the Synthesizer in ways which Annette has programmed in advance. The signal is additionally manipulated by nine pedals which Annette has also grafted on to the system. In the meantime this impressive combine of wires is still and also doing what Paul tells it to do from his keyboard controls.
AP: Knowledge is a very funny thing. You have been to live with some things before you truly understand them. I had to invent a way to sing through the Synthesizer because it wasn't originally built or set up that way. I just had to learn and collect all the information I could like on electronics, and figure it out myself.
>>>The instrument doesn't give you a conception. If you don't have a way to approach the music, it will not give you that. But if you do have a music that you already hear, then it's very easy to get it out of the instrument -- it's no problem. You're dealing with oscillators, you see, and oscillators are completely fresh source of sound. You can do anything.
>>>I sing words into the synthesizer, but I can distort them -- destroy them -- which I enjoy doing. I enjoy being a pioneer. I enjoy doing things there are no rules for... making them up myself.
For a part of a concert at Town Hall Annette appeared topless, contrasting her gently curving body with the harsh jumble of equipment on the stage, and emphasizing the intimately human quality of the music.
>>>Rock music is going through a period of self-examination. The best people are re-examining basic sources, or distilling their strongest material. This is fine, and makes for some really excellent music.
>>>But somehow none of this sophisticated expertise creates the excitement we experience when a truly new and legitimate element is successfully taken us by surprise, but seems to make so much sense immediately after we hear it. I suspect (and hope) that Annette Peacock will offer us something of this nature. Many things are brewing in the amorphous depths of Rock; I'm looking forward to a taste of Peacock soup.


I'm the One RCA Press Release
>>>The summer is probably the best time to go down there, to the far reaches of the west west village. It's really calm, quiet and serene, as the sun beats down on your head and the occasional traffic meanders on its way through the nearly deserted streets.
>>>It's nice to be in the streets where there are a few women pushing strollers, old man sitting on stoops, like it was 1941 or something. Well, it's just generally just nice.
>>>Annette Peacock lives down there, in that sedate, even quaint-at-times west west village. She lives on a building that you wouldn't know was habitated [sic]. You might think it was a storage place or one of the hundreds of forgotten places that dot New York like a visceral plague its spots at random. But no, she lives there, and the living is part of her life.
>>>Up the winding stairs, bellied by years of footsteps, past a creaking bannister worn smooth by who knows how many hands, into an apartment, an apartment as starkly opposed to its surroundings as a lunar landing module is to the surface of the moon (for who knows what's really under the moon's surface).
>>>Annette's place really is Annette's place. A community of tools of her craft. Four synthesizers, walls of tapes, several electric pianos, a stool at a rakish angle rests under a window, a grand piano buried and dripping with torn pieces of paper and music manuscripts of assorted size, microphones, various devices for treatment of sound, an exposed brick wall backs some amps, an electric vibraphone, tape recorders, sets of drums and strange cymbals all stand in their place.
>>>Underpinning the aforementioned apparatus are a myriad of wires, running their way across the floor like so many snakes leaving the dehydrating muddy bottom of a drying river delta.
>>>So framed against this swiftly painted portrait of the place, enter Annette Peacock. Annette is what you'd call a fetching woman. She's not beautiful, but she's very pretty. She's statuesque without being callow or fragile, and perhaps most interesting about the lady is that you never know what she'll do next.
>>>To try and paint a picture of the artist, like brush strokes, clear and defined. This is something that is impossible. If it were Gatsby we could point out his clothes, his manner, what those around him felt. But Gatsby is dead, buried in the sands of lost literature, and Peacock is here and now, and maybe just as confusing.
>>>For Annette is many things. She is first of all a person, and, as such, her life and its meaning are peculiar to her. But then she's a musician, and that lends itself to the creativity and aura of the professional dreamer, the ebullient one minute, and Bowery denizen the next. Add to this the woman, an example of the classic, the musk of a woman, the propensity to do and to be.
>>>It's hard. To put your finger on just what it is that makes this well defined place of the planet work, but then how interesting would she be if you could categorize her? Who would care if she were just like so and so? What would be the plus?
>>>For the purist who want to know all the mundane facts about A.P., suffice it to say she was born sometime in this century. She matured in you town. She lived in her mind and on the rush of cosmic being. She was and she is. Today she is music. It is feeling and power. It is awareness and solitude. It is personal and universal. So dig it, you may not be here forever.

Public Affairs


Annette Elects Herself
April, 1989.

This interview with Annette was conducted in April of 1989 over the phone. The interviewer, Bill Reynolds, a Toronto journalist, phoned Annette where she lived at the time, in rural Berkshire, which is located about 45 minutes from London -- "I don't like cities particularly." Annette's bass player from that era was Ed Poole and her drummer was Simon Price. That trio was the unit that recorded the Abstract-Contact LP. Unfortunately for Annette, Poole quit the group two weeks prior to a much-anticipated engagement in Toronto. She phoned the promoter and begged off the gig because she didn't think she could find a drummer who could learn the intricacies of the arrangements in time. The gig, which was to be held at a club called the Rivoli in downtown Toronto, had to be cancelled. Consequently, the preview article never ran as scheduled in the alternative weekly newspaper that was around at the time, Metropolis, where Reynolds worked as a correspondent.
>>>This, then, a slightly cleaned-up version of the interview, is happily distributed to visitors of this site as Annette's new CD release for ECM, An Acrobat's Heart, becomes available. As the story on Annette never made it to fully edited form it should be kept that way.
>>>Abstract-Contact's magnum opus, the long, complex tune "Elect Yourself," is almost a revolutionary tract, a polemic of the very highest order. In it Annette rails against blind idiot capitalism, environmental degradation, youthful irresponsibility, regressions against feminism and so on. It's not surprising this interview focused on words and not music.
>>>Some of the discussion reads like it is quite out-of-date now, and yet at the same time is strangely prophetic. To take one small example, there is a discussion about "green products" as if they actually were a real response to possible environmental catastrophe, and not, as we all suspected, just another scam perpertrated by greedy corporations in order to polish their badly tarnished images. This is, after all, years before Mad Cow disease, Gulf War syndrome, Bosnia and a hundred other atrocities from the past decade.

Bill Reynolds: The song "Elect Yourself" could be construed as implying that you think there's no hope, that the Judeo-Christian male-dominated world will simply get worse.
Annette Peacock: I don't know. I used to be extremely optimistic. Now I'm more realistic about man's ability to transcend his basic nature, or his basic conditioning.
>>>Unless people start becoming active, in terms of doing what they can actually do in their own sphere of activity (within their family, socially, within their circle of friends, whatever), yeah, there is no hope.
>>>I call that the personal revolution. Drastic, extreme things have to be done in terms of consciousness raising and behaviour patterns.
>>>People are becoming more and more aware, but they are still in the minority. They're questioning everything that permeates the fabric of their lives -- too much waste, taking too much, what to purchase.
>>>That is happening, but it's a question of whether it will happen fast enough. The damage is being done exponentially, and of course we can't determine what the consequences of these kinds of things is going to be.
>>>I wrote a song called "I Belong to a World That's Destroying Itself" in 1969. That was 20 years ago. It's getting worse, not better. People are victims of habit. It's very difficult to break behaviour patterns. Not many people are able or willing to take the effort to do that. Unless it becomes a socially accepted lifestyle to change your behaviour patterns very quickly, I can't feel too positive.
BR: Maybe we'll just blindly end up poisoning ourselves.
AP: Yeah, or people will end up dying by disease more and more. There is so much pollution in the environment, and the body can eliminate only so much, and withstand so much assault. Your system becomes weakened by the environment. Of course, that's another way of eliminating the population, of dealing with another crisis, especially here in England.
BR: But there alternatives around...
AP: Yes, it is now socially acceptable and economically viable. In Safeway you can buy organically grown foods now. It's still a very small quantity. Five years ago Thatcher said she was going to remove the lead from petrol b1990, and she's still on schedule. But she's being pressured by the public to do it, because these concerns are becoming popular issues. Change is happening faster than it's ever happened before, because people are genuinely frightened. Also, there is a lot of profit to be made by going green.
BR: Business says, "Go Green!" because they can make greenbacks.
AP: It's up to people to say they're going to support green products. Here on television almost every day there is some kind of green issue being discussed, and information is being brought to the fore. But you go into health food shops and they're still not stocking organic products. It doesn't make sense. There's no intelligence behind it.
>>>People are in the habit of buying a certain brand. It's very difficult for them to change. You have to make a conscious effort to do that each time, before it becomes unconscious and automatic. That's very difficult for people living in a very stressful world who have to stay on their toes all day long -- it's so competitive and tough out there. It takes an incredible amount of stamina, mental agility to survive.
BR: How do you spend your days in Berkshire?
AP: I spend most of my time protecting myself from the environment. There was a scare here recently about dangerous levels of aluminum in the water, which causes brain damage in large doses.
>>>They also put large supplies of chemicals in the water to eliminate some kind of mite. They didn't notify anybody about it because they said it was harmless.
>>>I'm bent on a protective path, because you can't trust anybody. I get my vegetables from people I know who grow them. We don't eat fish anymore because you can't trust the oceans over here.
BR: Well, judging from the news, like the Alaska oil spill, you've got good reason...
AP: We just can't afford things like that anymore. They have to pass legislation for horrendous fines for people in business that will absolutely bankrupt them if they do this. Then they'll be pressured to take safety measures that are foolproof. This is very serious. It's life or death for everybody.
BR: Your line "No nookie till the nukes are gone" reminds me of Aristophanes' play The Lysistrata.
AP: It's a very basic elemental power that women have over men. It's the only threat that men will listen to. If there was just a sexual strike throughout the world... there's nothing that grabs a man's attention faster than withholding or offering sexual favours. Sexual politics I think it's called.
>>>As for women's liberation, we seem to be going in the opposite direction now. The offspring of the 1960s generation are very right wing. They are a conservative consumer society. I don't like that. >>>Take women's liberation, for example. There has been so much information and education about it, and still attitudes haven't changed that much. They're still crying the same blues. It's a subtle thing for women, insidious. Women have had so many roles in the relationship with men as they're growing up, so it requires so many strata of awareness and behaviour. Mothers have to reject all the behaviour patterns they grew up with. Unless your very survival depends on it, people won't change. Even then it doesn't matter sometimes. A lot of people know that smoking can kill them and they continue smoking.
BR: In the first verse of "Elect Yourself" you seem to be criticizing youth.
AP: I'm not criticizing them. I'm just defining them. I can't pass judgment because I was that age as well, and I might have been pretty fascist as well. But then, I didn't have a generation of proven success as a group of youth who were able to wield such political power. Who were able to bring down the government of the most powerful nation in the world at the time.
>>>It has been proven that youth can collectively effect great change. The power to do that is historical. For them not to use that power is a great tragedy. They've just reverted back to the way it was before, to the 1950s generation, to the time of affluence, a time of just having fun.
>>>This is the great emotional crisis of out tome. How to come to terms with the world we're living in. Each person has to find their own way. Many people don't take it personally and think it's happening out there, and not to them. That's totally untrue, and they must realize that. Unless they're just braindead zoids walking around, they must realize there is this discrepancy between the way they would prefer it to be and the way it really is.
>>>The people who are aware just try to survive every day within those thousands of shocks going on around them. 
>>>Once you're aware it's your natural instinct to collect information in order to survive. At first you're shocked by it, but then you accept the fact that every 45 minutes or so a new piece of information comes in that could lead to insurmountable catastrophe.
>>>You feel helpless because you know that the people who are in power are not so concerned with the legitimate priorities. It takes so much effort for them just to continue the machine -- to keep the economy going and manage the running of a country. For them to start assuming responsibility for the environment and the whole world's environment, because you can't think about your own patriotic little patch anymore, it takes a complete reorganization of approach. Governments haven't even begun to take this into consideration. Every government should have ecology committees and representatives. There should be an ecological United Nations which is meeting continually to set down legislation.
BR: What about Swedish Prime Minister Gro Bruntland's much-discussed Sustainable Development and The Bruntland Report. you know, economics and environment cannot be sacrificed at the other's expense. Do you agree with her assessment?
AP: It makes perfect sense. A woman's logic. Women think is terms of maintaining. There are exceptions, like Thatcher, who thinks like a man. But that can be admirable too, in the lack of sentimentality and so forth.
BR: Over here in Canada, our Prime Minister Brian Mulroney has endorsed The Bruntland Report, has won an award for his commitment to environment issues, but then he has cut the environment budget by 60 per cent over four years.
AP: Politicians don't think past their terms of office. They can't think 50 generations ahead, but rather their own lifetime. Most people have trouble thinking beyond today. It's the nature of the way the human brain works. It has so much potential to achieve. That's what's dangerous about it. There are no restrictions on the level of enthusiasm. That's the thing about capitalism. It's a great theory, but it's very extreme. If you can make any amount of money, you will make any amount of money, at any cost.
>>>Bruntland doesn't have as big a profile as Thatcher or Bush. If she did, she could get a marketing machine working for her. Spend a lot of money promoting and publicizing principles. Putting them into action and showing that the work. It might become popular to behave in that kind of way for heads of state, and therefore we might be able to have real change.
BR: I get the impression you have a problem with men.
AP: They obviously have a need to create. They're inspired and they don't have the same physiological satisfaction that a woman fundamentally has by creating life within her own being. Obviously, though, that experience for a woman makes her realize how ephemeral life really is, how precious it really is because of what she's gone though to conceive and protect it.
>>>Also, giving birth trains a woman's mind to think laterally and in terms of cause and effect. [Annette was raising a toddler at the time of this interview.] A woman has to basically be a genius to keep a child alive through to the age of five. You have to think ahead, because anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Murphy's Law. You follow through consequences all the way. If you don't think like that your child won't survive. That's all there is to it.
>>>Men, as a rule, don't think that way. They're very goal-oriented. They focus on one thing at a time, and put the thrust of all their energy toward concentrating on attaining that particular goal. They move straight ahead towards it, very fast, with a lot of momentum and vitality. They get things done, manifest change. But they're not cautious. They don't often think of the consequences of the actions they are taking.
>>>We need men and women working together to achieve a balance of sorts. Women move more cautiously, so if change is going to happen at the tempo it needs to happen to turn things from destruction to conservation, then we need that male force. But we also need that female force to maintain and sustain things and put the male force in check.

Bill Reynolds is editor-in-chief of eye Weekly, Toronto's weekly newspaper.



She played piano from an early age but did not have formal training. Her marriage to bassist Gary Peacock gave her immediate access to several avant/free jazz greats, the company of Albert Ayler being particularly influential. Around 1962, Gary began playing with Paul Bley. Through his connection to Bley, he joined Albert Ayler's group in '64, Annette traveling with them on their European tour. The awakening of a romantic relationship between Annette and Paul Bley provided the impetus for her compositions becoming a major part of Paul's repertoire. With the acquisition of two Moog synthesizers she began her performing career as a player and a singer in a group with Paul, called The Synthesizer Show, using her Moog not only as a keyboard instrument but also to treat her abstract jazz vocalizations. Use of the synthesizer outside of the studio was unheard of at this time due to its complexity. After two albums representative of this period (Improvisie and Dual Unity), a third was released circa 1970 under the aegis of Bley/Peacock Synthesizer Show titled Revenge, an album of songs written and sung by Annette, including the first version of the song "I'm The One." Her first solo album, I'm the One, released in 1972 . Her relation to Paul bley now over, she attended Julliard. Moving to Britain in the mid-'70's, she became a fixture in the avant jazz and rock circles there, recording many sessions with such luminaries as Bill Bruford, Chris Spedding, Mick Ronson, etc. The release of her critically acclaimed 1978 album X-Dreams, followed the year after by The Perfect Release. Six more albums followed, the latter four released on her own Ironic Records label, culminating in 1987's Abstract Contact. an acrobat's heart from ECM in 2000.


 "Individual are the land mark of Peacock's biography that it seems almost unfair that they should belong to one person; as if her life has been gluttonous for the incindets and acts of ledgend. She was given one of the first synthesizers by its inventor Robert Moog in 1968; she appeared topless at the Townhouse in New York; she appeared onThe Johnny Carson Show; she performed the first electronic improvising band; she was the first person to sing through a synthesizer and the first to electronically treat the voice in the recording process; she was the first 'rap' over a rock backing; she turned down the offer of appearing on Bowie's Aladdin Sane or performing with him in concert; she invented the 'free-form song'; she became the first holographic actress in a show with Salvador Dali on Broadway..."
Melody Maker, August 20, 1983