Skip to Content

Improv Notes: January 2013


Email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser

IMprov Notes:
News of the Moment
January 2013

Class Action: Human Rights, Critical Activism, and Community-Engaged Learning

On Thursday, January 24th, 2013 ICASP Project Director Ajay Heble will take part in the new McMaster University lecture series, the McMaster Seminar on Higher Education. Featuring lecturers who invoke timely questions of intellectual work and community engagement, the McMaster Seminar on Higher Education will invite an international roster of noted speakers to address the university and the broader community about important social issues. Heble's address at McMaster University will be called Class Action: Human Rights, Critical Activism, and Community-Engaged Learning. McMaster University scholars, Amber Dean (Assistant Professor in Cultural Studies and Gender Studies) and Walt Peace (Associate Professor in Geography and Earth Sciences), will respond to Heble's address.

We invite you to join Ajay Heble and us at McMaster University for this important lecture series and discussion taking place at McMaster University (Council Chambers. GH 111. 1:00 - 3:00 pm)

Please download a full poster here.

For more information on this lecture and others in the McMaster Seminar on Higher Education lecture series, please visit this 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.

Body and Soul: An Interview with Andrew Cyrille conducted by Rob Wallace

Andrew Charles Cyrille, born in 1939 in Brooklyn, began playing drums in a drum and bugle corps at the age of 11. For a period in his teens Cyrille studied chemistry, while playing jazz in the evenings, eventually enrolling in the Juilliard School of Music. In the late '50s and early '60s he worked with such mainstream jazz musicians as Mary Lou Williams, Roland Hanna, Roland Kirk, Coleman Hawkins, and Junior Mance, and recorded with Hawkins, as well as tenor saxophonist Bill Barron, for the Savoy label. Cyrille succeeded Sunny Murray as Cecil Taylor's drummer in 1964, and stayed with the pianist until 1975, during which time he played on many of Taylor's classic albums. He played with a good many other top players during that time too, including Marion Brown, Grachan Moncur III and Jimmy Giuffre, and collaborated with Rashied Ali and Milford Graves on a series of mid-'70s concerts entitled "Dialogue of the Drums." Beginning in 1975 and lasting into the '80s, Cyrille led his own group, called Maono (“feelings”), with its fluid membership dictated by the forces of his compositions, and also played with a band that included the violinist Billy Bang, bassist Sirone, altoist Brown, and trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah. In 1983 he recorded the all-percussion album Pieces of Time for Soul Note with Graves, Don Moye, and Kenny Clarke. When not leading his own bands, he has worked ubiquitously as a sideman, and he is currently a faculty member at the New School for Social Research in New York City. His work has earned him a number of grants and awards.

As part of the 2010 Guelph Jazz Festival Colloquium, Rob Wallace conducts an interview with the renowned drummer. They discuss the body in relation to spirituality, drumming, dance, pedagogy, improvisation, sociality, big bands, and other insights and reflections informed by Cyrille's own practice. Writer, musician, and teacher Rob Wallace holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Santa Barbara. His research focuses on poetry, improvisation, popular and “world” musics, and the intersections between literature and music. Wallace is an active percussionist in a number of genres ranging from Hindustani classical music to free improvisation, and he is the author of Improvisation and the Making of American Literary Modernism (Continuum).

A full transcript of the interview is available here.

W H E R E  

Festival of Creative Music: Feb 22-24, 2013

The Somewhere There Festival of Creative Music will take place February 22-24, 2013 at the TRANZAC Main Hall (292 Brunswick Ave) in Toronto. At 1pm on Saturday, February 23rd, Nick Loess and Joe Sorbara will present the film premiere of Start Making Noises Now, an initiative of the Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice (ICASP) Research Project.

Please check out the full calendar for more talks and performances!

Quote of the Month:

If it's totally improvised, then it's not my music anymore, is it? My solo music - I get up onstage, I improvise and it's my improvisation. When I get up onstage with Fred Frith and Mike Patton, then we're improvising together. Then it's not my music; it's our music. I don't like to ever say the word 'my music.' ... Nothing is mine. We're working on this together.

-John Zorn, in an interview with The San Francisco Chronicle.

John Zorn (born September 2, 1953 in New York City) is an American avant-garde composer, arranger, record producer, saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist. Zorn is an incredibly prolific artist who has hundreds of album credits as a performer, composer, or producer. He has had experience with a variety of genres including jazz, rock, hardcore punk, classical, extreme metal, klezmer, film, cartoon, popular, and improvised music. Since 2000, Zorn has edited multiple editions of the book series, Arcana: Musicians on Music, which features interviews, essays, and commentaries by musicians mostly working in improvised and avant-garde mediums.

About ICASP 

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.



This Month's Featured Artist:
Jayne Cortez (in memoriam)

Photo copyright:  Amir Bey

Jayne Cortez (USA)

“i cover the hands of Duke who like Satchmo / like Nat (King) Cole will never die/ because love they say/ never dies”
–Jayne Cortez
Jayne Cortez was an American poet, and performance artist; she 
passed away on December 28, 2012. Cortez gave a lively keynote presentation at the 2011 Guelph Jazz Festival and Colloquium and will be missed by many. In 1954, when she was only 18, Cortez married jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman and had a son with him in 1956, named Denardo. Denardo began drumming with his father while still a child and devoted his adult life to collaborating with both parents; he sustained a lifelong musical collaborative relationship with Cortez and he can be heard on many of her recordings.

Cortez is the author of ten books of poems and performer of her poetry with music on nine recordings. Her voice is celebrated for its political, surrealistic, dynamic innovations in lyricism, and visceral sound. Her writing is an integral part of the Black Arts movement. Cortez has presented her work and ideas at universities, museums, and festivals in Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, the Caribbean and the United States. Read her poem, "There It Is" (below), and have a listen to some of her recorded work (also below). Truly, an incredible poet who will not be forgotten and who touched many lives while she was in Guelph in 2011.

Jayne Cortez with Ajay Heble. Photo copyright: Aldon Lynn Nielsen. Visit Nielsen's blog.

There It Is
by Jayne Cortez

And if we don't fight
if we don't resist
if we don't organize and unify and
get the power to control our own lives
then we will wear
the exaggerated look of captivity
the stylized look of submission
the bizarre look of suicide
the dehumanized look of fear
and the decomposed look of repression
forever and ever and ever
And there it is...

Listen to Cortez perform her poem, “I am New York City”:

Jayne Cortez & The Firespitters, "If The Drum Is A Woman":

Find Your Own Voice” live with drummer Denardo Coleman:

Thinking Spaces, The Guelph Reading Group, is Back!

This group is open to all: community members, faculty, and students. We welcome new participants at any time throughout the year. Please join us for stimulating discussions on improvisation! Contact or 519-824-4120 x53885 for more information.

Future reading groups will be based around critical thinking on improvisation and will feature exciting talks from saxophonist and educator, Shirantha Beddage, musicologists Susan McClary and Rob Walser, among other T.B.A speakers.

More information on the Guelph Reading Group is available

Research Matters - Life in 2030
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
6:30 pm to 8:30 pm

“Improvisation will be at the core of sustainable communities and unprecedented change."
-Ajay Heble

Ajay Heble, ICASP Project Director, will be part of a Research Matters panel event ("Life in 2030"), a series of free public events in five cities across Ontario, looking at “Life in 2030.” The speakers will discuss the future with those who are creating it.

   Presents Nick Loess

31st January 2013 8:00pm [$10 or pwyc]
Macdonald Stewart Art Centre (358 Gordon St. Guelph)

Guelph-based video artist Nicholas Loess is offering a smorgasbord of media and formats for your retinal delight! VHS! 35 and 16mm film! Digital Video! Lens-based medium format photography! Contact photography! Oh my! Loess seeks to rhythmically juxtapose these different textures, in consort with improvisers Joe Sorbara and Ben Grossman. 

The performance begins with an intermedial simultaneous multi-projection of Chris Marker’s La Jetée in VHS, Beta, 16mm, and digital formats. Where it goes from here will be motivated by the moment-to-moment improvised consideration of memory, space, sound, and image. Taking neither one as a subdivision, primary, or secondary, the collaboration might feel like a trip to a cinema in low-Earth orbit where the preciousness of gravity and air make the popcorn smell how you might’ve remembered it a decade after having it for the first time. If you haven’t had popcorn then you should definitely come. Seriously.

*This improvisation is the second of three public performances that Loess is producing as a part of his PhD work with ICASP and the School of English and Theatre Studies.*  

Recently Nick Murphy (Loess) took first prize in the Toronto Urban Film Festival, for his short film "

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!

Follow us on our facebook page

We’ll all be more innovative if we participate in collaborative webs and share more openly. Creativity is always a collaboration and it’s always a form of improvisation, written large in the social world.

– Keith Sawyer