I had the pleasure of performing with the ensemble SONE (separate post about this) at the Immediate Music Festival in Denver, CO on April 29 and then (2nd half of the concert) watching the remarkable Dino J.A. Deane use Butch Morris’s system of Conduction to create music with his virtuoso ensemble FLUXCREW. I’d heard about Conduction for a long time, but have never had the pleasure of being at a concert until this one. It was terrific – I enjoyed it all immensely. Dino says that he will be coming out with a book on Conduction soon – I expect to be first in line to get a copy! Anyone, here are clips from that concert – enjoy!
I am on sabbatical this semester, alleluia, and have been having a most informational, inspirational time, traveling around, meeting amazing people, renewing auld acquaintance, giving workshops, concerts, taking lessons, eating and sleeping badly, and generally having a marvelous time. I will definitely need a vacation after all this, but in the meantime, I am salting away tons of creative compost for coming months and more.
One of the wonderful days was when I was invited by the remarkable Mark Harris to join in his Immediate Music Festival at the University of Colorado-Denver on April 29. It was a great day of performance, demos, and presentations, delightfully capped by a 2-part evening concert. In Part I, I had the deep honor and delight to join the fabulous ensemble SONE (Evan Mazunik, piano and Soundpainting conductor; Mark Harris, alto sax, Jane Rigler, flute(s); Janet Feder, (baritone) guitar) in concert, which consisted of several improvised pieces plus making the music for two silent films. Rather than give you any worded description of this concert, I will paste a link to a video of the entire concert below. Enjoy! [Part II of the concert was in another room, where Dino J.A. Deane gave an amazing demonstration of the gestural improv system Conduction with his ensemble. It was my first exposure to a Conduction concert and I was stunned and delighted. Dino says he is coming out of with book on Conduction soon; I plan to order the first copy.
Link to the video of the concert:
My new book was just published by GIA! The first volume of Improvisation Games for Classical Musicians was published in 2008 with something like 566 nonjazz, non-notated (i.e. prose descriptions) games (much better word than “drill” or “exercise”), 354 p., with generous sections of explanatory material and resources for further study. This new volume is the result of about nine years of collecting and inventing new games. It contains 642 new games in 374 pages; there are fewer categories than in Vol. I (which is not labeled Vol. I, by the way), but there are mostly more games per category and there are some new categories as well (e.g. Movement Games). There is less explanatory material – just summaries; didn’t want to repeat all that in Vol. I, with perhaps just slightly less in Resources (more new material). But there are considerably more games, and many of these games come with variations (up to 18 variations on occasion); most teachers will be able to tweak these games and variations to suit their needs as well as be inspired to invent new ones, so these 642 can easily become thousands and thousands. And note that you can repeat games and never have them be the same twice.
If you are new to these improv games, you probably should start with Vol. I and absorb the explanatory material. If you have your copy of Vol. I, you will want to order Vol. II and enjoy the vast array of new ideas and offerings. And: once you have taken some games out for a spin, I always appreciate feedback on how it went. Or your ideas for new games. I will post a few of the new games here as samples, and would be delighted to post some of your new games as well if you would like to share.
In any case, have fun!
The pitches found in a medieval manuscript were never intended as indications which would lead to a piece’s definitive performance, such as we normally use notation as a basis for performance today. In the Middle Ages, performers did not generally use notation, and therefore did not conceive of music in such terms. Thus, one could speak of our manuscript sources – admittedly the main evidence we have to go by – as mere skeletons, very much in need of conceptual fleshing out and understanding, and not as a reality.
It’s been a busy summer – 5 weeks away from home. Two weeks at horn camp in New Hampshire and almost three weeks in Nova Scotia. It’s nice to be home, but I enjoyed my time greatly both places. I’ve talked about it here before, but I want to briefly talk about my time teaching at Acadia University in Wolfville, NS.
The wondrous and amazing Ardith Haley, with music ed rock star Dale Lonis were the instigators of this unique course at Acadia. It’s a 2-year masters of music education program that is done mostly through distance learning, with 2 – two week residency sessions (each July) over the two year period of the course. The participants are are all seasoned music teachers, ranging in age (guessing) from late 20’s to late 50’s; they teach all kinds of music – classroom music, band, orchestra, elementary to high school. They are almost all Canadian, mostly from the eastern end of the country, but a few from the middle and west.
My course for this cohort of 15 consisted of 3 hours a day doing nonjazz improvisation. Teaching this group was not like teaching the students back home at the University of Iowa. These folks are professionals – they do music and teach music for a living. They have great attitudes and they learn fast. Thus, it was a supreme treat for me to work with people like this. The only tricky part is the part that they share with anyone doing improv for the first time – they are very apprehensive about it (I was, too) at first.
Pianist Scott Hughes recently crowd funded (Kickstarter) a project to build a card game to help musicians practice improvisation. It’s called Tonic, and you can download it for free. Scott says:
I believe improvisation is the #1 greatest thing a musician can do to improve him or herself as a player and as a person. The tragedy is that it’s not taught in standard music programs, and as a result most musicians are afraid of it. I studied music at UArts and Temple and saw a lot of the usual problems, so I want to provide an alternative.
Only those who attempt the absurd can achieve the impossible.
By Doug Hanvey
As a music teacher, and former instructor of an undergraduate class on mindfulness meditation (at Indiana University Bloomington from 2007 to 2014), I am fascinated by the many possible applications of meditation to music. One of these applications is creativity.
The Source of Creativity
Albert Einstein said “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science.” Like most geniuses, Einstein understood that the source of creativity is beyond the mind. And, of course, what is beyond the mind is mysterious – at least to the mind!
Musicians can upgrade their creativity by becoming more familiar and comfortable with the mysterious place from which all thought and creativity arise. Meditation is a proven way of doing this.
Now, I realize that by using terms such as “beyond the mind” and “space of awareness,” I can be accused of New Age philosophizing that has no practical relevance to everyday life. Yet, as evidenced by Einstein’s appreciation thereof (not to mention that of many other artists and scientists), getting comfortable with the space beyond thoughts is as practical and useful as tying one’s own shoes, particularly for creative activities like improvising.
Meditation is a superb practice for any creative musician. Let me tell you about two types of meditation, both of which I’ve practiced extensively, and both of which I’ve found to be extremely powerful for boosting creativity.
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