Thursday, July 21, 2011

Evidence that through composition and improv do not conflict

Since I won't be updating en masse over the summer, here's what I've been working on. It makes me wonder if there's grad level research I can get my hands on so I don't have to figure it all out from scratch. But there is value in that, especially given who's been in grad school before me.

Yes, those are column headings.

As I play with improv beyond "here are your timing/ rhythmic/ dynamic/ pitch constraints" and toss around the questions of privilege around musical skill and audience fitness and class- and culturally-proscribed behavior, I find myself delighting in questioning also my role as composer. Am I equivalent to a BDSM Dominant, calling the shots and bossing my players and producers around? Or a submissive, catering to the whims of the talent, a beneficent performing group, and ultimately the paying, soul-hungry audience? Evidence supports the conclusion that it does not matter as long as details of the arrangement are transparent to all parties and consensual.

What does this look like in practice? A few months ago, a favorite pianist at New Keys asked for additional movements to The Jots, a four-hand, sight-reading piece I dashed off earlier this year. I was experiencing a personal renaissance in ... a universal daily bodily function pertaining to internal movement. Writing the companion movement as a multi-phase improv theater pierce set my mind reeling on the topics above.

What I want to do exceeds the human resources of a conventional music concert; it needs the participants of an improv theater workshop for an audience. Further, working with the subject is helping me cope with the offensive aspects of reality like unresponsive audience and power vested in skilled artists. It's not bad; it's necessary and colorful sensation.

If you're in the SF Bay area in the upcoming weeks I'm organizing casual meetups to play theater games. No acting experience required! just respond to a scheduling poll.


  1. Although not directly related to what you are talking about this brings to mind the absurdity of the conventional classical music concert setting in today's age of diversity and unconventional behavior.

    Performers walk onto stage wearing clothing styles of yesteryear, and don't speak or even acknowledge the presence of an audience. At the end they do bow to the clapping. If they return to do encores sometimes, but often not, they announce what they are playing and when they do so it is often inaudible. At the end of the concert someone brings up a bouquet of flowers and hands it to the performer, usually only if it is a women.

    No wonder the standard concert audience is all middle aged and older white people with an occasional young person (probably dragged there by a parent or occasionally a music teacher).

  2. You have a point. I found this more-interesting-than-usual-NYC-fare perspective today: