The Wire’s February cover star met the UK saxophonist for a special one-off at James Magee’s monumental artwork The Hill in the West Texas desert
A recording of Joe McPhee and John Butcher performing at The Hill of James Magee has just been released. The Hill is 73 year old US artist and sculptor Magee’s monumental work of art involving four interconnected identical buildings in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert in West Texas, some 70 miles from El Paso. The Hill is usually closed to the public – so McPhee’s and Butcher’s performance there in 2010 also offered a rare opportunity for those of their audiences prepared to go the distance to see Magee’s rarely viewed installation. Their show was presented by the Houston based non-profit organisation Nameless Sound, whose director Dave Dove seeks out specific performance spaces with the idea to "honour the space" as much as the performer, writes Ben Judson in John Butcher's website description of the album and event. Judson describes the artwork as consisting of “four buildings constructed with cut-stone from the area, joined together by a cruciform walkway made of the same stone. The buildings, each about 800 square feet, house Magee's artwork, which makes heavy use of steel and glass, as well as organic materials such as paprika, honey, sand, birdseed, and straw.”
The album documents the entirety of Butcher and McPhee’s first time collaboration, which involved each of them performing together in separate buildings 200 feet away from each other, followed by their individual solo spots and a closing duo improvisation.
Joe McPhee & John Butcher’s At The Hill Of James Magee is out now on Trost, also streamed on Bandcamp.