As an artefact, Unknown Public was most fun in its early years, when its releases came in a brown cardboard carton, a ‘Jamboree Box’ full of goodies like promotional postcards, leaflets, a CD and separate booklet containing the sleeve-notes; sometimes there was a bonus, like the vox pop result of a questionnaire asking ‘must contemporary creative music be spiky or alienating?’; and, always, there was a versatile piece of corrugated-cardboard padding. Later, when the package evolved into a hardback book with high-quality photographs, UP became more conventional in form, but its content stayed unpredictable and challenging.
Unknown Public always has a theme. This time it’s the complex ways that choreographers, dancers, composers and audiences interact, embracing one piece (Demons, written for Perry Louis’s JazzCoTech troupe) which intimidated Terpsichore into surrender. You will deduce from the track listing that much of the music falls outside the traditional purview of this magazine: Nyman and Bryars lie nearest to the ‘mainstream’.
But there are also samples of what might loosely (and not always accurately) be described as art-rock, world music, jazz-rock, electronica and ambient, alongside the triumphantly uncategorisable, such as Voice games, Jocelyn Pook’s commission for choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh, and the Stomp troupe’s Underwater and Rooftop, by former members of the wonderful Pookiesnackenburger, the thunderous tap-team once famous for doing a Heineken advert. much of this is vibrant, stimulating, provocative music-making, backed up by thoughtful essays by Orlando Gough, Robin ‘Scanner’ Rimbaud, Nyman, Louis, Sue Steward (I thought only men were that anoraky) and Jeyasingh.
Arguments about the relationship between ‘serious’ and vernacular music and the corrupting or enriching or mediating influence of dance have been going on since at least the 12th century (and several centuries earlier ‘David danced before the Lord with all his might’) but UP revitalises the debate by opening windows and making connections we might otherwise have missed.