Art Bears


Art Bears were an
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

avant-rock Experimental rock, also called avant-rock, is a subgenre of rock music that pushes the boundaries of common composition and performance technique or which experiments with the basic elements of the genre. Artists aim to liberate and innovate, with ...
group A group is a number A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and nominal number, label. The original examples are the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and so forth. Numbers can be represented in language with ...
formed during the disassembly of
Henry Cow Henry Cow were an English experimental rock Musical ensemble, group, founded at University of Cambridge, Cambridge University in 1968 by multi-instrumentalists Fred Frith and Tim Hodgkinson. Henry Cow's personnel fluctuated over their decade toge ...
in 1978 by three of its members,
Chris Cutler Chris Cutler (born 4 January 1947) is an English percussionist, composer, lyricist and music theorist. Best known for his work with English avant-rock group Henry Cow, Cutler was also a member and drummer of other bands, including Art Bears, ...
(percussion, texts),
Fred Frith Jeremy Webster "Fred" Frith (born 17 February 1949) is an English multi-instrumentalist, composer, and improvisor. Probably best known for his guitar work, Frith first came to attention as one of the founding members of the English avant-rock g ...
(guitar, bass guitar, violin, keyboards) and
Dagmar Krause Dagmar Krause (born 4 June 1950) is a German singer, best known for her work with avant-rock groups including Slapp Happy, Henry Cow, and Art Bears Art Bears were an England, English avant-rock Musical ensemble, group formed during the dis ...
(vocals; previously of
Slapp Happy Slapp Happy was a German/English avant-pop group, formed in Germany in 1972. Their lineup consisted of Anthony Moore (keyboards), Peter Blegvad (guitar) and Dagmar Krause (vocals). The band members moved to England in 1974 where they merge ...
). The group released three studio albums between 1978 and 1981, and toured Europe in 1979. In 2008 Cutler, Frith and others formed Art Bears Songbook, an Art Bears "review" project that performed at the Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville in Quebec, Canada.


Art Bears were formed during the recording of Henry Cow's fifth album in January 1978. Disagreements had arisen over the album's content: Frith, Cutler and Krause favoured song-oriented material, while the rest of the band preferred instrumental compositions. As a compromise, Frith, Cutler and Krause agreed to release the songs already recorded on their own album, ''Hopes and Fears (Art Bears album), Hopes and Fears'', under the name Art Bears, with the rest of Henry Cow credited as guests. The instrumental material appeared later on the final Henry Cow album, ''Western Culture (album), Western Culture'' (1979). ''Hopes and Fears'' (1978) thus consisted of Henry Cow songs with the addition of new Art Bears material recorded later by Frith, Cutler and Krause. Towards the end of 1978, Art Bears returned to the studio to record their first "true" album, ''Winter Songs (Art Bears album), Winter Songs'' (1979). It comprised fourteen short songs composed by Frith around texts by Cutler inspired by carvings on the stylobate of Amiens Cathedral. In December 1978, Art Bears joined Rock in Opposition (RIO), and toured Europe in April and May 1979. For the tour, they were joined by Peter Blegvad (ex-
Slapp Happy Slapp Happy was a German/English avant-pop group, formed in Germany in 1972. Their lineup consisted of Anthony Moore (keyboards), Peter Blegvad (guitar) and Dagmar Krause (vocals). The band members moved to England in 1974 where they merge ...
, guitar, bass guitar, voice) and Marc Hollander (of Aksak Maboul, keyboards, clarinet). They rehearsed at the Cold Storage Recording Studios in Brixton, before leaving for Italy in late April. They performed in Italy, France, Belgium and Czechoslovakia, including an RIO festival on 1 May in Milan. Some of the songs recorded during the tour were later added to the CD release of ''Hopes and Fears'' and ''The Art Box'' (2004), a box set of Art Bears material. The band returned to the studio in 1980 to make one final album, ''The World as It Is Today'' (1981), before splitting up. In October 1983 Frith, Cutler and Krause reunited again when they joined Duck and Cover (German band), Duck and Cover, a commission from the Berlin Jazz Festival, for a performance of the "Duck and Cover (German band)#"Berlin Programme", Berlin Programme" in West Berlin, followed by another in February 1984 in East Berlin, and one at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, ICA in London the following August. The "Berlin Programme" included fragments of three Art Bears songs. In 1993 Frith, Cutler and Krause worked together again on a song project, ''Domestic Stories'' (1993) by Chris Cutler and Lutz Glandien, with saxophonist Alfred Harth. While similar to Art Bears, the addition of Glandien's electronic music made ''Domestic Stories'' a distinctly different album.

Art Bears Songbook

An Art Bears "review" took place in May 2008 at the world premiere of the Art Bears Songbook at the 25th Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville in Quebec. It was performed by Cutler (drums), Frith (guitar, bass guitar, violin, piano), Jewlia Eisenberg (voice), Carla Kihlstedt (violin, voice), Zeena Parkins (keyboards, accordion), Kristin Slipp (voice) and The Norman Conquest (musician), The Norman Conquest (sound manipulation). Krause was unable to participate, so Frith and Cutler decided to rework the trio's repertoire for an expanded group, with the voices of Eisenberg, Slipp and Kihlstedt replacing Krause's "eccentric and idiomatic delivery". The project was so-named because Frith and Cutler did not want it to be seen as an Art Bears reunion. According to ''All About Jazz'' the Art Bears Songbook was "not just a highlight, but the highlight of the [five-day] festival." Another performance of the Art Bears Songbook took place at the third edition of the French Rock in Opposition event in Carmaux in September 2010. The line-up was the same as before, except that Krause, who had agreed to come out of retirement, replaced Eisenberg, who was ill.


Art Bears's music was often deeply political in content (reflecting the band's socialist leanings) and frequently Avant-garde music, avant-garde and Experimental music, experimental. They were more "song oriented" than Henry Cow, although much of the material on their debut album was actually written with the intention of being performed by the latter band. Their music was "very dark in concept and in atmosphere". Reviewing ''The Art Box'', BBC Music described it as: "Carefully wrought dissonances, angular folk tunes, sudden shifts in dynamics, dense layers of spectral drones, slabs of noise, topped off with Dagmar's strange, elastic Sprechgesang, Sprechstimme." Krause's voice contributed significantly to the mood and character of the songs. Cutler said:
I don't write simple or obvious words, [...] they are not easy to sing. Dagmar had the amazing ability to make them make sense, to make them sound obvious. She sings from the inside and her accent helps to lift words out of their slots and give them a slightly resonant displacement. No one else could have done what Dagmar did on those LPs. I'm still amazed by her.
In "Progressive rock, progressive" circles, the Art Bears were generally well received. AllMusic wrote: "Their life was fleeting, but the Art Bears wrote and recorded bold, challenging, idiosyncratic music that, despite its occasional difficulty, is ultimately very rewarding."


Art Bears took their name from a sentence in Jane Ellen Harrison's book ''Ancient Art and Ritual'' (1913): "Even to-day, when individualism is rampant, art bears traces of its collective, social origin". Chris Cutler explains that it was a deliberate out-of-context quote, but that "not too much should be read into this; it just sounds intriguing, has an animal in it, plays with ambiguity and is mildly ridiculous".


Studio albums

*''Hopes and Fears (Art Bears album), Hopes and Fears'', 1978 *''Winter Songs (Art Bears album), Winter Songs'', 1979 *''The World as It Is Today'', 1981


*''The Art Box'', 2004 (6-CD box-set of all Art Bears releases, with live and unreleased tracks, plus remixes by other musicians) *''The Art Box#Art Bears Revisited, Art Bears Revisited'', 2004 (2-CD of Art Bears tracks, remixed by other musicians – discs 4 and 5 of ''The Art Box'')

7" singles and EPs

*"Rats & Monkeys" / "Collapse", 1979 in music, 1979 *"Coda to Man and Boy", 1981 in music, 1981 (single-sided screened 7") – given free to subscribers of ''The World as It Is Today'' (1981) *"All Hail", 1982 in music, 1982 (flexi-7")

See also

*Romantic Warriors II: A Progressive Music Saga About Rock in Opposition


External links

Calyx – The Canterbury Website
''Henry Cow and Art Bears chronology''.

Art Bears.
Art Bears Songbook review at FIMAV 2008
''All About Jazz''. {{DEFAULTSORT:Art Bears Art Bears, English rock music groups British experimental musical groups Rock in Opposition Fred Frith Chris Cutler Musical groups established in 1978 Musical groups disestablished in 1981 1978 establishments in England Political music groups