More Improvisation from Across the Atlantic

Here’s master free improvisor Derek Bailey with two 050-CSEDLPS dancers.

  • Bailey and Will Gaines
  • Bailey and Min Tanaka

Some more improvising from across the Atlantic

  • Steve Beresford conducting the London Improvisors Orchestra
  • From a documentary about Keith Rowe, including mention of AMM

There is such a thing as vocal improvisation, but I’m very GB0-540 picky about what I wish to pass along.  Vanessa Mackness is a notable example. I recommend her amazing collaborative album with saxophonist John Butcher entitled Respiritus (Incus Records).  There’s a bit of Butcher on YouTube.  Couldn’t find any video of Mackness.  Let me know if something’s out there. 

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  • 14 Thoughts on “More Improvisation from Across the Atlantic

    1. Poor Bach, who could only improvise fugues.

    2. You invite the ghost of Bach to haunt them; I assume it will. O the sleepless nights in store for them.

      Don’t they know they’re just miserable fleas on the Master’s wig? Why do they even bother?

    3. Less predictable responses are encouraged and welcomed.

    4. I believe it’s called “The Anxiety of Influence.” It’s often expressed in these terms: “After Shakespeare, why bother writing anything?”

    5. Here’s one: I am very ambivalent about the improv presented here. Yes, the concept is intriguing, and the execution can be mesmerizing—but for me, it’s mostly mesmerizing because I keep listening for that flash of brilliant coherence that would perhaps be worth exploring.

      But two things keep me from clasping the thing to me: the flashes of brilliant coherence rarely, if ever, appear; and when they do, they are not explored, but abandoned.

      Like 12-tone music, it’s all cerebral: “I thought about it… quite formally, how do I develop a new language for this instrument?…a break from the past…” If it comes to that, why not go whole hog and develop a new instrument, a la Harry Partch?

      My goals as a musician seem to be quite opposite to those of Rowe: “creating a gap between you and the essential material… the guitar in its traditional position is an expression of the ‘I,’ an expression of sentiment.”

      And here I am trying to make what ends up on the page be as much a part of me—if not an identity—as possible. It’s quite difficult. Yes, I also know it’s too too recherché.

      But I will also put this out there for discussion: this cherished detachment from the artistic self and sentiment… isn’t this otherwise an issue in one’s actual life?

      I will also posit that, for me, while these works and artists may be intellectually interesting, they do not spring from that evolutionary impulse that gave us music in the first place and are in fact a deliberate rebuttal of it. Again, intellectually interesting, but it does not engage me. Perhaps more entheogenic substances might help?

    6. Of course, I’m not sure that wasn’t a less predictable response. 🙂

    7. I need to add, my above comment is a defense of my disengagement from the endeavors Marc has posted. It was not meant to be ex cathedra. Clearly they intrigue him, and he sees meaning where I see little. Consider it an admission of shallowness on my part. Chacun son goût.

    8. Thanks so much for linking to my film of the London Imorovisers Orchestra conducted by Steve Beresford. Have a look at more on the above link, Coxhill, Minton, Butcher, Turner, etc. plus some more abstract films.

    9. Not everyone is responsive to the idea of improvisation for its own sake without a moment of–to coin a phrase–recuperative evaluation.

      I would invite listeners not to feel threatened by these offerings. I don’t think any established worlds of musical meaning are being called into question. To me it’s just other stuff.

      I do think that a personal experience of undertaking an improvisatory gesture–or devoting a period of time engaging in a number of them, musical or otherwise but preferably performative in nature–produces more sympathetic understanding. And there is a need for that; the created material is unavoidably situated within a particular kind of event. As a listener you are also a kind of participant, I think. You are taking the journey with the performer. The improvisor is creating, yes, and generating things, but he or she is also encountering things, negotiating, reacting, abandoning, avoiding. That too, is part of the audience’s experience of the performance. We participate in a series of embodied choices.

      I think, too, that one can exercise one’s ears in different ways such that an improvised fugue in which tonal relations stay in accord with Pythagorean ratios (tempered or not) gives enjoyment but so does a temporal exploration of timbre and texture outside harmonic concerns and so does West African drumming in a constant state of polyrhytmic flux free of any recapitulation or re-statement.

      I appreciate your taking time to offer thoughts and responses of all kinds.

    10. I’m not sure why my mode of phrasing has gotten so pseudo-scientific. Maybe I’m reacting to some of the responses I read on YouTube.

      “Dude, if you think it sucks, maybe you suck,” etc.

      Attali’s “Noise: the political economy of music” makes some interesting observations about how discourses on music usually take place within a very primal and atavistic arena though we like to pretend it is otherwise. It’s a potential political hotbed.

    11. jeff on April 7, 2008 at 2:23 pm said:

      So who’s bringing the drums to the next circle gathering? I’ve been eyeing this crazy African instrument that’s been for sale by consignment across the street at Kebco for a couple of months now. Maybe this will inspire me to plunk down the change and get it.

    12. jeff on April 7, 2008 at 2:24 pm said:

      But if we start improvising music, Gary Waters really does need to come join us.

    13. Yes, he does.

    14. jeff on April 7, 2008 at 2:40 pm said:

      If we’re going to talk about him anyway, he should be there to engage in the conversation.

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