Last year I was interviewed for a podcast about improvisation and sound called Sound it Out. We talked about my research in general, and the idea that there is a connection between musical improvisation and everyday life. For me, this connection has always centered around “contingency”—the idea that at the heart of the matter, what it means to improvise is to engage with the contingency of a moment.
It was still early days in my dissertation work, so there are some rough spots in terms of what I’m saying and thinking. But I think there are some good parts too, especially the music and the conversation that we have at the end.
You can listen to it here.
boundary 2 online recently published my book review of Improvisation and Social Aesthetics. According to the counter, some people have read it!
On the 19th and 20th of July, I will be hosting the first in a series of improvisation workshops. Ideally, one round in the program would be between six and eight weeks long, so these two sessions are just a kind of pilot program.
I have set up a website where you can read more about it and sign up. The basic idea is that it’s a structured approach to collective improvisation, meaning that it’s not centered in any one style of music, but it’s also not a free-for-all. We will be discussing various methods, techniques, strategies, and compositional considerations for improvising with other people. It is meant to be valuable to any level of musician on any instrument. Ideally, over time, this would develop into a consistent and sustained program, so that we could engage with each other’s music, practice together, and maybe put on a show.
Do let me know if you’re interested. I’m very excited to see how it develops.
Next week, I will be presenting a little bit of my research at this conference in memory of the great Pauline Oliveros.
Oliveros has left an enormous legacy behind for the improvising and experimental music worlds; in particular, her notion of Deep Listening is, in my opinion, fundamental for any serious engagement with improvisation.
I am beyond excited to be able to attend such a promising schedule of events, and for the opportunity to receive feedback from others working in/around/through/on improvisation.
Here is some more information, pasted from facebook:
Still Listening is a three-day conference of talks and concerts in memory of Pauline Oliveros, the experimental American composer who was a central figure in new forms of music improvisation.
She coined the term “Deep Listening”, an aesthetic that combined improvisation, electronic music, ritual, teaching and meditation. An openly queer woman composer, Oliveros was a pioneer in many ways and a key figure in recent American music history.
Nearly all talks/conferences/workshops are free. Evening concerts are ticketed.
Full schedule of events: http://iplai.ca/…/still-listening-pauline-oliveros-commemo…/
Facebook event link: http://ow.ly/luv030bQ4xj
Last year I made this booklet to try to get the word out about the Institute for Policy Studies report that ranked Ohio State the #1 most unequal public university in the country. The report shows the clear connection between high student debt, low faculty wages, and the extreme increase in administrative pay (combined with the expansion of university facilities).
I am posting it here, simply because I have not done so until now.
I wrote this with the suspicion that many of the undergrads at OSU do not understand what’s going on–in other words, that it is not just a “fact of life” that college is expensive, but it is rather the direct result of a series of decisions designed to benefit administrators rather than teachers and students. It doesn’t have to be this way, and it is not in much of the world.
Unfortunately, my printing privileges only go so far, and I was not able to flood campus with these. If anyone is inclined, I would be appreciative if you could print and distribute as much as possible. Please also feel free to email me if you’d like to make changes to the text; perhaps if there is enough interest, I will make a general version that is not OSU specific.
(If you do want to print this, make sure to print on both sides, with the “flip short edge” option.)
People say that baking is scientific, but I don’t think that’s an accurate way to describe baking bread. Baking bread is improvisatory, in that it requires knowing the process well enough to be able to respond when circumstances change.
The state of your starter, the temperature outdoors and in, the time you have available, and other such variables set certain parameters within which to work. You can guess and do alright, but to really consistently perform the way you want to, you have to have practiced enough times so that your muscle memory and intuition can take over. How the dough looks, smells, and feels will tell you if it needs to ferment for a few more hours, or if you need to change the ambient temperature. Even though the process is a continuous, daily practice, it’s never quite the same from time to time.
One of the most significant reasons why I am attracted to activities like this is that they are impossible to do without developing a sustained relationship with the process. There is a kind of intimacy between one’s instrument and one’s self, where, after you’ve spent enough time with each other, you know what it is going to do before you hear it done (and it knows what you are going to do, as well). This is one of the places where our membranes as subjects is the thinnest, when we are most prepared to let things in, to blur the distinction between ourselves and the outside world, which is inside us as we are in it. People can cause this boundary crossing (is there really a boundary?), but so can objects: when you are playing music, you are yourself but also your instrument (as it, by sounding is partially you).
There is no such thing as a single unitary individual; we are incomprehensibly multiple, but there are at least some parts of us that we can know about and reflect on. Choosing what objects to use and what activities to perform with them–very much like choosing which people we spend time with–is a way to intentionally alter some of the multiples that constitute us as humans in the world. Even as I work on my future self by learning how to bake, I am partially becoming my past self each time I eat what I have baked and am made to remember this or that event, or any number of conversations where bread was present, tying itself to my mind.
Allowing other people to experience this as well is one reason to bake two loaves.
A little while ago, Aaron asked me to write something for this guitar group. I did, and then they performed it.
I think it sounds really good. What do you think?
Here is the score.
Here is the recording:
From the program notes:
“New Hands is a continuation in a series of compositions experimenting with incorporating improvised elements into the form of the pieces themselves. The first movement is all about single pitches (which are not specified), and the exciting possibilities that can come about when nobody knows what the other performers will play. Limiting the improvisation to two factors (what note and what rhythm) maintains the possibility for melody and harmony (but does not guarantee them).
The second movement is a solo with strictly written pitches, but the guitar is detuned, again preventing advanced knowledge of the resulting sounds.
The third movement specifies only intervals and chord qualities; two parts are the mirror of each other, while the soloist improvises with noise.”
Many thanks to Aaron, Larry, Aditya, and Dennis for playing it.