OK, it’s not exactly improv. But close enough with an idea this brilliant. It’s improv for the audience!
We tried something new in improv class last week (well, it’s really always new, all the time): improvising without music.
“How do you do that?” you ask, and rightfully so. “And why?”
We started off like this. Two players sat in chairs and faced each other. The instructions were to create a piece using only their hands.
Why: because many of the things that we are try to achieve improvising with our instruments can be done using hand gestures. Let’s see how many we can come up with (let me know what I missed):
[repost from horninsights.com]
Music has been around a long time. Most folks just play it and/or listen to it and enjoy it. But some folks think about it, talk about it. This has been going on for a long time. Sometimes it’s interesting to look back and see what the sages from the ages thought about music and the role of music in human society way back then (of course, their music sounded much different from our music. You wonder what they would have thought of, say, Beethoven 9, or 4’33″ or Patsy Cline or Sgt Pepper or Orange Blossom Special or the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra….
It’s ice rain outside this morning. Little pea-sized drops of ice falling, coating everything. The sound like ten thousand cricket-sized snare drums, little tap tap taps. The road is a skating rink. I really need to go to the gym. Looks like I will be trying out the Wii this morning…
On the other hand, it’s a great time to start getting caught up on all the stuff I have to tell you. One thing is my improv class. Spring semester I teach Improvisation for Classical musicians. I’ve been doing this for about a dozen years. Every year is a little different as I try new ideas, shuffle things around, adjust the activities, and so on.
I have six brave souls signed up this spring: clarinet, piano, bassoon, trumpet, and 2 string basses (first ever in this class). Several double on other instruments. In this class versatility is part of the course. Everyone plays 1) their instrument 2) piano 3) percussion (small perc., body, found) 4) mouth/vocal sound/text, sometimes several in the same piece.
More principles of contemporary classical improvisation:
When you hear a good idea (from yourself or from someone else) while improvising, support it or relate to it in some way – just as you would in a good conversation with someone.
Creating music is not about right note/wrong note – it’s about imagination.
Silence is a very important part of making interesting music. Don’t forget not to play.
Practice with a partner as often as possible. A partner can challenge, inspire you, give you energy and motivation, and make you want to ‘show up’ and play more.
Practice inventing motifs of 3-4 notes. Work toward the ability to transpose them (and play in sequence) fluently diatonically and chromatically.
Learn to transform short motifs in a variety of ways (augmentation, diminution, backwards, inverted, change rhythms, change mode (e.g. major to minor) and so on).
Use short thematic material or motifs that you (or your audience) might like to (and be able to) whistle.
Lower your expectations. Go for quantity. Holding out for perfection is a great way to strangle your creativity. Start with something (anything) and then make something out of it.
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.
Assorted principles and suggestions for classical improvisers (first installment):
•Imitate. Copy what you hear, either from yourself or others.
•Don’t be afraid to repeat something. Over and 0ver and over.
•Repeat something, but after the third time or so, start making changes, however small.
•Mean what you say, say what you mean (not what you think someone wants to hear or what you think will impress them or what someone else might say).