Exploring musical improvisation: the human impulse to emote with sound.



Now, I don't know about you, but my perceptions are always stretched by Winnipeg's New Music Festival. The moments most dear from this year, however, didn't happen on stage.

I had the distinct pleasure of getting to rehearse Meredith Monk's music WITH Meredith Monk (check out MWM43 to learn more about her). She talked about her music coming from an organic place; Meredith begins with the fundamental human impulse to make sound and gradually moulds these abstract vocal landscapes into structured worlds of human experience.

It's not that I hadn't thought of it before, but in that moment, the picture came into focus:

All new things begin with improvisation.

So I got to looking for some well-distilled thoughts on the subject and I came to session musician turned free improv pioneer, British guitarist Derek Bailey and his 1980 book Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice. Bailey, like Monk, lived on the outer limits of his instrument's capabilities -- constantly experimenting with new and different sounds the guitar (both acoustic and electric) could actually make. Speaking of improvisation as spontaneous conversation, collaborative practice fosters endless possibility.

From rote folk traditions to Mozart's cadenzas to John Zorn's free jazz, Derek Bailey examines the value, practice, and resistance against improvisation in the world of western art music and beyond.

In 1992, Channel 4 produced a four-part documentary series based on the book narrated by Bailey himself. This is the first part. 


Derek Bailey: On the Edge (Part 1) from James Wilson on Vimeo.


For the rest of the series, click HERE.


Tune in next Wednesday for another episode of Mid-week Musicology on Classic107.com!