Sunday, November 18, 2007

Iowa Concert: Parts 2 and 3

U of Iowa Improv Performance, Part I

After a good bit of trial and error, I have finally managed to get video from my camcorder all the way to YouTube. Here's the first part (2 more to come) of the solo improvisation set I did at the University of Iowa School of Music Contemporary Improvisation Weekend two weeks ago (November 3). (I've posted this on my personal blog as well.)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Greg Heffernan

While we are all waiting for me to get my video loaded onto YouTube (I know you are probably losing sleep over it), here's a very enjoyable cello/piano improv I just found there. The cellist is Greg Heffernan, working with his friend Kamel.

It's interesting that many of the comments on YouTube are skeptical that this is actually an improvisation. When people improvise a lot, they have no difficulty creating pieces with a beginning, middle, and end on the spot. Once you are an experienced improviser, it's easy to believe. These two have a very nice rapport.

Turns out there are quite a few videos if you search "cello improvisation" at YouTube.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Recording Improvisations

I had an email earlier today from a new friend at the University of Iowa regarding recording improvisations and then discussing them. This is a great thing to do--if you are a teacher running an improv class, for a group to do themselves, and to do with your own solo improvisations. You can then reflect on the process, and also assess the improvisation as a piece. I just watched the video of my solo portion of Sunday night's improvisation concert at the University of Iowa. I loved the experience of playing it. Watching the tape, there is much I like, and much I've learned in terms of what I might do next time. I'll be posting the video on YouTube as soon as I learn how to get it there.

The important thing with recording and listening/assessing is to do it as a way of increasing awareness, not to find fault with and invalidate what you did (and yourself along with it). That's what I have to watch out for--my tendency to seize on a fault (real or imagined) and then use it to beat myself up with.

So it's important, I've learned, to approach this with self-acceptance. What did you like? What different choices might you make next time? And if you think it sucked, and it did, so what? Do another one!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Darling Conversations

Shortly after I began improvising on my own, I discovered the recordings of David Darling. The simple yet beautiful solo improvisations on his Tao of Cello album were important and empowering to me: an improvisation based on a simple idea, not harmonically complex, not highly developed, could be beautiful and worthwhile and enjoyable to listen to, and "good enough" to be released by a label. Many of David's other CDs, especially his multitrack recordings (mostly on the ECM label) are much more "sophisticated." For years, though, it was the simple solo cello on that Tao of Cello album that I most enjoyed, of all his work.

Shortly after discovering David, I discovered Music for People, the organization promoting self-expressive improvisation that promotes a holistic, humanistic, approach to making music. David remains the artistic director; others have done the organizing and documentation, and thousands of lives have been changed. While I was perfectly comfortable doing solo improvisations by the time I attended my first MfP workshop, I was terribly afraid I wouldn't be able to improvise with others.

Music for People was a revelation; it has had as much impact on me as any other experience I've had in my life. I think it's accurate to say that my most powerful musical, spiritual, and personal growth as an adult has come from my participation in Music for People.

An advance copy of The Darling Conversations, a new 3-CD set of David discussing the Music for People philosophy with Julie Weber, the chair of the MfP Musicianship and leadership program, has been made available to me. Along with what I find to be genuinely profound insights into the relationship between human beings and their creativity, there are numerous musical examples, all recorded live during workshops or in casual recording sessions at workshops. (At least one is me.) The music is beautiful and touching and most of it is exquisitely recorded.

Listening to these recordings has been like attending a MfP workshop. I've been reminded of so much of the core, loving, empowering, embracing philosophy, as well as how that approach is manifested in many of the powerfully simple starting points and musical games David ad others in the MfP community have developed.

I can't recommend it highly enough. I'm having DePauw's music library order it, and I'm going to order a few sets, anyway, for holiday gifts. I'm also using it with my improvisation students, and will write more about that later.

Anyone who is interested in Music for People, in improvisation as a path of healing, and in ways to begin or enhance your own original music making, would do well to order this set. Download the sample tracks; I think you may find yourself as excited as am I.

In Iowa

I'm at the University of Iowa this weekend, and have started blogging about it here.