01/29/14

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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03/27/13

Improv Quote of the Day: Surrender

As an improvising musician, I am not in the music business, I am not in the creativity business; I am in the surrender business.  Improvisation is acceptance, in a single breath, of both transience and eternity.  We know what might happen in the next day or minutes, but we cannot know what will happen.  To the extent that we feel sure of what will happen, we lock in the future and insulate ourselves against those essential surprises.  Surrender means cultivating a comfortable attitude toward not-knowing, being nurtured by the mystery of moments that are dependably surprising, ever fresh.

–Stephen Nachmanovitch

01/5/13

Improvisation Books

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

The best way to learn (nonjazz) improvisation is to do it – play and play, preferably with experienced partners who can model and advise and guide. Next to that (or along with that), it’s nice to not have to invent all the wheels yourself and have some books on the subject help you along.

The best ones to get (ahem) of course are mine (all published by GIA) Improvisation Games for Classical Musicians, Improv Games for One Player, Improv Duets, Improvised Chamber Music. But there are plenty of other books out there that you should consider looking at if you are interested in this subject. Here are some of them, not in any particular order:

Stephen Nachmanovitch, Free Play

William L. Cahn, Creative Music Making

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08/24/12

Improv Quote of the Day: Strange Inversion

English: Musical score of Sonata for flute and...

Music represented symbolically is regarded as more acceptable than music which happens in real time as sound. We have fallen under the sway of a strange inversion in which symbols are regarded as more real than the realities they represent. Music (or art, literature, science, technology) is often treated as a collection of works arranged in a historical timeline. The scores are regarded as having not only an independent existence, but a higher existence than a performance.

–Stephen Nachmanovitch

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04/14/12

Improv Quote of the Day: Symbols More Prized than the Music?

Example of a music manuscript: Johann Sebastia...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Music represented symbolically is regarded as more acceptable than music which happens in real time as sound. We have fallen under the sway of a strange inversion in which symbols are regarded as more real than the realities they represent. Music (or art, literature, theater, science, technology) is often treated as a collection of works arranged on a historical timeline. The scores are regarded as having not only an independent existence, but a higher existence than a performance.

– Stephen Nachmanovitch (from “It Don’t Mean a Thing (if it ain’t got that swing): Bateson and the How of Knowing”)