Modernizing European Higher Music Education Through Improvisation

About: Glossary_


Tonal Improvisation 

In a tonal improvisation, a tonal center and hierarchy is used as a reference and serves as an anchor to attach a musical discourse and expression. The nature of this discourse can vary greatly. The following (non-exhaustive) list of examples is ordered chronologically:

baroque, dealing with specific stylistic features of countries (e.g. French baroque) and/or composers (e.g. Buxtehude) and/or partimento tradition

classical, dealing with e.g. the partimento tradition and/or (so-called) classical style (involving e.g. Mozart, Haydn)

romantic, dealing with e.g. the partimento tradition and/or specific harmonic language (e.g. Wagnerian chromaticism) and/or motivic variation (e.g. Beethoven) and/or idiomatic writing (e.g. Chopin)

enlarged tonality, dealing with autonomous dissonances, keeping a tonal center as point of reference: e.g. the style of Shostakovich, Kabalevsky; this also includes modal systems, e.g. Messiaen

minimal style, dealing with the idiom of e.g. Glass, Reich, Riley

free tonality as part of a postmodern esthetic, e.g. Pärt

Free Improvisation

free improvisation is a method to create music without any conscious predeterminations. It’s based on the idea that every player can make decisions on any point on the timeline. We consider it as a form of (Co-) composing in time.

According to Wikipedia: Free improvisation or free music is improvised music without any rules beyond the logic or inclination of the musician(s) involved. The term can refer to both a technique (employed by any musician in any genre) and as a recognizable genre in its own right. Free improvisation, as a genre of music, developed in the U.S. and Europe in the mid to late 1960s, largely as an outgrowth of free jazz and modern classical musics. Exponents of free improvised music include saxophonists Evan Parker, Anthony Braxton, Peter Brötzmann and John Zorn, trombonist George Lewis, guitarists Derek Bailey, Henry Kaiser and Fred Frith and the improvising groups Spontaneous Music Ensemble, The Music Improvisation Company, The Art Ensemble of Chicago and AMM.

improvisation generative is the term describing a form of free improvisation, based on principles of listening and instantaneous musical invention. It does not follow a style or a musical idiom, however the questions of individual and collective memory are present and the links with the contemporary electroacoustic music are numerous.

Warm ups

a warm up is any kind of exercise which is used to begin a session, a practice session at your instrument, or which are helping to build up concentration…

warming-up games  

It is good to start every impro session (or music session in general) with a warming up to activate the body, the mind, the contact with other players/singers, the feeling of pulse and rhythm, the memory, the feeling of pitch and harmony… these rather short exercises -or better: games- should have a low step-in-level and the aim is always to keep the flow and the fun. Whether you start with walking around, or passing a clap/sound in the circle, or playing with a shifting pattern, always try to involve the whole group and give attention to expression, tempo, dynamics, articulation, use of the voice, interaction, creativity. It is ideal to coach and be part of the group at the same time, but if it feels more comfortable you can focus on just the coaching in the beginning. Try to start on a basic level and add new information when the exercise is running well. And most importantly: enjoy and have fun!

Extramusical & Cross-arts

an extramusical improvisation is a non-musical expression. In musical context mostly used as a means to an end. Other art forms may trigger musical processes, to stimulate improvisational thinking. (Means: all you can do without your instrument)a kind of improvisation (tonal or free) which stands in relation/contact with other art-forms like dance, movie, theatre, acting etc. The category ‘Extra-musical’ includes all forms of multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary improvisation practices that include music improvisation as one of their components. As improvisation is widely used within different arts and as many music academies are nowadays part of broader ‘Arts academies’ (i.e. that include music, dance, theatre, film, visual arts departments, etc.), cross-art practices are becoming more common both in the performers’ working methods and in the academic curricula.

Cross Arts:  combination of art forms: musical statements combined with another art form.

Terms & Tags

art Form:  performance oriented exercices.

means to an end: didactic oriented exercices.

state of flow: effortless concentration, full presence & engagement in one’s performance and reduced awareness of the time passing (based on the definition of Csikszentmihalyi, 1975)

deep listening:  A specific type of listening which is non-judgmental, involves full and effortless concentration and engagement, enabling in real-time an uninterrupted connection between past, present and future events in a musical line. It involves the creation of what is often referred to as a shared time-space between participating players as well as listeners. 

memorisation: training musical memory.

circle games :Exercices that are typically conducted in a circle.(often used also as warm ups)

development of parametrical aspects: focussing on one or more parameter.

free tonal: improvisation in a tonal idiom, without pre-determined harmonic progressions

Selection Buttons

There are eight buttons to access all the videos. The first four are:

warm up games 

tonal/classical improvisation

free improvisation

extra musical improvisation

 These four categories are all defined in the Glossary.

The next three buttons concern the ensemble size:

solo, instrument specific: There are exercises for solo instruments, including specific instrumental skills.

small ensemble: exercises for any kind of small groups: from duo until quintet.

large ensemble: exercises for any kind of larger ensembles from quintet until orchestra.

Finally, cross arts: any kind of combination of improvisation with other artforms and medias.