Keith Rowe

Photograph of Keith Rowe

Photograph copyright Gérard Rouy.

Audio samples

One mp3 Keith Rowe audio sample is available on this site.

QuickTime video sample

Other photographs

Photographs of Keith's guitar, ancillaries and desktop, copyright David Reid (stills taken from the video mentioned earlier); click on a thumbnail below for a larger image:


Kenneth Ansell, in his notes to the 1980 Amalgam Wipe out box set, indicated that, although Keith Rowe's first major engagements were with the Mike Westbrook Orchestra in the early 1960s he was increasingly at odds with the surroundings in which he found himself. At college Rowe had begun to translate the drawings of Paul Klee into guitar tablature and as his further explorations led him towards the perception of the instrument as predominantly a sound source, he found that his contributions 'became too radical for the jazz context.'

AMM was established in 1965 by Rowe, percussionist Eddie Prévost and saxophonist Lou Gare, also a member of the Westbrook Orchesra at the same time. The following year they were joined by bassist Lawrence Sheaff and, at Rowe's suggestion, Cornelius Cardew. Ansell quotes Rowe: 'AMM was able to provide the conditions in which I could supercede what I saw as the oppressive legacy that the 1960s guitar imposed on me as a player. AMM were involved in what we referred to as a "communal search for sound" and that enabled me to develop various preparations for the guitar and a fresh approach to the instrument'.

With a core of Prévost, Rowe, Gare and Cardew, and varying contributions from John Tilbury, Christopher Hobbs and Christian Wolff, AMM continued until a split in 1973, at which point Rowe continued his association with Cardew in the Scratch Orchestra and People's Liberation Music. Somewhat later he joined Trevor Watts in a version of Amalgam that produced two recordings, the previously mentioned Wipe out and Over the rainbow. In his own notes to the Wipe out (title) track, Keith Rowe wrote, 'A lot of folk and people's music uses a certain semitone shift between notes (for example, the bottom notes of Blackleg Miner) and all the guitar is based on this progression. The sound quality of the guitar work draws on punk/rock'n' roll music. I investigated the idea of working with simple, crude material and sources; if there is complexity it comes from the grammar and punctuation which are not those of the source material. I had in mind, although we never discussed it within the group, a subtitle for the piece: Wipe out (the bourgeoisie).' And, in the notes to Tribute to Mingus: 'I used an adapted guitar for this track on which the octave was divided over eight frets instead of twelve. Consequently, the guitar is concerned with exaggerated techniques (for instance, the effect of bending the strings is extreme, as are the leaps over the intervals). I swap to a regular guitar with the bridge theme. When the guitar approximates to a conventional guitar solo that sense of exaggeration is followed through by the use of parody. The solo employs the "box system of guitar improvisation" and the source is clichés found in Improvised rock guitar (Green Note Music Publications).'

Around 1976 the first moves in a rapprochement occurred between the members of AMM which resulted in Rowe and Prévost working together as a duo for a year - and recording in 1979, as AMM III, It had been an ordinary enough day in Pueblo, Colorado - until John Tilbury joined the group in 1980. This group, along with occasional groupings such as Supersession and solo performances (e.g. A dimension of perfectly ordinary reality and City music for electric guitar) remained the focus of Rowe's work for over a decade.

The late 1990s up to the present day has seen an extraordinary burst of creative activity from Rowe, maintaining the previous associations but expanding these considerably with, among others: MIMEO (Music in Movement Electronic Orchestra) and associations with Evan Parker; Jeffrey Morgan; Günter Müller and Taku Sugimoto; Burkhard Beins; and Toshimaru Nakamura. The full list of collaborations that have been recorded can be seen below.

Keith Rowe has maintained his early interest in utilising painting as a stimulus, generation of ideas, and as score material for musical performance. In discussing composition with Trevor Taylor (1997), he said, 'the only time I compose is in response to projects and then mostly in a graphical format. This weekend (in Nickelsdorf with MIMEO) I performed some compositions based on Paul Klee paintings. My pieces involve a lot of rehearsal time and include a lot of discussion, guiding the performances, sorting out why they should be doing this and why not etc.... In the painting series such as the Pollock I would take individual drips out of the painting and isolate them, lay them on the page. Then I select and indicate the instrument and talk to the musicians about how they may approach that. A lot of talking and rehearsal, nearly 30 hours.' An example of a response to one of Rowe's Pollock series can be found by Zeitkratzer on the CD Sonx. Although he told Taylor at the time of that interview he no longer painted, he has since taken it up again as the many recent CD covers - e.g. Harsh, Weather sky and various AMM covers - testify.

Further information

Rouy, Gérard (1998). Keith Rowe, audacis musicae magistri. Improjazz, no. 42, (February), pp. 9-14. In French.
Rowe, Keith (2002). Rainforest crunch: festival de l'eau. The Wire, no. 216, (February), pp. 24-27. Describes a trip to Africa to play with local musicians. Rowe, Keith (1997). Above and beyond. Resonance, vol. 5, no. 2. Keith Rowe describing his use of radio. Available from the LMC web site at
Taylor, Trevor (1997). Zero gravity: interview with Keith Rowe. Avant, no. 3, (Autumn).
Warburton, Dan (2001). The Tao of Keith. The Wire, no. 206, (April), pp. 36-41.


1966, Not necessarily "English music", Electronic Music Foundation EMF CD 036. One AMM track on compilation CD.
1966, AMMMusic, ReR Megacorp/Matchless.
1967, Afflicted Man's Musica Box, United Dairies UD12 (UK). One track on a compilation featuring Cardew/Gare/Prévost/Rowe/Sheaff.
1968, Live Electronic Music Improvised, Mainstream MS 5002 (USA). Cardew/Gare/Hobbs/Prévost/Rowe; record shared with MeV.
1968, The Crypt , Matchless MRCD05. AMM.
1969, Laminal , Matchless MRCD31.1. One CD of 3CD AMM set recorded in Denmark.
1969, Eddie Prévost's Silver Pyramid, Matchless MRCD40. Music Now Ensemble.
1969, Gracility, Musicnow MNCD012. Laurie Scott Baker.
mid-1970s, Guitar solos 3, Rift 1. Track on compilation LP.
1973/78, We only want the earth, Musicnow MNCD 004. Cornelius Cardew/Peoples' Liberation Music.
1976/77?, Consciously, Musicnow MNCD 004. Cornelius Cardew/Peoples' Liberation Music, etc.
1979, It had been an ordinary enough day in Pueblo, Colorado, ECM/JAPO 60031. AMM III.
1979, Over the rainbow, Arc 01. Amalgam.
1979, Wipe out, Impetus 47901. Amalgam.
1982, Cornelius Cardew memorial concert, Impetus 28204.
1982, Laminal , Matchless MRCD31.2. One CD of 3CD AMM set recorded in London.
1982, Generative themes, Matchless MRCD06. AMM.
1984, Combine + Laminates + Treatise '84, Matchless MRCD26. AMM.
1984, Supersession, Matchless MRCD17. Parker/Rowe/Guy/Prévost.
1987, The inexhaustible document, Matchless MRCD13. AMM.
1988, IRMA - an opera by Tom Phillips, Matchless MR16. AMM.
1989, A dimension of perfectly ordinary reality, Matchless MR19. Solo.
1990, The nameless uncarved block, Matchless MRCD20. AMM.
1991?, (Y)earbook volume 2, Rastascan BRD 009. One solo piece on compilation CD.
1992, Newfoundland, Matchless MRCD23. AMM.
1992, ReR quarterly vol. 4, no. 2, ReR Megacorp. One duo track with Alain de Fillips.
1993, Vandoevre, Virgin Records ABMT4. One AMM track on Ambient isolationism, a double CD compilation.
1993, City music for electric guitar, Table of the elements Boron. Solo.
1994, Live in Allentown USA, Matchless MRCD30. AMM.
1994, Laminal , Matchless MRCD31.3. One CD of 3CD AMM set recorded in New York.
1995, From a strange place, PSFD-80. AMM.
1996, Before driving to the chapel we took coffee with Rick and Jennifer Reed, Matchless MRCD35. AMM.
1997, Improvisation 210797, Avant Magazine (Issue 3 Autumn 1997) BGS Sampler. Track on sampler CD given away with Avant Magazine. Not, as its title suggests, from the BGS label, but unissued elsewhere. Recorded in Hollywood, California, presumably on the date in the title.
1997, MIMEO/Queue, Perdition plastics Per 009/GROB 005.
1997, Dial: log-rhythm, Matchless MRCD36. Rowe/Morgan.
1998, For Ute, Fat Cat Records 7/8. AMM.
1998, Electric chair and table, GROB 206/7. MIMEO.
1999, Sonx, Zeitkratzer Records 99z2. Features performance of Rowe's Traces 51 (Pollock); he does not play.
1999, Ajar, Alcohol ALORS1CD. Otomo/Rowe/Sugimoto.
1999, The world turned upside down, Erstwhile Records 005. Rowe/Müller/Sugimoto.
1999, Harsh, GROB 209. Solo.
1999, Mottomo Otomo: Unlimited XII, Trost TR 076. One trio track with Sugimoto and Otomo.
1999/2000, Dark rags, Potlatch P200. Parker/Rowe.
2000, Afternoon tea, Ritornel RIT 14. Ambarchi/Fennesz/Pimmon/Rehberg/Rowe.
2000, [N:Q], FIBRR001.
2000, Tunes without measure or end, Matchless MRCD44. AMM.
2000, With hidden noise, Anechoic a002. Keith Rowe processed by Kim Cascone.
2000, Grain, Zarek 06. Rowe/Beins.
2001, Weather sky, Erstwhile Records 018. Rowe/Nakamura.
2001, Fine, Matchless MRCD46. AMM.
2001, The hands of Caravaggio, Erstwhile 021. MIMEO/John Tilbury.
2001, Flypaper, Staubgold 32. Duo with Oren Ambarchi.
2001, 29 October 2001, Sound 323 [2]. Solo.
2001, Thumb, GROB 432. Rowe/Ambarchi/Sachiko M/Otomo/Avenaim.
2001, Honey pie, GROB 648. Rowe/Ambarchi/Avenaim.
2001/2002, The difference between a fish, Potlatch P 302. Doneda/Leimgruber/Rowe.
2002, Rabbit run, Erstwhile Records 027. Rowe/Lehn/Schmickler.
2002, Squire, For 4 Ears CD 1762. Ambarchi/Rowe.
2002, Live at the LU, Erstwhile Records 043. Rowe/Fennesz.
2002, Compositions for guitars, A Bruit Secret 103. Taku Sugimoto.
2002, AMPLIFY02: balance, Erstwhile Records 033-040. Box set of 7CDs + 1DVD of Erstwhile-curated event in Tokyo.
2003, Duos for Doris, Erstwhile Records 030. Rowe/Tilbury.
2003, Responses, reproduction & reality: freedom of the city 2003-4, Emanem 4110. London Improvisers Orchestra.
2003, A view from the window, Erstwhile Records 041. Rowe/Dörner/Hautzinger.
2004, Keith Rowe/Burkhard Beins, Erstwhile Records Erstlive 001.
2004, Keith Rowe/Toshimaru Nakamura/Thomas Lehn/Marcus Schmickler, Erstwhile Records Erstlive 002.
2004, Keith Rowe/Sachiko M/Toshimaru Nakamura/Otomo Yoshihide, Erstwhile Records Erstlive 005-3.
2004, Cloud, Erstwhile Records Erstlive 046-2. Four Gentlemen of the Guitar: Keith Rowe/Oren Ambarchi/Christian Fennesz/Toshimaru Nakamura.
2004, Apogee, Matchless MRCD61. MEV/AMM.
2004, Fibre, For 4 Ears CD 1657. Korber/Rowe/Müller.
2005, between, Erstwhile Records 050-2. Keith Rowe/Toshimaru Nakamura.
2007, The room, Erstwhile Records ErstSolo 001.
2008, Keith Rowe/Taku Unami, Erstwhile Records Erstlive 006.
2008, Keith Rowe, Erstwhile Records Erstlive 007.
2008, Keith Rowe/Toshimaru Nakamura, Erstwhile Records Erstlive 008.
2008, contact, Erstwhile Records 054-2. Duo with Sachiko M.
2009, Küchen_Rowe_Wright, Another Timbre at29.
2010, Φ, Erstwhile 060-3. Radu Malfatti/Keith Rowe.
2010, E.E. Tension and circumstance, Potlatch P311. Keith Rowe/John Tilbury.
2011, Christian Wolff/Keith Rowe, Erstwhile Records ErstLive 010.
2011, September, Erstwhile Records ErstLive 011. Solo.
2013, Making A, Erstwhile Records 067. Duo with Graham Lambkin.

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