Say No More is a unique ensemble in the history of music. On the surface it is simply a superb quartet featuring four virtuosos. But through innovative use of computer technology, the group coexists with a digital mirror of itself. Changing form as it becomes virtual, then flesh and blood, then virtual again, Say No More combines the emotional power of live performance with the technical power of computer music, making a hybrid that transcends both media.
Ostertag began Say No More by sending the three instrumentalists, separately, into studios with no instructions other than to record improvisations. Using a computer, Ostertag then took these tapes and reconstructed them into a “band” that played works he composed from fragments of the improvisations. The remarkable recording that resulted, Say No More, is possibly the first recording ever released by a band that had never played a note together.
Ostertag then returned this recording, along with a score, to the musicians. In effect they were challenged to re-learn their own playing, but as heard through the prism of Ostertag’s work. When the musicians gathered to rehearse, the ensemble began to develop a life of its own through the direct interaction of with the musicians struggling to perform the computer-derived material.
In October 1993, the ensemble made a live recording at ORF-Vienna which was released as the band’s second CD, Say No More in Person. It features the same compositions that Ostertag developed on the computer, performed in their transformed, concert rendition.
Ostertag put the live recording back into the computer, exploded it once again into little bits, and assembled a new work, Verbatim, released in 1997. The group premiered the live version of Verbatim at the Taktlos Festival in Switzerland, 1996. A performance in Gent Belgium was released in 2000 as the fourth and final CD, Verbatim Flesh & Blood.
“Thoroughly attuned to life in the mid-90s, [Say No More] is more than an experiment and much more than merely sensational. Astonishingly, the music never seems artificial. With acute sensitivity, Ostertag catches the strengths of his partners and lifts them up to a new level, magnifying the skill and intensity of these extraordinary virtuosos. The border between live improvisation and computerized manipulation blurs and if finally made irrelevant by the music which results.” — Jazzthetik (Germany)”A trip into another dimension of music, and into a world as full of clashes and conflict as the one in which we live.” — Forum (Germany)