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I’ve always been enamoured of the extravagant past, art forms arriving or creating timely situations, often aligned with political ideologies, considering everything in one way or another. The time frame suggesting gesture or simply understanding a smidgen of the blossoming material. The three more obvious influences arriving in the early stages of the 20th Century being Dada, Surrealism and Bauhaus, each having pertinent descriptions seemingly relevant to how I envisaged my music. Rejection of reason, pure psychic automatism and form follows function.

Being a member of the Artists’ Jazz Band [AJB] and the Canadian Creative Music Collective [CCMC] was fortunate, both allowing me to develop an individual style away from the formalistic limitations of college-boy jazz schooling where there was a tendency to sameness controlled by the limitations of its teachers; this sameness being described or claimed as endless historical genres: New Orleans, Dixieland, Swing, Big Band, Bop, Hard Bop, Cool, Latin, Contemporary, Crossover… on until we arrive at Smooth.

I cannot vouch as to the intentions of the other musicians, poets, dancers, actors, film makers, photographers… but my desire was to enable my interest in numerous disciplines, often inspired by an introduction from a fellow artist. Both the AJB and the CCMC boasted among their membership a selection of Canada’s most prominent artists: Gordon Rayner, Robert Markle, Graham Coughtry, Michael Snow, Nobuo Kubota….

The Bauhaus Cabaret Orchestra
October 18/1986 • Music Gallery – Toronto
Bill Smith [sopranino saxophone] • David Prentice [violin] • David Lee [bass & cello] • Arthur Bull [guitar] • Alan Clark [viola] • Doug Willson [bass]

1. Madder Lake [David Prentice] [12:21]

2. Clown [A suite in five parts] [Bill Smith] [22:41]
Inspired by Gregory Corso’s poem Clown
a. Filled With Fancies
b. Boxed Circle
c. Over The Wall
d. N’Ark
e. Clown Pie

3. N’Tango For Giiti [Uli Gumpert] [3:16]

Using the discography
from Professor David Lee’s PhD paper “Outside The Empire” – Toronto Improvisation 1966-1986 I’ve discovered that the initial Bauhaus Cabaret Orchestra was assembled on November 22nd 1985, a joining together of two groups, our ensemble [sans an unwell David Lee/bassist] being violinist David Prentice, vibist Larry Potter, guitarist Arthur Bull, drummer John Heward [another special visual artist] and the Shuffle Demons: Saxophonists Richard Underhill, Mike Murley, Dave Parker, drummer Stych Winston and likely bassist Jim Vivian.

In this same period
[1985/1986] we were also using Bauhaus Cabaret Enterprises as the moniker for our presentation of visiting musicians, among them Roscoe Mitchell, Leroy Jenkins & Sting, Peter Kowald… The Freddie Stone Big Band!

Two reasons
has brought this story into being; discovering the Bauhaus Cabaret Orchestra tapes and an article in the Guardian Weekly celebrating the 100th anniversary of Bauhaus. I had not included Bauhaus in my list of influences, mostly Dada and on occasion Surrealism, these two coincidental messages leading me to a brief investigation into the history of Bauhaus and discovering that Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, two of my favourite painters were an integral part of its chronicle, guiding me in my search, resulting in a YouTube documentary of Paul Klee titled “The Silence of the Angel”.

My music has been described on various occasions as minimalist, fragile, a modest conversational style… all leading me to the paintings of Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky. Their open, spacial, sometimes draughtsman-like imagery suggesting sound, movement, imaginary scores. Not too far-fetched as Paul Klee was a draughtsman and a musician and Kandinsky often referenced music as a source of inspiration. He likened painting to composing music saying “Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand which plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul”.

Considering how historically these artists have been responsible for inspiring dozens of composers it’s not so weird that I should find myself involved in this process. Although it is unconsciously attended as I have not availed myself of the paintings as a step toward my own work. Just coincidence that 100 years ago a form is developed, as with Dada and Surrealism, that is integral to my own ideology.


Costumes, which were utilized at events with poets, dancers and projected backdrops of silent films, had been for the most part inspired by the performances of the short-lived Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, created by the writer Hugo Ball [circa1916], even inspiring us to name our group The Last of the Red Hot Dadas, attracting an audience far removed from jazz or classical music. In this investigation the work of Oskar Schlemmer has been discovered, in particular “Triadisches Ballett”.

End Notes:
Dada [1916 … ] Rejection of Reason
Surrealism [1917 … ] Pure Psychic Automatism
Bauhaus [1919 … ] Form follows function

Triadisches Ballett von Oskar Schlemmer – Bauhaus
Triadic Ballet, Black Part [Music Benedikt Frey]
The Silence of the Angel
Gunther Schuller
Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee [1959]


Dada Birthday photographer unknown
Billy Dada photograph Paul DelMaschio
The Music Gallery: https://musicgallery.org/
The Happy Birthday of Death by Gregory Corso
[New Directions Paperback]