Thursday the 27th of June, 2019
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Innovative English Training

Interview with Ziggurat Teacher: MARK CUNNINGHAM

By Christina Rosa (Ziggurat Teacher)
07/04/2008
Interview with Ziggurat Teacher: MARK CUNNINGHAM

Mark Cunningham has been playing his trumpet in Barcelona for many years, since his first visit to the ‘Ciutat Comtal’ in 1986 while touring with a band from New York. This native of New Jersey began studying music at an early age, but received his more practical musical education in the clubs of the New York music scene of the late 70’s, participating in the birth of the “No Wave” movement.

Throughout the years, he’s played with many bands on both sides of the Atlantic, but in recent years has also developed a one-man show. His upcoming concert will be a solo performance on April 27th at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. For more information: www.myspace.com/convolutionism.

Can you tell us about your musical background?
I started playing trumpet when I was 7, took lessons and played in high school bands. Then I abandoned musical theory and taught myself to improvise. I also studied theatre and initially went to New York to become an actor, but instead I got hooked by the music scene, with local bands like Television, Talking Heads and Patti Smith playing at clubs like CBGBs.

Who have been your musical influences?
My first hero was definitely my uncle Chick, a jazz drummer. In the 60’s the psychedelic movement affected me a lot, Jimi Hendrix and the San Francisco scene especially. In the 70’s I discovered free jazz, particularly the music of Miles Davis, which opened my mind to all the possibilities of sound and improvisation.

Your first bands?
I formed my first band, Mars, in 1976. We played the New York club scene and helped start a movement eventually called “No Wave,” which curiously is now a big cult reference.

How would you define “No Wave?”
“No Wave” was a brief movement of bands that didn’t have much in common except our attitude. We were basically rejecting the categorization of music and finding our own original styles.

How did you end up in Barcelona?
I came here in 1986 on tour with a band from New York. I loved my first impression and met musicians who I continue working with today. Meeting Silvia, my wife, in New York, was the final step. I followed her back to Barcelona to live in 1991 and we’ve been here since then. We currently collaborate on a project called Convolution: www.myspace.com/convolution7.
 
What are your impressions of the music scene in Barcelona and in Spain in general?
As in many cities, there are many different scenes, some inter-connected, some not. There’s a historic tendency towards isolation, which ironically is changing on a virtual level, partly thanks to Myspace. In the late 90’s and early 00’s there were lots of DJs and electronic artists, but now there are lots of bands. I don’t know much about the rest of Spain, except for flamenco, which I love and has influenced my music.

What are your current musical projects?
Apart from Convolution and my solo project, there’s Bèstia Ferida, a free jazz/no wave trio with drums, guitar and trumpet. In May Convolution will perform at the Festival de Jazz de Vic and Bèstia Ferida will be performing at Primavera Sound. www.myspace.com/dnsrtrn.

Do you incorporate music into English teaching?
No, not necessarily, apart from the occasional song. But what I’ve learned about improvisation as a musician helps me a lot in the teaching context. It’s like an intuitive, guided spontaneity to obtain a specific result. I can instantly interpret the students’ needs or interests and create a lesson without preparation.