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Improv Notes: August 2013


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IMprov Notes:
News of the Moment       August 2013

New Special ICASP Project: Think Pieces

This month, ICASP announces the beginning of a new 
Special Project aimed at exploring the boundaries, borders, and possibilities of critical improvisation studies as it applies to a number of divergent social issues, research fields, and contemporary ideas. The Think Pieces project will bring a monthly discussion and debate to the ICASP community (and beyond) in an attempt to explore a number of provocative questions: How can theories of improvisation re-imagine and redefine the roles of intellectuals? How can a theory be activated by an improvising subject and directed into tangible and meaningful action? What are the horizons of improvisation studies and why do they matter in contexts of crisis? Most critically, the Think Pieces project will offer a provocation to its readers: as improvisers/through improvisation, how and why do we think; how and why do we act?

The project is curated by University of Guelph PhD student, Gregory Fenton, who also authored the inaugural Think Piece,
 Think Pieces 1: Improvisation and ... Think Pieces. The piece explores many of the questions and issues raised by the Think Pieces project at its beginning and how the project can be relevant for our times.

Call For Think Pieces

We invite submissions of Think Pieces that range from 750-1250 words (approx.) and explore improvisation as it applies to different sites of theory, engagement, and practice. The papers can be creative or theoretical in nature, but should explore some aspect of improvisation and its possibilities for critical analysis, social action, and/or social belonging. A general format for the title of each piece should be as follows: “Think Piece: Improvisation and ______”. Papers do not need to be fully developed or scholarly in nature, and may seek to pose questions for future research. Submissions and questions should be directed to

The project hub is located here, where you can find more information on the project and view current and previous Think Pieces.

President Alastair J. S. Summerlee and Dr. Ajay Heble invite you to the launch of the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation


  • Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at the River Run Centre
  • 7:00 p.m. Reception
  • 8:00 p.m. Performance
  • Free general admission seating

An open invitation is extended to attend the official launch of the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation (IICSI) on Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at the River Run Centre in Guelph, ON. The International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation is the next generation of Guelph's award-winning Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice (ICASP) project, an international research collaboration that uses musical improvisation as a model for building successful communities.

How can people learn to live together in an increasingly global world? An important clue may be found through improvised performance practices, says University of Guelph professor Ajay Heble. Somehow, musicians who have never rehearsed together or even met, who play different instruments, and who may not even share a common language can come together and make magic happen, he says. “There’s something going on in the moment, something that resonates with musicians and artists adapting to each other,” said Heble, an English professor, musician, and artistic director and founder of the renowned Guelph Jazz Festival. That “something” might translate to other venues and issues, providing lessons about co-operation, negotiating differences, fostering trust and meeting social obligations. The new institute stems from the Improvisation, Community and Social Practice (ICASP) research project directed by Heble, now in the seventh year of a seven-year SSHRC MCRI grant. ICASP uses musical improvisation as a model for building successful communities.

The launch is presented by University of Guelph President Alastair J. S. Summerlee and Dr. Ajay Heble. It will feature a World Percussion Summit with Pandit Anindo Chatterjee (India), Dong-Won Kim (South Korea), Hamid Drake (USA), and Jesse Stewart (Canada). Admission is free with general admission seating.

For more information on the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and recipients of the Partnership Grant, please click here.

Photo Reel from the performance and interview with d’bi.young

“we tellin’ stories yo”: A Performance and Interview with renowned dub poet d’bi.young with an opening DJ Set by DJ Techné. Thursday, August 8th, 2013 (7-9 pm) @ Paintbox Bistro.

Photos of d’bi by Paul Watkins.

Photos of Paul Watkins and d’bi together by Meg Watkins.

Edits by Paul Watkins.

View additional photos on our Facebook page.


Oral Histories is a showcase of interviews, performances, and articles by and about improvising musicians, artists, writers and scholars. This monthly feature offers an intimate look inside the minds and practices of some of the many dynamic, innovative people whose energy and ideas make improvisation studies such a vibrant field of inquiry. The Oral Histories project provides a space for improvising artists to be heard in their own words, often in dialogue with other improvisers, scholars and practitioners.


Musician and educator Brad Muirhead is a classically trained trombonist who made the switch to jazz as an original member of Hugh Fraser’s Vancouver Ensemble of Jazz Improvisation (VEJI). Since that transition Muirhead has become a notable and versatile presence of the Vancouver Jazz community on bass trombone, tuba, and euphonium. Muirhead was also an original member of John Korsrud’s Hard Rubber Orchestra and he has performed with Claude Ranger’s Jade Orchestra, Francois Houle, Tribal Dynamics, the Miles Black Sextet, The Hugh Fraser Quintet, Lunar Adventures, and the RazzMaJazz Ensemble, as well as with Ray Anderson, George Lewis, and many others. Muirhead also composes for his own groups, Brass Roots and Primal Orbit, as well as writing commissioned works. His recording credits include the Fred Stride Jazz Orchestra, NOW Orchestra, Matthew Good, and George Lewis. Aside from his full-time work as a high school band instructor, Muirhead is active in the community with The Carnegie Street Band, the Deet Street Band, and The East Van Jazz Orchestra.

The interview was conducted by Tegan Ceschi-Smith, then an ICASP graduate research assistant who was part of the Carnegie Centre Jazz Band. The Carnegie Centre provides a range of social, recreational and educational programs for the residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. In the interview Brad Muirhead discusses the Carnegie Jazz program for residents of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side.

The Carnegie Jazz Band: Community Music in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. An Interview with Brad Muirhead


A full transcript of the interview is available here.

Further, check out a reflective piece by Tegan Ceschi-Smith describing and analyzing her experience as part of the Carnegie Centre Jazz Band here.

Quote of the Month:

Once you free your mind about a concept of harmony and music being correct, you can do whatever you want. So, nobody told me what to do, and there was no preconception of what to do.
-Giovanni Giorgio Moroder, “Giorgio by Moroder”

Giorgio Moroder is an influential record producer, performer and songwriter, known as an innovator of synth-pop, dance, disco, rock, and various electronic musics, as well as for his work on various film soundtracks. In the 1970s in Munich he started his own record label called Oasis Records, which became a subdivision of Casablanca Records. Through Oasis/Casablanca he released many disco era hits, including Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby.” He is also the founder of Musicland Studios in Munich, a popular studio that was used by Queen, Elton John, Electric Light Orchestra, and Led Zeppelin, among others. He has widely collaborated and his compositions have been sampled numerous times in electronic and hip-hop music. The Quote of the Month by Moroder is taken from the song “Giorgio by Moroder” from electronic music duo Daft Punk’s latest release, Random Access Memories (2013). The song features a monologue by Giorgio Moroder, who speaks about his early life and musical career. Watch the video here.

Photo: Wolfgang Moroder 


The international Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice research project explores musical improvisation as a model for social change. The project plays a leading role in defining a new field of interdisciplinary research to shape political, cultural, and ethical dialogue and action.

As a form of musical practice, improvisation embodies real-time creative decision-making, risk-taking, and collaboration. Improvisation must be considered not simply as a musical form, but as a complex social phenomenon that mediates transcultural inter-artistic exchanges that produce new conceptions of identity, community, history, and the body. This project focuses primarily on jazz and creative improvised music. The dominant theoretical issues emerging from this music have vital social implications.

Check out our diverse research collection.

Improv Notes was initially distributed in 2008 as a quarterly newsletter. Since June 2011 the revamped Improv Notes has been assembled, written, and distributed on a monthly basis by ICASP's Media and Public Relations Coordinator, Paul Watkins. If you have anything improvisation related that you would like to have included in the newsletter, please send an email to Paul at:

Want to read past newsetters, or refer a friend to the monthly newsletter, then please do!

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Featured Artist(s):
Guelph Jazz Festival


Rather than feature a single artist I thought it worthwhile to draw your attention to some of the fantastic musicians performing at the 20th Anniversary Guelph Jazz Festival. As the Guelph Jazz Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary, this milestone year will be marked with a very special programming strand which the festival is calling a World Artist Summit. The GJF will host improvising artists from Japan, France, India, South Korea, Australia, Norway, Sweden, Turkey, Morocco, Brazil as well as from across the United States and Canada, and as always, artists from right here in Guelph. There are too many exciting events and performances to list here, but I’ll mention a couple artists to check out this year if you are attending the festival. As a special opening night event on Tuesday September 3rd, the GJF will be partnering with the University of Guelph to celebrate the launch event for a new partnered research institute, the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation, with a once-in-a-lifetime improvising percussion quartet: a World Percussion Summit. This event is free and features some of the best percussionists working in music today.
And on Wednesday September 4th, the well-known and amazingly energetic Scandinavian quintet, Atomic will by joined by young Norwegian group, Moskus Trio. Atomic was featured in an earlier edition of Improv Notes, but I urge you to also listen to the powerful music of Moskus Trio. Here is their brand new video,

The Festival's highly-lauded late night shows return in full force this year, with BadBadNotGood described in Prefix magazine as "a jazz trio...often strange, forever imaginative, and ultimately revolutionary hip-hop and electronic beatmakers at heart" on Thursday September 5th. Watch BadBadNotGood perform a jazzy rendition of Kanye West's "Flashing Lights" live from Hillside.

Another not-to-be-missed double bill will take place on the evening of Friday September 6th at Co-operators Hall. It features Montreal-based pianist Marianne Trudel, who returns to the festival this year for a world premiere collaboration with bassist extraordinaire William Parker and the great drummer Hamid Drake. They will share the double bill with another trio, Dawn of Midi. Dawn of Midi provides some of the most incredibly locked grooves you’ll hear from an acoustic trio whose polyrhythmic improvisations bring together real-time playing and electronic dance music. Check out a clip from their latest work, Dysnomia.

For its second year, the new Market Square area of Guelph in front of City Hall will host free, family -friendly performances from morning til late night on Saturday September 7th. August's Improv Notes featured Pharoah Sanders who will perform in a very special capacity, namely in collaboration with two amazing ensembles led by Rob Mazurek: The Chicago Underground Duo and the São Paulo Underground. Joining them on this double bill will be the great trumpet player and AACM stalwart, Wadada Leo Smith who was named this year as a Pulitzer Prize finalist, for his brilliant new project, Ten Freedom Summers. Have a listen to "Martin Luther King, Jr." by Wadada Leo Smith from the album Ten Freedom Summers:

Closing the Festival on Sunday September 8th will be a specially commissioned new work by Ottawa-based composer / percussionist, JUNO Award recipient, and longtime Festival friend Jesse Stewart. The piece will involve a first-time collaboration between Stewart on drums and the celebrated and genre-bending Penderecki String Quartet. These are, of course, only a few select highlights, as there's much, much more to explore in this year's program, including a performance from ICASP improviser-in-residence Friendly Rich Marsella, a full Nuit Blanche lineup, an amazing colloquium, a new exhibition of Thomas King's amazing jazz photography, among various other incredible musical events.
View the full
day-to-day schedule.
Adapted from Guelph Jazz Festival Press Release. 

Check out the latest Special Issue of Critical Studies in Improvisation / Études critiques en improvisation (Vol. 8, No.2), guest edited by Amanda Ravetz, Anne Douglas, and Kathleen Coessens. 

The issue can be accessed online here.

Vol 8, No 2 (2012)

Improvisational Attitudes: Reflections from Art and Life on Certitude, Failure, and Doubt

Improvisational Attitudes: Reflections from Art and Life on Certainty, Failure, and Doubt
Amanda Ravetz, Anne Douglas, Kathleen Coessens


TACET: Call for papers

In their book on the philosophy of sound, Roberto Casati and Jérôme Dokic ask the following question as a preamble to a chapter on the relationship between sound and space: “could it be that space is but a sound space?” This issue of TACET seeks to start afresh with this assumption, firstly by investigating the sound practices of yesterday and today that originate both from the field of experimental music and that of sound art, which engage, occupy and thus consider the issues of space, but also by examining current societal changes in the soundscape which, as new subjects of research, permeate contemporary art.

The issue of space has historically been at the heart of sound installation practices, even representing the driving force which brought on the advent of Sound Art. Thus, Max Neuhaus, to whom, in particular, we owe this expression, embarked upon a series of works in the 1960s in which the act of listening to the environment rapidly moves towards site-specific sound art. It was at the same time that Alvin Lucier produced his first works reflecting on the propagation of sound in space and David Tudor dismissed the temporal nature of the concert by creating independent electroacoustic devices considered as sound ecosystems. While these works form part of the long-standing history of the experimental tradition, maintained by careful listening to the soundscape of industrial societies, and emerge after much research into the spatialization of sounds and the immersion of listening, they represent, nonetheless, a “spatial turn” in experimental sound practices. At the same time and following ethnomusicological investigations, the appearance of portable tape recorders has allowed musicians to take their microphones out from behind the closed doors of the studio and present compositional practice as the act of listening to the world (field recording in natural, urban and industrial surroundings), while multiple technological inventions replenish the tool box of musical creation via the use of new resonant spaces (echo, reverb etc.).

Space is never a neutral environment in which sounds spread: it has an impact on their colour and their length, just as the spatial position of the listener/spectator influences their perception. The same sound produced in different spaces will not have the same shape and may lead to different “contents” being heard, according to the places in which it is transmitted. But sounds do not merely depend on the space in which they are heard. They also produce space and even define it by their very organisation and by their repetition. Sound creates the territory, but it also complicates and rearranges its construction through sound overlapping and projection.

Today, research into sound spaces has lost none of its momentum and benefits from a range of practices, but it is also accompanied by questions linked to the recent development of sound environments and evidently by the continuous soundtrack of an everyday life which is itself trapped in the dialectic of the local and the global. Thoughts initiated by musicians and artists appear to follow, if not at times anticipate issues raised in the fields of architecture and urban planning, and which are scattered throughout the research into sound studies. While the majority of the initial artistic works on the spatiality of sound have concentrated solely on the acoustic properties of sound, aesthetic experiments on sound space have quickly focussed, since conceptual art and field investigation, on its social, political, institutional and ecological aspects, highlighting the extent to which the sound “boundaries” of a space can testify to and intersect other boundaries, both cultural and social as well as racial or gender boundaries: the sound space would also be a political space.

This next issue of TACET seeks to address these different points from an interdisciplinary perspective and to bring together an ensemble of studies (cross-disciplinary, general or focusing on the analysis of specific cases), examining sound space through the multiple problems which represent it and seek to define it. Among these focal points are: the strategies at work in contextual practices, the sound dimension of architecture, the stage space and scenography of sound art exhibitions, art in situ and site-engaged practices, listening spaces and the sound perception of space, the use of sound in institutional critique, sound installations in the public space and the history of spatialization.

Articles should be sent by email to by 15 October 2013.

An abstract, a few key words and a brief biography of the author should be attached to the article. We ask authors to follow the instructions (article format, bibliographic standards - see our file instructions for authors ). This will facilitate the editorial process and therefore speed up the time it takes to reply.


Call For Papers: Sound Changes: Improvisation, Social Practice, and Cultural Difference
As part of Duke University Press’s Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice series, two volumes of which have already been published, this volume proposes an enhanced, interdisciplinary understanding of improvisation as a multivalent, global social practice found within and across different cultural and historical contexts, different national sites and traditions. Books in this new series generally posit musical improvisation as a crucial model for political, cultural, and ethical dialogue and action—for imagining and creating alternative ways of knowing and being known in the world. The books are collaborations among performers, scholars, and activists from a wide range of disciplines. They study the creative risk-taking imbued with the sense of movement and momentum that makes improvisation an exciting, unpredictable, ubiquitous, and necessary endeavor. But are these assumptions necessarily true in the more global contexts in which improvisation is present? Does improvisation necessarily mean the same thing in and across different national sites where the social utility (or not) of improvisation is subject to vastly different contingencies, contexts, and historical circumstances? What kinds of theoretical and case study analyses are required in order to broaden improvisation studies beyond North American and European sites delimited (largely) by specific forms like free jazz, spontaneous composition, and experimental music?

With these questions in mind, a key precept underlying this book is that “improvisation” risks becoming a master trope that erases the multiple differential practices to which it generally refers. We intend for this collection to examine the astonishing diversity of practices that improvisation entails in ways that challenge monological notions of improvisation as a global practice that means the same thing in all circumstances. In that light, the volume explores “sound changes” as the word “changes” oscillates between its function as verb and as noun. The phrase “sound changes” thus references both the differential contexts in which improvisatory sound occurs (and how those change a sound’s meaning) and the ways in which sound itself is productive of changes that have an impact on wider spheres of human being.

The editors seek proposals for essays that address a wide range (geographically and culturally) of performance contexts in which improvisation is present as well as a diversity of critical traditions that have been, or should be, brought to bear on improvisatory practices. We are interested in work about music and sound, but also work that examines related improvisational forms such as dance, theater, intermedial performance practices, community organization and activism, transcultural encounters, and so on

We are open to work that focuses on other questions as well and authors interested in pursuing other related lines of inquiry and research should contact us directly. To submit a chapter proposal for this edited collection please send an abstract of no more than 300 words to Daniel Fischlin and Eric Porter. If selected, chapters should be approximately 6000-10,000 words in length. The deadline for abstract submission is October 15, 2013.

To download a copy of this Call For Papers in PDF form, please click here.


Check out the Silence event page for the latest in innovative music in Guelph.

Improvisation is, simply put, being and living this very moment. No one can hide in music, and improvising in music is to be truly in this very moment and being completely yourself, with all your qualities and faults. It is probably the most honest state for a human being to be in.

– John McLaughlin in an interview with Daniel Fischlin.