Since their emergence from the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) in the 1960s, the members of the Art Ensemble of Chicago have created a distinctive multidisciplinary performance practice centered on collective improvisation. In this article, Steinbeck conceptualizes Art Ensemble improvisations as networks of group interactions, and he analyzes an excerpt from a 1972 Art Ensemble concert recording using a phenomenological perspective informed by his conversations with the group about the performance and by my own experience as an improvised-music practitioner.
Napier explores a tension between received tradition and individual expression in North Indian classical music. How should improvisation be understood, he asks, in a musical culture which prizes intergenerational continuity as much as innovation? He suggests that melodic moments should be viewed in that context as attempts at reconciling tradition with contemporary concerns. In this light, Napier argues that "improvisation" should in no instance be used to validate novelty without acknowledging reproduction and continuity.
Burrows' goal is to demystify the act of improvising by drawing on theories of cognition and on his experience as a musician. He argues that purely interior mental processes supposedly governing improvisation are in fact dependent on external "objects" or environmental factors, such as the physical act of sound creation or the reactions of others. Each performance, Burrows suggests, may thus be affected by the interplay of individual psychological motivations, technical features of instruments, or the audience.
Vocalist Jeanne Lee took a multidisciplinary approach to improvisation that incorporated dance and visual media and produced remarkable innovations in vocal sound. She remained relatively obscure throughout her 40-year professional career, Porter argues, because of her iconoclastic performance art, and because of her status as a woman, working mother, and black person. He explores the challenges to assumptions about nation, gender, and race in Lee's work, particularly in her performance of her poem "In These Last Days."
Miya Masaoka is a third generation Japanese American artist classically trained as a musician and composer. In her compositions and installations, she involves improvisation, interaction, spatialization, sensors, computers, and various media including video and film.
In this interview with fellow Japanese/American sound artist Keiko Uenishi I work outwards from the personal to consider the radical potential of internet-based sound and video improvisation to build community across ethnic and gender lines.
One gets the sense that Ben Watson is itching for a fight, given his writerly penchant for polemic and confrontation. Readers of Derek Bailey and the Story of Free Improvisation don't have to wade into his 400-plus page biography of the great British guitarist, however, to perceive Watson's put-up-your-dukes method of critical inquiry: The story of "Free Improvisation"?
Stanbridge examines two recordings by the composer George Russell of the country and western standard "You Are My Sunshine." Russell's complex renditions, aided by Sheila Jordan's emotionally fraught vocals, pitted the song's rustic associations against the alienation he saw in modern technology and violence. The multileveled, perhaps cynical parody militates against any "happy endings" and, Stanbridge argues, any fixed interpretation of the performance, whether through modernist or postmodernist lenses.
Rowan suggests that improvisation and noise-making are viable elements in urban planning and discusses three urban designers who use them. Whereas rational processes and settled laws are often asserted to be necessary foundations of music as well as urban development, Rowan argues that "spontaneity will inevitably insinuate itself within a plan as creativity, resistance, and response to crisis" and that its embrace is "conducive to the polyrhythm and discord of heterogeneous society."
Just after World War II, American composers and jazz performers were interested in indeterminacy and improvisation. Yet the composers tended to deny the influence or importance of jazz in a tacit move to keep their music "pure" of associations with racial protest then emanating from the jazz sphere. Lewis identifies John Cage and Charlie Parker as representatives of "Eurological" and "Afrological" approaches, respectively, whose differences turn on their attitude toward the expression of race, ethnicity, class, and political ideology in music.
In this Berlin-New York phone interview, saxophonist Steve Coleman presents what Völtz calls his "philosophy of cosmic energy," and his ideas on improvisation, language, structure, freedom, and innovation, often making his points with the help of anecdotes about from his own career.