Improv Class #3, Spring 2014

Cover of "Free Play: Improvisation in Lif...

In the third improv (regular readers of this blog know that I mean classical improv, not jazz improv, not theatrical improv, and that by classical improv I don’t mean improvising as they did in the Classical Era, I mean improvising with your own voice as a classical musician) class, we did a review of the last session – using sticks (on cardboard, on padded chairs, on notebooks, etc.) to acquire basic skills in control – steady pulse, adding accents (duple, triple, clave), dynamics, basic rhythms, free mix-and-match, density (from lots of notes to lots of rests), imitate (what you hear others play), add multiple timbres (hit something different to get a different color). It is a lot of variables when you add them all up when we get to the free play sessions, but they did well. We stressed that the most important part of this is listening. It’s great to add variety to your free sticking, but listen to the group: imitate the ideas of others and stick (pun intended) to the beat; if you hear the group getting ragged, simplify, go back to the steady 8th notes without an accent. Listen to yourself; continually adjust, adapt, and (re)calibrate. It’s easy to feel like you are riding an effortless, continuous stream of notes, but we need to stay alert to what is happening every second and make micro-adjustments. Paying attention is important. Don’t let the brain turn dull as soon as it perceives a pattern (e.g. regular sticking) and fall asleep.

Although we haven’t officially gotten into it yet, I added some Soundpainting (see www.soundpainting.com) gestures that seemed appropriate: the Density Fader, Volume Fader, Finish Your Idea, Exit.

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The Hands Tell a Story: Gestural Improvisation

Hands Of Desperation

(Photo credit: chris@APL)

English: Two hands are opened palms up in an i...

ASL short for "I love you"

Clenched human fist

English: Counting Hand 3

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):

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