Last week was very busy; I gave lectures, presentations, and led improv games at the Arizona State University (John Ericson was the perfect host), then came back home (after a lot of airline delays) to segue into a tour with the Iowa Brass Quintet in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois (no improv there, unless you count the little jazz cadenza I got to do in our Porgy and Bess medley). Then came a three-day residency at the University of North Dakota (which still has huge piles of snow…) where I did in equal measure brass and improv workshops and presentations. Great people there, great attitudes – lots of new BFFs. Many thanks to my wonderful UND host, Kayla Nelson.
I got to do two improv concerts. The first one was partly based around something new to me. Dr. Mike Witgraaf had me play into a microphone; then he processed the sound with a software program (KYMA) and effected further changes using two hand-held Wii (the game) controllers via Bluetooth. The result was played through speakers, which mixed with my live sound. You can listen to the results here
1 http://youtu.be/k4F-ELZD4Yo 4:05
2 http://youtu.be/NwRogbxIbyM 4:07
3 http://youtu.be/lFBQV7wQXsI 5:59
4 http://youtu.be/sRMazAfJVeM 4:53
The second concert was also a lot of fun. I started off with a Daily Arkady (just start playing and see what happens). Then came an improv trio – me, Jim Popejoy on vibes, and a student djembe player (her name escapes me now to my great embarrassment, but she played wonderfully). We just did the classical improv thing – start playing, listen to each other, adjust/adapt to have a balance of unity and variety (the predictable and the unpredictable). Man, that was fun. We finished up with a Soundpainting. The ensemble had just learned about 30 or so SP gestures earlier in the day, but they did terrific on such short notice.
OK, it’s not exactly improv. But close enough with an idea this brilliant. It’s improv for the audience!
Evan [Mazunik] and I were recently the featured guest artists at the Horn Festival of the Montreal Conservatory. The host, Louis-Philippe Marsolais has long been one of my heroes of the horn – a brilliant musician and wonderful, warm, interesting, funny person. Louis-Philippe apparently did not shy away from Something Completely Different, i.e. the creative music that Evan and I enjoy doing. He kept us busy (which we like); the first draft of the schedule did not even include lunch.
I arrived Friday and was picked up at the airport by the delightful Nadia Côté, who showed me around the area (Le Plateau) of my B&B, which was about an 8 minute walk to the Conservatoire. Montreal from the air look huge; this neighborhood was fascinating, inviting and full of life – people everywhere, little specialty shops, restaurants. Buildings mostly no more than 2 or 3 stories. Completely charming.
News from the world of improv: James Oshinsky (who has contributed to Improv Course Materials – see above) is offering an Improvisation Ensemble class, covering solo and group improvisation. It will be similar to Music for People improv workshops.
James Oshinsky is the author of Return to Child: Music for People’s Guide to Improvising Music and Authentic Group Leadership, which you should run, not walk, to order a copy.
Check out TheFunTheory.com – a Volkswagen Initiative
Watch the videos below. I think that improv does the same thing for music study that the projects below did in their areas.
7th Annual Improvisation Concert
Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012
8:00 pm Mannes Concert Hall
150 West 85th St. NYC
Final concert of Noam Sivan’s Improv Workshop
Someone – maybe someone who studied at Hogwarts – should make a magic map that shows where the most creative chunks of geography are, as far as musical creativity is concerned. We all know where the big schools and big cities are, but they are not always the most creative places. I’m listening to an audiobook at the moment about business, and the chapter I’m on is about innovation. The author points out how much innovation comes out of small, upstart companies (the author calls them ‘tyros’ – another word for ‘beginners’) that are full of energy, short on hierarchy and rules, and are free to simply ‘go for it’. Try, risk, fail, try again, go way outside the box, work tirelessly with imagination. What often happens, however, is that these companies, after they achieve success, then start adding layers of hierarchy and rules and management and start playing it safe and lose their innovative edge to – you guessed it – a new generation of upstarts. Microsoft -one example out of many – took off like a skyrocket early on, but after it got big – very big – and hired phalanxes of R&D people, experienced years of being unable to create anything that could be called innovative or cutting edge. They’re not alone, they’re just one example.
I don’t know if educational institutions follow the same trajectories as businesses seem to, but to get back to my original point about mapping the creative hotspots, the biggest schools aren’t always the greatest hot spots of creativity. Some times there are amazing things going on in smaller and/or lesser known places.
I got to visit one last month.