SONE Improv Concert

I am on sabbatical this semester, alleluia, and have been having a most informational, inspirational time, traveling around, meeting amazing people, renewing auld acquaintance, giving workshops, concerts, taking lessons, eating and sleeping badly, and generally having a marvelous time. I will definitely need a vacation after all this, but in the meantime, I am salting away tons of creative compost for coming months and more.

One of the wonderful days was when I was invited by the remarkable Mark Harris to join in his Immediate Music Festival at the University of Colorado-Denver on April 29. It was a great day of performance, demos, and presentations, delightfully capped by a 2-part evening concert. In Part I, I had the deep honor and delight to join the fabulous ensemble SONE (Evan Mazunik, piano and Soundpainting conductor; Mark Harris, alto sax, Jane Rigler, flute(s); Janet Feder, (baritone) guitar) in concert, which consisted of several improvised pieces plus making the music for two silent films. Rather than give you any worded description of this concert, I will paste a link to a video of the entire concert below. Enjoy! [Part II of the concert was in another room, where Dino J.A. Deane gave an amazing demonstration of the gestural improv system Conduction with his ensemble. It was my first exposure to a Conduction concert and I was stunned and delighted. Dino says he is coming out of with book on Conduction soon; I plan to order the first copy.

Link to the video of the concert:



Improvisation Games for Classical Musicians, Vol. II is out!

Improv Bk Vol. II My new book was just published by GIA! The first volume of Improvisation Games for Classical Musicians was published in 2008 with something like 566 nonjazz, non-notated (i.e. prose descriptions) games (much better word than “drill” or “exercise”), 354 p., with generous sections of explanatory material and resources for further study. This new volume is the result of about nine years of collecting and inventing new games. It contains 642 new games in 374 pages; there are fewer categories than in Vol. I (which is not labeled Vol. I, by the way), but there are mostly more games per category and there are some new categories as well (e.g. Movement Games). There is less explanatory material – just summaries; didn’t want to repeat all that in Vol. I, with perhaps just slightly less in Resources (more new material). But there are considerably more games, and many of these games come with variations (up to 18 variations on occasion); most teachers will be able to tweak these games and variations to suit their needs as well as be inspired to invent new ones, so these 642 can easily become thousands and thousands. And note that you can repeat games and never have them be the same twice.

If you are new to these improv games, you probably should start with Vol. I and absorb the explanatory material. If you have your copy of Vol. I, you will want to order Vol. II and enjoy the vast array of new ideas and offerings. And: once you have taken some games out for a spin, I always appreciate feedback on how it went. Or your ideas for new games. I will post a few of the new games here as samples, and would be delighted to post some of your new games as well if you would like to share.

In any case, have fun!


Improvisation in F# Lydian with Jeffrey Agrell, horn and Werner Elmker, piano

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.