Clayton Thomas

Splinters and Splitter

The members of the Splitter are a fiercely independent collection of instrument builders, jazz musicians, vaudvillians, contemporary composers, interpreters, tap dancers and conceptual artists from Italy, Israel, Mexico, Australia, USA, Norway, Austria, UK and of course, Germany.

A seemingly disparate group united by a commitment to creative sound.

We started a large improvising orchestra in Sydney in 2002, drawing from a collegial but unconnected group of grass-roots organizations Â? the NOW now, What is Music? and Impermanent Audio. We were already well aware of the major social, political and musical contributions of The Sun Ra Arkestra, The Scratch Orchestra, The Globe Unity Orchestra, and the Jazz Composer Orchestra, so it just seemed like the natural thing to do. We named it The Splinter Orchestra Â? a mass made up of break-aways.

For eight years the Splinter Orchestra has expanded and contracted from a core of 15, to a mass of 55 Â? working as a kind of collective workshop for those interested in the finer points of composing for improvisers, to those who were improvising for the first time. We expanded a lot of minds and relationships, and disturbed a lot of others.

It was as great a learning experience for us as for anyone else in the group. Through the Splinter Orchestra we learned how to listen. It was almost as if we worked out what we needed most and, by funky miracle, it came into action. Splinter taught us organisation on an ethical level and organisation on a functional level Â? the expressive nature of sound versus Â?musicÂ?, and how empathy and trust are vital to any act of music making.

Through organising the NOW now festival and entering the ferment of Â?Improvised MusicÂ? we discovered an enormous community of musicians and thinkers working around the world Â? they shared their experience, knowledge and enthusiasm with us. They told us of a utopian city, where bass players sip on latteÂ?s, where Mexican sound artists make a fortune breaking technology, and playing out of tune is grounds for a PHD. BERLIN!

The explosive population of creative musicians in this city makes an Orchestra of this kind possible Â? and with listening and playing habits so dramatically shifted in the past ten years, there seems to be an opportunity to make a group music that has never before been heard.

Thanks to the incredible efforts of Gregor Hotz, the formation of a Berlin based orchestra was able to happen in a way that was consistent with our own wishes Â? to not only work with a group of considerable size, but also to make that a plausible professional engagement for the artists we wished to invite.

Since May, the group has been rehearsing monthly, and as of this writing we are at the beginning of a week of rehearsals that will explore organization as much as improvisation. It will be our first full group working period, and the outcomes are a mystery. So here we are, at the edge of a new experience for us, and for you.