1 player. Using the rhythms of any familiar tune that you can play by heart (all right, use sheet music if you absolutely have to) invent a new melody. Your choice of tonal or atonal. You may change the tempo to slower or faster, but keep the relationship of the note values. Advanced players may change meters. Repeat in all keys, creating an entirely new melody each time. Vary the style if you can (e.g. if the original was a folk song, make the new one a calypso, march, waltz, or dirge, etc.).
Contemporaries report that when he was playing the piano, especially when improvising, he became that other human being they would have liked him to be in his daily life. His expression changed; he seemed to become serene… These must have been the moments (often hours) when he reveled in blissful self-forgetfulness, when he severed his connection with the outside world; here he was the unadorned Mozart, who needed no intermediary in order to communicate – no singers, no instrumentalists or fellow musicians, and no bothersome score, either. Here, and perhaps only here, he achieved true pleasure in his own genius; here he transcended himself, becoming the absolute Mozart.
–Wolfgang Hildesdeimer, Mozart
The other day I heard Chopin improvise at George Sand’s house. It is marvelous to hear Chopin compose in this way: his inspiration is so immediate and complete that he plays without hesitation as if it could not be otherwise. But when it comes to writing it down and recapturing the original thought in all its details, he spends days of nervous strain and almost terrible despair.
– Karl Flitsch
¼ of the time – be silent (i.e. listen! Gather ideas! Appreciate solos – how are the other players making their choices? What would you do differently?)
¼ of the time – play solo. At least half of what you play must be stolen from other players (rhythms, melodic motifs or shapes).
½ the time play accompaniment. At least half of what you play must be derived from other players’ solos.
2-4 players. Players use a common major scale – start with C major – but each is assigned a personal “spice” (i.e. dissonant) note as well. Players may use the spice tone at will, but remember that spices are powerful – a stew or other dish is usually best when spices are used judiciously.
Player 1: #4 (in C: F#)
Player 2: b6 (in C: Ab)
Player 3: b2 (in C: Db)
Player 4: #2 (in C: D#)
Variation: Restrict all players to the major pentatonic scale: 1 2 3 5 6 (in C: C D E G A) plus spice tone.
As usual: Repeat in all other keys.
And then: Repeat using other kinds of scales: dominant 7, minors, whole tone, diminished, etc.
The range of notational practices employed to present my work as a composer includes conventional staff notation, graphic notation, metaphors, prose, oral instruction and recorded media.
–Pauline Oliveros, The Roots of the Moment
That Great Candy Store that is the internet is alternately an Intergalactic Level time waster and brilliant serendipity machine (www.stumbleupon.com being the capital city of the realm of Serendip). A recent find was “Blogging Innovation” – among my hobbies is haunting various blogs on creativity, creative thinking, innovation, etc. The lead article was “Creativity and the State of the Union” by Tom Tresser. The theme of the article is about how this country can do better in the areas of innovation and creativity. He notes that politicians and business have paid lip service to this idea for years, but they have missed the boat not realizing how to build innovation into the system as well getting what you pay for (in the moment, the most widespread political policy consists of hoping that the tooth fairy or some other miracle will make it all happen without any material support from anyone).