Born: March 16, 1940 Primary Instrument: Guitar
Keith Rowe (born in Plymouth, England) is an English free improvisation guitarist and painter.
Rowe is a founding member of AMM in the mid-1960s (though in 2004 he quit that group for the second time) and a founding member of M.I.M.E.O. He trained as a visual artist, and Rowe's paintings have been featured on most of his own albums.
After years of obscurity, Rowe has achieved a level of relative notoriety, and since the late 1990s has kept up a busy recording and touring schedule. He is seen as a godfather of electroacoustic improvisation, and many of his recent recordings have been released by Erstwhile Records.
Rowe began his career playing jazz in the early 1960's--notably with Mike Westbrook and Lou Gare. His early influences were guitarists like Wes Montgomery, Charlie Christian and Barney Kessel. Eventually, however, Rowe grew tired of what he considered the form's limitations. Rowe began experimenting, slowly and gradually. An important step was a New Year's resolution to stop tuning his guitar -- much to Westbrook's displeasure. Rowe gradually expanded into free jazz and free improvisation, eventually abandoning conventional guitar technique.
This change in his approach to guitar, Rowe reports, was partly inspired by a teacher in one of his painting courses who told him, Rowe, you cannot paint a Caravaggio. Only Caravaggio can paint Caravaggio. Rowe reports that after considering this idea from a musical perspective, trying to play guitar like Jim Hall seemed quite wrong. For several years Rowe contemplated how to reinvent his approach to the guitar, again finding inspiration in visual art, namely, American painter Jackson Pollock, who abandoned traditional painting methods to forge his own style. How could I abandon the technique? Lay the guitar flat!
Rowe developed various prepared guitar techniques: placing the guitar flat on a table and manipulating the strings, body and pickups in unorthodox ways to produce sounds described as dark, brooding, compelling, expansive and alien. He has been known to employ objects such as a library card, rubber eraser, springs, hand-held electric fans, alligator clips, and common office supplies in playing the guitar. A January, 1997 feature in Guitar Player magazine described a Rowe performance as resemble a surgeon operating on a patient. Rowe sometimes incorporates live radio broadcasts into his performances, including shortwave radio and number stations (the guitar's pickups will also pick up radio signals, and broadcast them through the amplifier). Axel Dörner and Keith Rowe in Chicago, Illinois, 22 September 2004.
AMM percussionist Eddie Prévost reports that Rowe has an uncanny touch on the wireless switch, able to find radio broadcasts which seem to blend ideally with, or offer startling commentary on, the music. (Prévost, 18). On AMMMusic, towards the end of the cacophonous Ailantus Glandolusa, a speaker announces via radio that We cannot preserve the normal music. Prevost writes that during an AMM performance in Istanbul, Rowe located and integrated a radio broadcast of the pious intonation of a male Turkish voice. AMM of course, had absolutely no idea what the material was. Later, it was complimented upon the judicious way that verses from The Koran had been introduced into the performance, and the respectful way they had been treated! (Prévost, 18) In reviewing World Turned Upside Down, critic Dan Hill writes, Rowe has tuned his shortwave radio to some dramatically exotic gameshow and human voices spatter the mix, though at such low volume, they're unintelligible and abstracted. Rowe never overplays this device, a clear temptation with such a seductive technology - the awesome possibility of sonically reaching out across a world of voices requires experienced hands to avoid simple but ultimately short-term pleasure. This he does masterfully, mixing in random operatics and chance encounters with talkshow hosts to anchor the sound in humanity, amidst the abstraction.
Some accounts report that Rowe's guitar technique was an influence on Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett: Taking his cues from experimental guitarist Keith Rowe of AMM, Barrett strived to push his music farther and farther out into the zone of complete abstraction. 
Rowe has worked together with numerous composers and musicians, including Cornelius Card
1989, A dimension of perfectly ordinary reality, Matchless MR19. Solo.
1990, The nameless uncarved block, Matchless MRCD20. AMM.
1992, Newfoundland, Matchless MRCD23. AMM. .
1993, City music for electric guitar, Table of the elements 7" 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, MIMEO/Queue, Perdition plastics Per 009/GROB 005.
1997, Dial: log-rhythm, Matchless MRCD36. Rowe/Jeffrey Morgan. .
1998, Electric chair and table, GROB 206/7. MIMEO.
1999, Ajar, Alcohol ALORS1CD. Otomo Yoshihide/Rowe/Taku Sugimoto.
1999, The world turned upside down, Erstwhile Records 005. Rowe/Gunter Muller/Sugimoto.
1999, Harsh, GROB 209. Solo.
1999/2000, Dark rags, Potlatch P200. Evan Parker/Rowe.
2000, Afternoon tea, Ritornel RIT 14. Oren Ambarchi/Christian Fennesz/Paul Gough/Peter Rehberg/Rowe.
2000, [N:Q], FIBRR001. Jean Chevalier/Christophe Havard/Juilen Ottavi/Rowe.
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/Burkhard Beins.
2001, Weather sky, Erstwhile Records 018. Rowe/Toshimaru 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 . Solo.
2001, Thumb, GROB 432. Rowe/Ambarchi/Sachiko M/Otomo/Robbie Avenaim.
2001, Honey pie, GROB 648. Rowe/Ambarchi/Avenaim.
2001/2002, The difference between a fish, Potlatch P 302. Michel Doneda/Urs Leimgruber/Rowe.
2002, Rabbit run, Erstwhile Records 027. Rowe/Thomas Lehn/Marcus Schmickler.
2002, 3D, w.m.o/r 33. Rowe/Seymour Wright
2002, Squire, For 4 Ears CD 1762. Ambarchi/Rowe.
2002, Live at the LU, Erstwhile Records 043. Rowe/Fennesz.
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/Axel Dorner/Franz Hautzinger.
2003, Lifting concrete lightly, Serpentine gallery. MIMEO.
2003, Rowe/Fuhler, Conundrum CD3. Rowe/Cor Fuhler.
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: Rowe/Ambarchi/Fennesz/Nakamura.
2004, Apogee, Matchless MRCD61. MEV/AMM.
2004, Fibre, For 4 Ears CD 1657. Tomas Korber/Rowe/Muller.
2004, November Quebec, Esquilo Records ES005.(N:Q).
2005, between, Erstwhile Records 050-2. Rowe/Nakamura.
2007, The room, Erstwhile Records ErstSolo 001.
2008, Keith Rowe/Taku Unami, Erstwhile Records Erstlive 006.
2008, Keith Rowe, Erstwhile Records Erstlive 007.
2009, Contact, Erstwhile Records 054-2. Rowe/Sachiko M
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