by Ian Mann
June 14, 2020
Scott Robinson has videoed a solo performance on bass saxophone lasting eight minutes, forty six seconds. It represents his extraordinary and very moving reaction to the killing of George Floyd.
SCOTT ROBINSON - “8 min. 46 sec.”
IAN MANN WRITES:
The American multi-instrumentalist, composer and improviser Scott Robinson has videoed a solo performance on bass saxophone lasting eight minutes and forty six seconds.
It represents his reaction to the killing in Minneapolis, by members of the city’s Police Department, of the unfortunate George Floyd.
“8 min. 46 sec” represents the period for which the police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on Floyd’s neck, callously ignoring the latter’s desperate cries of “I Can’t Breathe!”
The atrocity has sparked anti-racism protests across the world. Ironically on the very afternoon that I received an email from Scott’s sometime publicist Ann Braithwaite drawing my attention to Scott’s piece my wife and I had just returned from a Black Lives Matter protest in my home town of Leominster, Herefordshire in the UK.
If a small, rural, mainly White British town such as this can organise a successful, non violent protest relating to this matter it just goes to show the strength of feeling world wide. My attendance represented a small gesture on my behalf, yet it felt important to me to be there, particularly in my role as a champion of a musical genre of Black Origin.
During the Leominster Protest, organised by youngsters, but featuring townspeople of all ages we were invited to “take a knee” for 8 min. 46 sec. For many this act alone represented an act of considerable physical endurance with even the younger members of the crowd having to change knees (and hands if they were also making a clenched fist salute) part way through.
It brought home just how inhumane the treatment of George Floyd had been. If we found it difficult to simply kneel for almost nine minutes just how horrific must it have been for George Floyd to have a fully grown man kneeling on his neck for all that time, choking the very life out of him.
“Taking A Knee” in this way also increased my appreciation of Robinson’s physical resourcefulness in the performance of his piece, and of his mastery of the circular breathing technique.
I have been aware of Robinson and his playing since seeing perform at the long defunct Cardiff Bay Jazz Festival back in 1994. I recall buying his then current CD, the excellent “Magic Eye”, a collaboration with a group of Czech jazz musicians, among them the celebrated pianist and composer Emil Viklicky.
More recently I enjoyed seeing Robinson perform with Maria Schneider’s Orchestra at Cadogan Hall as part of the 2015 EFG London Jazz Festival.
After reading Scott’s words and viewing his extraordinary solo performance I sought his permission, and that of Ann Braithwaite, for permission to feature this important work on the Jazzmann website, with the aim of bringing to the attention of an even wider audience. I’m pleased to say that they felt able to agree to my request and I offer my sincere gratitude to both of them.
Hopefully things will begin to change as a result of the Black Lives Matter protests and some good will eventually come out of that disgraceful episode in Minneapolis.
ANN BRAITHWAITE WRITES;
I got this powerful note from Scott Robinson the other day and asked him if I could share his note and his video “8 min. 46 sec.” with my journalist friends.
I hope you find it as moving as I do.
SCOTT ROBINSON WRITES:
I truly miss sharing music with all my wonderful friends, fans and colleagues. These are difficult days, in so many ways. As a result, I have been making and posting some videos. I hope that if you can find a quiet moment, you will check out my most recent one. It has been posted on youtube (https://youtu.be/OnJfMd9bzdE) and on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ScienSonic/), as well as in the Sound-of-the-Month Club for Laboratory Members.
This is a new kind of statement for me… a type of thing I have never done before, physically or artistically. I hope you can give it your attention, also my accompanying text (pasted below). Before I go, I would like to share one little story for your consideration:
Sometime in the late 1990s, I got caught trying to pay my electric bill with a counterfeit $100 note. The man at the counter thought it looked suspicious, so he made a few calls and checked some numbers against a database. “I thought so,” he said, and then proceeded to deface the bill, mark it counterfeit, and fill out a report. I just stood there in shock until he was finished, whereupon he handed me a copy of the report and said, “I’m sorry, but you lose $100 today”... and then I was free to walk out and go home. It was never assumed that I was guilty of any crime, or even knew the bill was a fake (I had absolutely no idea, of course). Nobody called the police that day, nobody arrested me or pushed my face into the road. Nobody killed me.
And that was a hundred dollar bill, not just a twenty.
Just something to consider.
Please stay well everybody,
“8 min. 46 sec.”
I doubt I’m the last musician (and maybe not the first) who’ll want to create a musical piece of eight minutes and 46 seconds duration, the exact length of time it took for a man’s life to ebb away on that horrifying video we have all seen in the news. After I first saw some of that footage, I wept trying to describe it to my wife. I was extremely disturbed by what I saw.
Soon after that, the protests began, and they have continued. When I finally heard on the news the astonishing amount of time that actually elapsed while that man – and many bystanders – pleaded in vain for his life, I knew I had to memorialise that number somehow. How long is eight minutes and 46 seconds? Very late last night, I dressed in black and went out to my Lab to make this video. It was done in one take. All of the flaws and struggles you hear should be considered a part of the piece.
This is something I’ve never done before: a protest piece. It was not fun to make, and is probably no more fun to listen to. Nor should it be. The statement I want to make with this is not only about one man, or one police officer… or even about that one issue, large as it is. There is so much that is wrong right now, so much to cry out about. So much killing. The senseless, ongoing killings of black people. The endless parade of mass shootings in our schools, churches and workplaces. The gang violence in our cities (yesterday saw the confession of a 13-year-old involved in a murder in Central Park). The killing of our forests, our species, the rich and beautiful abundance of life on this amazing world we’ve been entrusted with. And now the coronavirus is killing us, 100,000 of us, some of my friends and colleagues among them. Meanwhile we find ourselves in this time of anguish, of multiple crises and emergencies, being presided over by a selfish, spoiled child who cannot possibly lead, unite or heal, because he fundamentally does not understand or believe that other people are actually real.
We have so much to learn… but some of us aren’t even in school.
I am sorry if any of this comes across as self-indulgent, melodramatic, or offensive to anyone. Please forgive me if it does. This is not about me. I simply felt compelled to make this statement. Silence is complicity. Now I will return to making music for the pure love and joy of sound.
There is one more thought I would like to share. I’ve never done anything like this before, and wasn’t sure I could get through it. By the end I was shaking, and some desperation was starting to creep in. But there came a moment, when my timer showed about 1:20 remaining, that I realized I was going to make it. Sadly, that moment never came for George Floyd.
Ann wasn’t functioning as my publicist (although she has in the past). It’s just something she was moved by, and wanted to share, but she was not working for me in any capacity. Would like to clarify that because I don’t want it to seem that I was seeking publicity for myself with this… it’s not about me.
LINKS TO “8 min. 46 sec.” VIDEO:
blog comments powered by Disqus