Based on Nik Bärtsch and his wife Andrea Pfisterer-Bärtsch's background as performers in live music and as aikido practitioners Listening: Music Movement Mind is on one level an oddity. On another it is incredibly wise.
A sprawling philosophical trawl of sorts it provides the best insights yet into Bärtsch's brilliant mind and unique zen funk and ritual music ideas. While fascinated by his thinking I nearly gave up a few times when the text starting reeling off quote after quote from wise thinkers ancient to modern and almost becomes a kind of TED talk for get-up-and-goers. But then I was extremely glad that I didn't because takeaways include what Bärtsch, whose solo piano album Entendre is for me the best album of all that ECM have released this year, thinks about the meaning of the band. ''A band should mature into an integral organism – then it is alive, like an animal, a biotope, an urban space. It creates overtone blossoms, ghost notes, spectral sounds, flights of perspective.'' How beautifully put and humane. The skill of the book is also in its tone of voice. Bärtsch manages to navigate confident pivots between waxing lyrical, offering self-help, analysis of his own musical ideas, tales of his life in Switzerland and living in Japan along with much else. It is not a beginning-middle-and-end sort of book by a long chalk.
The book also comes equipped with a wonderful bibliography that is almost worth getting Listening: Music Movement Mind for alone: hint Frans de Waal crops up quite a lot. Best of all Bärtsch does not put up a wall that the reader has to scale perilously to gain admission eventually to his dojo of erudition. Instead he encourages us like a coach to erase all barriers especially in the way we may listen and think about music and roam with him. Bärtsch also writes: ''When I was twenty-six, I sold all my CDs and LPs to make room in my apartment and in my head – and also because I needed money. I only kept then twenty personally relevant albums.'' This list of lists, that makes most playlists seem very inadequate, is worth memorising and above all investigating further. It includes work by James Brown, Brian Eno and David Byrne, Morton Feldman, Heiner Goebbels, Herbie Hancock, Meshell Ndegeocello, Photek, Prince and Lennie Tristano. SG