Improv Concert #2. Just Imagine…


(Photo credit: Perecca)

My Improvisation for Classical Musicians class had its second concert of improvised chamber music last night and it was a big success and a lot of fun. The program was put together with help of the audience in suggestions for some pieces as well as taking part (at times: fingersnaps, crinkling paper, cell phone ring tones, jingling keys). Being in the audience at a concert like this is different from any other (besides the fact that the audience contributes sounds as well) – like a sports game, no one knows what is going to happen, how the pieces are going to come out, not the audience, not the players, not me. And that makes it all very exciting be a part of.

The program:

1. Sequential Solos. Matt started alone on stage, improvising a piano solo. The other players came on stage at intervals of 60 to 90 seconds: Sarah – bassoon, Drew – horn, Madeline – flute, Devin – tuba. The audience contributed some background sounds now and then at my signal. At the end of the solos I signaled for all to play.  01 Sequential Solos

2. Music for an imaginary holiday #1 (audience suggestion): Slime Day. Performed by Drew and Devin, with the Sarah and Madeline on percussion, with piano allowed only extended techniques. 02 Slime Day

3. Music for an imaginary holiday #2 (audience suggestion): Spandex Appreciation Day. Performed by flute and basson, with the Drew and Devin on percussion and piano on piano. 03 Spandex Appreciation Day

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Improv Quote of the Day: Only the Real Thing…

Tibetan endless knot Nederlands: Tibetaanse On...

Only the real thing–making music from the heart–will keep you coming back alert and emotionally alive, day after day and month after month. Scales, ear training, and other disciplines do serve a purpose; the point is, they’re secondary. For the same reasons, you need to play the kind of music you want to play now. Once you understand the basic and appropriate ways to begin “speaking” them, you can approach many styles–including rock, pop, classical, country, folk, reggae, New Age and others–immediately.

–Bruce Siegel

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Venezuela’s Music Ed System: El Sistema

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Mark Swed wrote an intriguing article in the L.A. Times recently entitled “What the US could learn from the Venezuela’s music education system.” The state-run music ed program (called El Sistema) is known as “the most extensive, admired, and increasingly imitated in the world. … Foreign visitors who stream into Caracas to observe El Sistema in action invariably leave Venezuela amazed.”

Where many in this country see classical music as moribund, El Sistema is universally supported, admired, and enjoyed. No political party there would even think of opposing music education. For an equivalent in this country, Swed says, “Imagine President Obama demanding a $1.2 billion music education system under the rubric of social welfare, only to be challenged by Ron Paul insisting that Congress allocate an even great sum for socialized music.” (Swed visited Venezuela on the same day the the Los Angeles Board of Education met to consider a proposal that would eliminate arts from the elementary curriculum).

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Creative Thinking: O Canada!

Canadian flag outside the Maritime Museum of t...

Canada again is at the forefront of innovation and creative thinking in an article by Jennifer Lewington in the Globe and Mail: “More Business Schools Offering Arts, Creativity Courses.” Music to my ears: “At the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, an elective course on creativity will be come a mandatory [my italics] component of a revamped MBA this fall.” Alleluia. Another quote: “A 2008 Conference Board of Canada study found that arts and cultural organizations employ more than one million Canadians and account for 7 per cent of the national economy.” We will all wait an eternity if we wait for our SuperPac elected officials to recognize the contribution that the arts and arts education makes to the well-being and quality of life of the nation – they care only about $. The ones who are mostly likely to make something happen are the corporations themselves (who can then goad the legislators into action) when they finally realize that the key to the future is innovation and the key to innovation is education that includes training in creative thinking. They (i.e. non-Canadians) have been slow to grasp the point because 1) there is a no way to put creativity on a standardized Every Child Left Behind test 2) there is a delay time between when creative activities are undertaken (music, art, drama, dance starting in elementary school and continuing through college) and when creative thinking produces new approaches and new products and 3) there is no direct this-to-that connection between arts education and innovation and legislative minds in this country have a hard time valuing anything that does produce immediately and obviously. If you can’t count it, weigh it, measure it exactly, today, what good is it? goes current thinking.

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