Milo Fine / Recognition over…

Recognition over fame
Publicity over hype
Support over worship

– milo fine
(from the liner notes to IMPROVISATIONS [BEING FREE])

Derek Bailey / Playing is like…

Playing is like living, only better.

-Derek Bailey

Soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy’s response

Soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy’s response to being asked to describe, in fifteen seconds, the difference between composition and improvisation was as follows: “In fifteen seconds the difference between composition and improvisation is that in composition you have all the time you want to decide what to say in fifteen seconds, while in improvisation you have fifteen seconds.”

milo fine / My voice…

My voice and its evolution are heavily characterized by an autodidactic, and often technically unorthodox approach. I have always been interested in finding my own way with my instruments (percussion, piano, clarinets, et. al.); in mining a less consciously cognitive, more intuitive meeting ground between my muse and their qualities and potentials. By maintaining a flux of the intellect, intuition, discipline and anarchy, wherein indeterminacy and randomness are conjoined with fundamental stimulus/response procedures, linear development, and overt structural elements, my improvisational work exposes a real-time, ongoing process of composition, realization and refinement. The focus of my collaborative work has always been concerned with an ongoing, simultaneous maintenance of individuality and community, wherein each participant’s stylistic/creative input is paramount.

– milo fine

milo fine (from the liner notes to ANANKE) / As early…

As early as third grade, I was aware of being groomed. Not by my parents (directly, anyway, bless their hearts,) but by our society and culture. There was a certain recognition of perceived attributes which, combined with my gender and pigmentation, served to indicate that the world could be my oyster. (One of the few valuable things I learned in college was that there is no such thing as “race”; the gene pool being nothing but a more and more exotically mixed DNA cocktail. Racism? — along with all the other “isms/phobias” of that ilk, which are nothing but self-hatred directed outwards, and, in addition, a vital tool to maintain the status quo/ruling class. — certainly! But not race. Thus, “pigmentation”.) So, innately; inherently?; no, intuitively, I was having none (or little) of the advantages of entitlement. Noble? I’d like to think so. Pragmatic? Absolutely. Some kind of small attempt to become part of something like a solution, or, at least, something which could be construed as more healthy than not. (That the oppressed have, at almost every opportunity, elected to adopt the mind set — values and strategies — endemic of the “pasty-faced male”, rather than transcend the oppressor, is as sadly predictable as it is ironic. From another angle: when all is said and done, the only difference between rich people and poor people is the money.) In tandem with turning my back on my “birthright”, and fueled by my growing and extreme distrust for the fodder shoved down our throats by every institutional representative of the status quo, I developed a marked interest in attempting to head elsewhere; specifically concerning the myriad of variables having to do with music/sound, but, in a broader context, examining the very nature of cognition. (Robert Musil’s discussion of “der andere zustand” — the other condition — in THE MAN WITHOUT QUALITIES comes as close as the written word can to this, this elsewhere which so motivates me.)

– milo fine (from the liner notes to ANANKE)

6-Victor Brombert Introduction to Italo Svevo’s novel, EMILIO’S CARNIVAL (aka SENILITÀ) / The senilita in question…

The senilità in question refers neither to the pathology of aging nor to precocious decrepitude. Rather, it suggests a special sensibility (some people are indeed born old), or, better still, a special kind of inertia, the inertia of the dreamer, a modern version of acedia, or ironic ennui — devoid, however, of the metaphysical dimension Baudelaire gave to the term. Senilità, in Svevo’s perspective, accompanies the tragic sense of existence; it represents a permanent premonition of life as disaster, a deep skepticism concerning one’s own potential, a ceaseless meditation on vulnerability and death, a wisdom that can be put to no use, an awareness of the unavoidable loss of that which one never possessed, a suffering sharpened while consciousness views itself as both object and subject.

– Victor Brombert Introduction to Italo Svevo’s novel, EMILIO’S CARNIVAL (aka SENILITÀ)

Robert Musil (translated by Eithne Wilkins and Ernst Kaiser) THE MAN WITHOUT QUALITIES / Let us try…

Let us try to imagine the opposite — a writer who did not do all these things. He would have to refuse cordial invitations, rebuff people, assess praise not as though he himself were the object of it, but like a judge, tear the natural state of things to shreds, and treat splendid opportunities with suspicion merely because they were splendid; and he would have nothing to offer in return but processes going on inside his own head, difficult to express and difficult to assess, and the work of a man of letters, something that an epoch already possessing supermen of letters need not set much store by. Would not such a man inevitably remain an outsider and have to withdraw from reality, bearing the consequences of his attitude?

– Robert Musil (from THE MAN WITHOUT QUALITIES translated by Eithne Wilkins and Ernst Kaiser)

milo fine (liner notes to ANOTHER OUTBREAK OF ICONOCLASM [TWO EGGS, SLIGHTLY BEATEN]) / I believe…

I believe I discovered the word “ananke” in a novel by Philip K. Dick. I scrawled it on a piece of junk mail with the definition “blind necessity/blind chance,” and carried it around in my checkbook for years, planning to eventually use it as a document title. Having acquiesced to Steve’s choice of “April/October 1991″ for the last album, I hoped to use “ananke” as at least a partial title for the album at hand. However, faced with Steve’s proposals this time around, I had no choice but to succumb to his pithy and wholly appropriate suggestions. As I was tired of carrying “ananke” around in more ways than one, Steve proposed that I incorporate it into liner notes for this LP.

Interpreting “blind” as humanity’s inability and an individual’s struggle to even partially grasp so-called reality, “ananke” somehow conveys a primary motivational component of my life and work. Additional clues can be found in the following quote from “Old Masters” by Thomas Bernhard – “Art altogether is nothing but a survival skill, we should never lose sight of this fact, it is, time and again, just an attempt — an attempt that seems touching even to our intellect — to cope with this world and its revolting aspects, which, as we know, is invariably possible only by resorting to lies and falsehoods, to hypocrisy and self-deception…” The struggle, the process to move, however slightly, from these overwhelmingly pervasive attributes of humanity, greatly interests me.

[2009: A decade and a half after writing these notes, and during which time I came to find out that “ananke” is actually the goddess of necessity, her name has finally graced a document.]


Jeff Nuttall (from THE BALD SOPRANO A PORTRAIT OF LOL COXHILL) / Somewhere along…

Somewhere along the road a creative man has to make what you might call the Exit Decision. Either he decides he is going to be the kind of artist who accepts the conventional disciplines and practices within the range of established standards to the point of excellence, or else he decides he is going to redefine the discipline and move into new areas where there are no established standards except that related to the courage of taking this decision.
If he chooses the first, he is secure. He may fail, he may be mediocre and he may excel even beyond the achievement of his mentors, but he will be secure with a clear identity and an unconfused situation in his society. All people will know more or less, what he does and what his skill is called. As they say “He is the milkman” or “He is the carpenter” or “He is the electrician”, so they will say “He is the painter” and “He is the ballet dancer” and “He is the jazz musician”…
On the other hand, the man making the second choice sacrifices all security. He moves out of convention, so, as far as his professional definition goes, he moves out of society. Few people but him really know how successful he’s being. Most people, unsettled as always by the unfamiliar, will resent his disturbing them, his taking money whilst refusing to entertain them, will continually call him charlatan or fool…
The artist is peeling his skin back to achieve sufficient sensitivity to be able to say things right, is thus vulnerable to the ridicule, anger or straight indifference he’s likely to suffer. He must then, even though he’s operating in a private hermetic area, act as a spokesman and salesman for his own work. Without for a moment changing the nature of what he is attempting to do, he must make it readily and obviously available to everybody…People must tread in his art, stub their toes against it, find it in their pockets or buy it, if they want. And whilst the public acts adversely to his presumptuousness, as they are quite likely to, he must build around himself an invisible protective wall behind which he may safely render himself naked as a new-hatched chick…
Finally, he must love humanity as a whole without ever seeking their love in return. If he gets it, so much the good, but to solicit it would compromise his situation, falsify the evidence he brings back from outside the barriers of convention. He must love humanity because, more than any priest or politician, he is the person who actually is concerned for humanity, not how it behaves or what its right may be, but what it is, what it may become and what it is now possible to do.


Dixonia/Bill Dixon

I’ve spent my entire career trying to do something for this art form; meanwhile, my contemporaries have spent their careers trying to do something for themselves.

-Bill Dixon (from DIXONIA)

Quatermass and the Pit/quote

Colonel Breen: “Do you ever find your early career catching up with you?”
Quatermass: “I never had a career. Only work.”

(from the film QUATERMASS AND THE PIT)

milo fine (from the liner notes to TESHUVAH) / Insufferable and absurd…

Insufferable and absurd. But, what else to expect? Because we are (imagine ourselves to be?) sentient, or rather, due to the manner in which western “civilization”, an infectious disease which has managed to inculcate almost every indigenous culture on the planet, has manifested this sentience, we are an utterly disingenuous species. Our actions, in one way or another, are, for the most part (exclusively?) unintentional manifestations of what lurks beneath; unacknowledged, suppressed, repressed, willfully unknown. Our behavioral watchwords? Rationalization and justification. Why? Well, fear of course, Knowing we will cease to exist, or, perhaps more accurately, lacking the ability to fathom the eternal (or what we imagine it to be), we turn to so-called power, material wealth, fame and the like as pathetically meagre compensation. Now, there are those who would, in the current lexicon, argue that “it’s all good”, which is nothing but a rephrasing of essential tenets found in any number of belief systems/philosophies. And while there is no doubt that truly existing in the eternity of every moment, to treat what we generally separate into “good” or “bad”/ “positive” or “negative”, as nothing but unified energy of which we are simply a part — to, in other words, maintain a sense of calm and “being” regardless of life’s circumstances — would likely be ideal, or close to it. But, given the essence of humanity’s overall conditioning and wiring, this state is, sadly, more or less impossible to attain, never mind sustain. Not to say that it isn’t worth considering and attempting. But, in the meantime, let’s drop the pretense; the state of the world — inner and outer — makes it clear that it is not all good, and to excuse our behavior is to propagate the missteps that personify humanity.

– milo fine (from the liner notes to TESHUVAH)

Keith Harris / City Pages 9/29/99 / Today Fine…

Today Fine remains an aesthetic absolutist who, upon seeing unfamiliar faces in the audience, will indulge fears of being reduced to a novelty act for avant-garde tourists. As a result, he seems to have deliberately estranged himself from the mainstream. “Pop music, by its very nature, feeds on the deeper streams of creativity,” he explains, “and by its very nature, which is parasitical, it doesn’t do those streams justice.” But, as Fine suggests, the avant-garde is equally suspect. Having knitted the high-brow in its own image, institutional art is subject to the same pitfalls as any commerce. For Fine, postmodernism is pop writ large, favoring pastiche over depth. And so he instead occupies a prematurely discarded modernist space that he seeks to insulate from both commercial and political influences… So is it possible to evolve from angry young man to mature iconoclast without taking a detour to embittered irrelevance? Fine strikes a characteristic pose of unrelenting ambivalence. “I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to earn my merit badge for artistic integrity. That would be just another image-mongering ploy. I’m just trying to keep a few steps away from becoming a typically mendacious hypocrite.”

– Keith Harris / City Pages 9/29/99

David Dupont Cadence (12/99) / Last year…

Last year, a local science museum presented a show that demonstrated, using art-like, interactive exhibits, how seemingly random natural phenomenon create patterns over time. It sounds like much the same dynamic is at work on SURGES/SUSPENSIONS, COMME TOUJOURS (Shih Shih Wu Ai SSWA 7-9). The musicians react to the moment, interacting subtly with each other as well as with the mechanics of their instruments, trying to find that sound unique to the instant. Taking any particular minute or two of this session, the listener would note the quirky, original textures used, but may wonder if it added up to anything. As the pieces evolve, they gain resonance from the accumulation of the preceding improvisitory play. Of course, that requires the listener to become part of the process. Music like this empowers the listener to become active in shaping the music. Left in the background, the passive listener interprets it as noise. But listened to with the concentration it demands, it becomes the kind of sound that helps keep the mundane noise – including much of what passes for music – of contemporary life at bay.

– David Dupont Cadence (12/99)


Milo Fine is as pure an improviser as we might hope to find. After having listened to his beyond-genre, untainted playing over a number of releases – especially on Emanem – I was very pleased to relish more of that spontaneous craft thanks to this item, a double whammy containing two live exhibitions that let us see different facets of this artist’s unlabelled sound world. Both CDs contain efficiently genuine instrumental sociability informed by a variety of creativeness that comes out unsoiled, not hyperbolical or, worse still, verging on the ridiculous. The records are issued on Fine’s private label and require firm concentration. This is not background stuff: the utmost attention is necessary to make a way throughout the various layers and catch the minute details that define the collective effort’s best traits…
There are ways of sounding dissenting without appearing stupid – something that not all the self-styled “improvising musicians” on the market are able to achieve. These recordings show that on-the-spot inspiration, clever absurdity and a degree of internal sensibility work wonders in exploiting flexible structures inhabited by unblenching originality.


Charles Crumb/How perfectly


How perfectly goddamned delightful it all is, to be sure.

–Charles Crumb

Massimo Ricci from a Touching Extremes review of SOUND CARVINGS (ONGOING CELEBRATIONS OF INSIGNIFICANCE)

A number of sections reveals a diverse type of vicious beauty, and the final catharsis…represented by growing accumulations of superimposed fortissimo stabs – gives at least a nebulous idea of the foremost conception (or lack thereof) behind this material. Something that is mentally demanding, forcing us to experience and classify a physical reaction. Something that will have the listeners mulling over their response to outrageous discord and, generally speaking, to what is hard to acknowledge. Someone might utter “confrontational”; I call it “quest for the core of truth”.

– Massimo Ricci from a Touching Extremes review of SOUND CARVINGS (ONGOING CELEBRATIONS OF INSIGNIFICANCE)

Massimo Ricci from a Squid’s Ear review of ACCEPTANCE OF SORROW

I will not lie, this review had a problematic gestation. Numberless components of Acceptance of Sorrow categorically reject a sheer description; sometimes, even a simple analysis. On the other hand, the uncontaminated springs of an original such as Milo Fine cause this sort of problem to ears frequently polluted by formulaic pronouncements.The Minnesota maverick’s insight, shared by this writer for a long time now, yet still full of unanticipated twists and turns, is not limited to mere musical indications. It encompasses varied existential layers, profound reflections synthesized in sounds as temperamental as impossible to encode.

– Massimo Ricci from a Squid’s Ear review of ACCEPTANCE OF SORROW

Raul da Gama from a Jazz Da Gama

Manoel de Barros (1916-2014), the legendary Brasilian poet wrote eternally beautiful poetry. Gramática Exposititiva do Chão (Poesia quese toda) Descriptive Grammar of the Ground (almost complete poems) (Civilização Brasileira, 1969) was arguably his finest he work. In it he wrote:

“Cada coisa ordinária é um element de estima 
(Each ordinary thing is an element of esteem)

Listening to the music of Milo Fine I am hardly surprised to recall that line from Manoel de Barros among others from his celebrated book. There is poetry in the music that Fine plays. It echoes in straight, angular and jagged lines that make up the pieces that he performs; pieces that he and his musical partners will often announce with a melodic idea, then promptly cut into pieces what follows; or juggled it like glass, airborne before it is left to shatter tunefully amidst them. Nothing is discarded. Not a moment in time, not a shred of a note or its echo; not even the air disturbed by waving of the hands as Fine beats his drums; not even moments of outstretched in silence.

But never have before I heard music like Milo Fine makes, which would suggest that Fine has refined his improvisational ideas and methods for a deeper psychological impact both on musicians and on listeners than perhaps even they realise. Instantly you become aware of an intensity of listening from these alert and sensitive players – winds, strings, keyboards and, of course, percussion – as players tiptoe towards orienting themselves around a structure that is yet to reveal itself. That distinct concentration and energy which derives from the musicians’ feeling, rather than from ‘reading’ their way forwards is the whole point of the music of Milo Fine.

– Raul da Gama from a Jazz Da Gama overview of several recordings under the headings “Everything Is Music – Music Is Everything” & “Damnatio Memoriae”

Thom Jurek from an All review of SURGES/SUSPENSIONS, COMME TOUJOURS

— what transpires in the trio and quartet settings is powerful and frighteningly ambiguous. What this means is simple: Music can become so abstract it no longer resembles itself; then one of two things must have happened somewhere along the way in Western civilization: one is that we have never properly considered the vastness of its linguistic possibilities, and two is that music has ceased being a boundaried art.

– Thom Jurek from an All review of SURGES/SUSPENSIONS, COMME TOUJOURS