My first classical improv book was Improvisation Games for Classical Musicians, published by GIA (Chicago) in early 2008. It was big and comprehensive – some 550 improv games all told, plus explanatory and resource material, for a total of 354 pages or so. I have been collecting and inventing new improv games since then, and Volume II is thus on the horizon. GIA recently accepted Vol. II of the Big Book; as I write this I am doing one last proofread before publication. Book II is very similar, but there are some differences: 1) it’s bigger: there are 642 games and 372 pages; many of the games have variations, so there are really thousands of games if you count the variations 2) there are fewer categories, but more in each category and a couple new ones (notably: Movement Games) 3) there is less explanatory material – I don’t repeat all the explanatory material of Big Book I, just make a summary of the main points. You really should start with Book I if you are new to this. If you know Vol. I, you will definitely want to pick up a copy of Vol. II. There is slightly less in the Resources section at the end; there is some overlap with Vol. I, but there is mostly a lot of new stuff. I will try to post the Table of Contents under The Books in the main menu (above). On the day that it is released for publication I will post another note here. Stay tuned!
Wonderful radio interview with Western Michigan University Horn professor Lin Foulk and a WMU horn quartet doing some improv! Don’t miss it!
Bill Arnold interviewed me last month and just published the edited results on his web site, The Music Instigator (there are also a couple of embedded videos of me improvising with Lin Foulk and Werner Elmker). The audio interview is entitled: “Jeffrey Agrell – Improvisation for Everyone”
I’ve only listened to the beginning of it, but I think he did a good job in putting it together. And the title really sums it all up! Thanks, Bill!
Stephen Nachmanovitch is the author of the mother of all improv books – Free Play. Everyone breathing shoujld read this book. I just received notice that he will be doing an improv workshop with Maria Kluge entitled “Improvising and Mindfulness” Feb. 27 – March 1 in Osterloh, Germany.
For more information:
Every so often I receive an echo from improv people out there in the real world who are making it happen, changing lives, translating theory into practice, discovering new stuff, experimenting, teaching, learning. I recently got a wonderful note from one of these folks: Matt Van Brink of the Concordia Conservatory of Music & Art of Bronxville NY who passes along in detail some of his recent improv adventures. With his permission and to extend the learning of us all I reprint his letter here. Thanks, Matt!
Dear Jeff —
I just wanted to let you know how great it was to use your book during my two-week summer composition and songwriting intensive [ http://goo.gl/0CZuPC ] this past August. I had a group of twelve students, ages 10-17, some who had written compositions before, some who hadn’t, but all of whom chose to spend two weeks working on new pieces. By the end of the camp, each student had composed a short piece and presented it in what turned out to be an impressive and heartwarming concert. Two students wrote songs that they played and sang themselves and the rest composed instrumental works.
But since there are many, many hours to fill during this 9-5 Monday to Friday camp, we have a nice opportunity for play, which I strategically put at the beginning of the day. I’d like to share with you the daily schedule, since the improv component fit in at the perfect time of day for it.
Part 1, from 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM: Stretching & alignment, Improvisation & games, a short break, theory, and deep listening (whose playlists I would improvise).
Then after lunch, Part 2, from 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM: Clausura I (individual work on their pieces in the practice rooms), Kickball and running around, Canons & chorales, Clausura II or guest musicians, and a short warm-down at the end of the day.
For improv hour, I had them bring their instruments, so we had a nice motley assemblage of clarinets, guitars, singers, pianists, and a saxophone. And everyone took a turn on the Orff marimba and had a go inside the piano. The students loved almost every game that I presented to them. We started out on the first day with “what’s in a name” and it was a huge hit. We discovered a few of us had names whose syllables and stresses matched, so we even tried one’s tune with the other’s name. It was really playful and set the tone well for the improv segment for the next two weeks.
GIA (Chicago) has just published Vocal Improvisation Games for Singers and Choral Groups by me and my co-author Patrice Madura Ward-Steinmann of Indiana University. More than 100 improvisation games for vocalists and vocal groups. Foreword by Patricia Campbell Sheehan. From the Foreword: “Singers, including choral singers and those with a soloist trajectory in progress, as well as those instrumentalists who find themselves drawn to the potential of giving voice to their musical ideas, will benefit from the playful vocal expressions that are invoked here. This collective of “musical gaming” has the potential of releasing singers to a freedom to be musically playful, and of leading them to the joy of discovery of a full rein of musical parameters that can only happen via vocal improvisation.”
You can order a copy from GIA here.
Kind words about the book: