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!
Jeffrey Agrell, horn & Werner Elmker, piano improvise on the whole tone scale.
One of the great things about improvisation is that you can have a musical conversation with anyone who ‘speaks the language.’ I met Werner Elmker indirectly. Werner is an amazingly versatile and talented pillar of the artistic community of Fairfield, IA; my wife (Shari Rhoads) had used his video and photography services for her arts organization Concertia, and she recommended him to me to do some photos for my new CD Soundings. So I connected with him, and it was a very successful photo shoot. As we got to talking, I found out that he was and is both a classical pianist as well as an improviser and fairly quickly we resolved to get together and make (up) music. So I went to Fairfield recently for some spontaneous duets with him. The video here is one of them, filmed on the stage of the Sondheim Center (Werner used remote control; when he clapped, the cameras started rolling. What an age we live in…). We did minimal planning in the improvisations. Here we just picked a scale and started playing. A one-time shot. It was a wonderful session, all the things that improv does so well – a musical conversation where you just play and listen and react and go and create until it seems time to end. I look forward to the next time we get together.