Sunday, December 17, 2006

Improv on NPR

The list of streaming NPR clips related to improvisation is growing (click here then scroll down a bit). Someone over there is obviously quite taken with Gabriela Montero; at least five pieces on her in the last year. Great interviews and performance recordings of others, including Robert Abramson, Paul Horn, Keith Jarrett, Robert Levin, and Rolf Lislevand. I'm keeping the list pretty much confined to people related in one way or another to classical music; Horn and Jarrett defy categorization enough that they are included.

I have nothing against jazz and other forms of improvisational music. The point of my work, though, is to point out what classical musicians can and are doing with improvisation.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Eric Barnhill and David Dolan

I've recently met Eric Barnhill (in person, at the ISIM conference) and David Dolan (via email), each a wonderful classically-trained pianist using improvisation in different ways. What is similar about them both is that they improvise in a common-practice musical language.

Eric, who has a blog of improvisations (such a great idea and one I may appropriate for myself), described his style to me as a mix of Brahms and Schubert; he's also a teacher of Dalcroze Eurythmics and has developed his own form of music therapy.

David heads the Centere for Classical Improvisation and Creative Performance at the Guildhall School in London, and teaches from time to time at Juilliard as well. His site has clips of him performing in the styles of Mozart and Chopin. What I find especially exciting about David's work is his emphasis on the relationship between improvisation (of notes) and interpretation of composed music.

It's that relationship that I found myself writing about more and more as I worked on the preliminary ideas for my book last spring. Good, alive classical music performance has many improvised aspects to it. Improvising music (including adding embellishments and ornamentation) and interpreting music in a flexible, improvisatory way, are both expressions of a performers musical creativity. To me, they are aspects of the same human drive.