Thursday, April 20, 2006

Morphs: Etudes for Improvisation

Sometimes things just happen when they need to happen. I start writing about improvising with "creative focus" (or "creative limits") and Mikael Elsila emails me that he has written an entire book of short musical "cells," as he calls them, meant to be used as staring points for improvisation. You can order the book of 206 of these short units, and an optional CD at Mikael was kind enough to send me a few sample cells--they are really great.

Mikael's book is an example of a very valuable improvisational technique. Take a short musical idea, repeat it, and then see where it leads you. There are many possibilities: slight variations, changes of tempo, changes of rhythm, changes of notes, alternating the original idea with contrating ones, etc. You allow the music to "morph" into whatever it wants.

This is also a good example of an important principle I discussed in an earlier entry. An improvisation does not have to be 100% original. As a matter of fact, few improvisations are. Most idiomatic improvisation (i.e., music in a particular musical tradition or idiom) entails improvisation on some sort of pre-exisiting music material. In jazz, it's the melody and chord structure. In Indian music, it's a raga.

Mikael's "Morphs" are a great collection of ideas to use as a starting point.

Thanks, Mikael!

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