The orchestra here in question is the renowned English free drummer John Stevens and reedman Trevor Watts (on soprano here) plus – on the first track, the four-part «For You to Share» – «numerous young musicians and audience members.» It was May 20, 1970. The sound is a bit dodgy, especially this first track, with the soprano and drums sounding as if they’ve been recorded on a personal cassette recorder, circa 1970 – and they probably were – but what comes through loud and clear is the (mostly) vocal drone provided by the audience members. It was 1970, after all, and the idea (Stevens’ idea) was to involve everyone in the process of making spontaneous music by having them hold long tones, which would form the backdrop of what Stevens and Watts would come up with.
It comes off rather well, really. Watts is a tremendously underrated and markedly lyrical player. After awhile here he seems to run out of ideas and begins to harp on a couple of repetitive figures, although that may be part of the trance music aspect of the piece. He certainly begins with some wondrous melody-making. The audience’s drone harks back to some of the earliest notated music, where drones by one voice set off a melody by another; the «orchestra» here has numerous affecting moments.
The second track, «Peace Music,» was recorded in a studio four months before «For You to Share.» There’s no telling who was in the studio, but here the drone is instrumental, and Watts’ soprano is Oriental in a Coletrane-ish mode. You hear his playing a bit better here (although the drone threatens to overwhelm him on occasion) and it deserves to be. Stevens contributes some tabla-like drumming, and the whole thing could be going on in Bombay.
This is fine and fascinating music. The words on the front cover are arranged in a peace symbol, and perhaps the whole thing is a bit dated. But the marvelous playing by Watts and Stevens is timeless, making this a most welcome reissue.