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Improv Notes: March 2012


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IMprov Notes:
News of the Moment
March 2012

Improvisation is Something We Live

Friday, March 30, 2012 (1 pm - 9 pm)
10 Carden, Guelph, Ontario

Improvisation is Something We Live will feature high-profile guest speakers and artists including scholar, Dr. Rinaldo Walcott, Experimental Turntablist, Slowpitch, Guinness World Record holder in freestyle, Emcee D.O., Canada Research Chair in Interactive Media and Performance, Dr Charity Marsh, Professional Dancer, B-girl Lopez, Turntablist neural thumb and Beat Technician & Improviser, Fresh Kils. Blending performance and discussion, the colloquium will investigate the ways in which improvisation, in its many incarnations as part of hip-hop culture, can be a survival strategy for members of marginalized populations, and a way to work beyond conventional limits of cultural, social, and political life. We seek to examine hip-hop art forms as modes of theoretical intervention in current modes of thought and practice; simultaneously we seek to bring together members of conventionally divided communities in a rich and productive conversation.
Schedule of Events

1:00 pm - 1:30 pm Opening remarks and Welcome by Mark V. Campbell
1:30 pm - 2:30 pm Keynote Lecture - Rinaldo Walcott
2:30 pm - 2:45 pm Q & A
2:45 pm - 3:00 pm Break
3:00 pm - 3:30 pm Panel Performance: Beatmaker Fresh Kils
  Videos of Bgirl Lopez and Emcee D.O.
3:30 pm - 4:30 pm Panel Discussion on Hip Hop And Improvisation moderated by Mark V. Campbell
  Fresh Kils, Bgirl Lopez and D.O.
4:30 pm - 5:30 pm Q & A
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm Keynote Address/Performance - Charity Marsh
  "Hip Hop as Methodology: The IMP Labs and Community Research"
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm Break
7:30 pm Improv. Performance with SlowPitch
See the ICASP colloquium page for full bios on artists/ scholars.

March's Oral History:

Matana Roberts is a Chicago-born, New York-based alto saxophonist, improviser, composer, and sound conceptualist. Her discography includes The Chicago Project (with guitarist Jeff Parker, bassist Josh Abrams, and drummer Frank Rosaly, featuring several saxophone duos with Fred Anderson), Live in London (with pianist Robert Mitchell, bassist Tom Mason and drummer Chris Vatalaro), and the sweeping ensemble, Coin Coin Chapter One: Gens de Couleur Libres. This recent work focuses on place, the problem of memory, and tradition as recognized, deciphered, deconstructed, and interrogated through radical modes of sound communication.

Listen to Matana's frank and revealing discussion with ICASP researcher Eric Lewis, as they cover the place of history and memory in musical creation, the relationship between Roberts and the improvising musicians who play in her piece, differing audience responses to performances, and much more.

“Panoramic sound quilting”: On Coin Coin and Compositional Methods can be viewed - and a full transcript is available - in our
 Research Collection.

Quote of the Month:

“There is no such thing as music. Music is not a thing at all but an activity, something that people do. The apparent thing “music” is a figment, an abstraction of the action, whose reality vanishes as soon as we examine it at all closely."
-Christopher Small, Musicking: The Meanings of Performance and Listening.

Christopher Small, a New Zealand-born writer and musicologist, argued that music is above all an active ritual involving those who play and listen to it and only secondarily a matter of “black dots.” He passed away last year in Sitges, Spain at the age of 84. He is the author of four incredible books: Schoenberg (1978), Music of the Common Tongue (1987), Music, Society, Education (1996), and Musicking (1998).

Photo Reel: Turntable performance at Macdonald Stewart Art Centre on March 7th, 2012

Dr. Mark Katz emceeing the event

ICASP Postdoc Fellow, Mark Campbell

ICASP GRA, Paul Watkins

In the "mix"

SOFAM student, Mark Onderwater.

This performance was part of the 6th Annual Creative Music Festival and Colloquium, School of Fine Art and Music, University of Guelph.

All Photos by Brian Lefresne


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:
DJ Spooky

DJ Spooky (America)

Paul D. Miller (born 1970)aka DJ SPOOKY That Subliminal Kid—borrowed from the character The Subliminal Kid in the novel Nova Express by William S. Burroughs—is a composer, multimedia artist, turntablist, producer, philosopher, and an author/writer. DJ Spooky’s music often incorporates electronic and experimental hip-hop, and his music has been described, by critics and fans, as 'illbient'" (hip-hop rhythms in ambient space) or “trip hop.” He is a Professor of Music Mediated Art at the European Graduate School.
He has released many electrifying albums, including the well reviewed and early electronica album,
Songs of a Dead Dreamer (1996). 2002 saw the release of Optometry, a widely acclaimed collaboration with avant-garde jazz players Matthew Shipp, William Parker, Guillermo E. Brown and Joe McPhee. His film compositions have also been critically well received, including the score for the 1998 film Slam, featuring poet/actor Saul Williams in the lead role. The film went on to win both the Cannes Camera D’Or and the Sundance Festival Film Festival Grand Jury Prize. The Kronos Quartet performed his music for the soundtrack to his remix of D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film Birth of a Nation. Rebirth of a Nation was Spooky’s first large-scale multimedia performance piece, and has been performed in venues around the world more than fifty times. The DVD version of Rebirth of a Nation was released by Anchor Bay Films/Starz Media in late 2008.
In 2004, DJ Spooky released the book
Rhythm Science, a manifesto for rhythm science: the creation of art from the flow of patterns in sound and culture. Taking the DJ’s mix as a template, Spooky describes how the artist, navigating the innumerable ways to arrange the mix of cultural ideas and objects that bombard us, uses technology and art to create something “new” and endlessly changeable—taking part in “the changing same” (Amiri Baraka). In 2008 he edited the book Sound Unbound, a collection of writing about sound art, digital media, and contemporary composition.

In 2010, DJ Spooky became one of the first DJ’s to put together an iPhone app based on being able to use the iPhone as a mixing tool. The DJ Mixer app has been downloaded over 1 million times.

Listen to/ and read some of DJ Spooky’s stimulating work:

-Rebirth of a Nation Trailer
-"It's a mad mad mad world," from Optometry
-DJ Spooky + Joshua Roman » Radiohead "Everything in Its Right Place"
-DJ Spooky iPhone App
-Article: Improvising Digital Culture: Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky) and Vijay Iyer, from Critical Studies in Improvisation

Call for Papers: Ethics and the Improvising Business

Critical Studies in Improvisation / Études critiques en improvisation invites submissions for a special issue with the theme “Ethics and the Improvising Business,” guest-edited by ICASP Project Director Ajay Heble, Co-Investigator Tina Piper, and Postdoctoral Fellow Mark Laver. We seek contributions from artist/practitioners and from scholars working across the disciplines (music, literature, performance studies, anthropology, organization studies, economics, sociology, gender studies, philosophy, psychology, education, management studies, among others). Potential topics include:

· What does musical improvisation have to offer as a management model for corporations and not-for-profit organizations?
· What is the relationship between improvisation and creativity in the global marketplace?
· How might an improvised ethical framework translate in a for-profit corporate environment?
· How can improvised praxis and ethics impact Corporate Social Responsibility projects?
· In what ways are improvisatory ethics manifest in the emergent discourses and practices associated with social innovation?
· Is it possible for a large corporation to honestly acknowledge and respond to improvising musicians’ socioeconomic critiques while
continuing to operate within an expansionist, capitalist economic framework?
· What is at stake when large corporations adopt (or co-opt) musical practices—particularly those associated with subaltern communities?

In light of the collaborative essence of musical creativity, a growing number of management theorists are looking to group musical improvisation as a model for corporate design. In the post-fordist, global marketplace, sudden change has become a quotidian part of the business experience. Just as a group of improvisers must negotiate sudden musical changes, unanticipated changes in the marketplace demand a similar kind of collaborative response. Faced with the unexpected, many businesses respond with collective flexibility. They establish a profoundly dialogical management structure, encouraging employees of all levels to engage in problem-solving. Akin to the musical knowledge-innovation dialectic, businesses walk the line between what Roger Martin calls reliability and validity, trusting in the knowledge and study that underlies their extant systems and models, while at the same time embracing the promise held by innovation, creativity, and surprise. Above all, they work to engage every individual in the group, giving every employee a sense of collective ownership over the challenges and the solutions.

Critical academic essays are encouraged but the editors also welcome for consideration artist statements, commentaries, reviews, interviews and experimental textual forms. CSI/ÉCI encourages the submission of audio and visual content to accompany texts. It is the responsibility of the author to ascertain copyright and gain permissions.

Please visit the criticalimprov website for more detials.

Submissions should be 4000-6000 words (shorter essays may also be considered at the discretion of the editors). Please submit completed essays by April 13, 2012. Information on the submission process and examples of previously published work can be found at Inquires can also be directly made to

Critical Studies in Improvisation/Études critiques en improvisation is an open-access, peer-reviewed, electronic, academic journal on improvisation, community, and social practice housed at the University of Guelph. The editorial and advisory boards are made up of leading international scholars spanning diverse disciplines. CSI/ÉCI publishes twice a year, in May and December. The journal publishes scholarly essays by artists, activists, and intellectuals, as well as reviews of books, performances, and films.

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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.