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Improv Notes: March 2013


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IMprov Notes:
News of the Moment       March 2013
ICASP Postdoctoral Fellowship Program 2013-2014

ICASP has now announced its call for applications to the Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice Postdoctoral Fellowship Program 2013-2014. Applications must be submitted by April 30th, 2013. All of the relevant information pertaining to the application process can be found in the attached poster (in PDF format) here.

Please distribute this call for applications to interested scholars, departments, and colleagues. We look forward to receiving many compelling and competitive applications for this position.

It’s a tremendous responsibility––responsibility and honor––to be a writer, an artist, a cultural worker. (Toni Cade Bambara)
Because the world is in constant turmoil, it is the obligation of the musician to counteract the turmoil like trees and birds anchor the world so it balances again. (William Parker)

The Guelph Jazz Festival, in conjunction with the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, the University of Guelph, and the SSHRC MCRI research project on “Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice” (ICASP), invites proposals for papers and presentations at our annual three‐day international interdisciplinary conference. This year's colloquium will take place September 4th to 6th as part of the 20th anniversary edition of The Guelph Jazz Festival (September 4‐8), and as the capstone event for ICASP. Featuring workshops, panel discussions, keynote lectures, performances, new research‐based and artistic collaborations, and dialogues among researchers, artists, and audiences, the annual colloquium cuts across a range of social and institutional locations and promotes a dynamic international exchange of cultural forms and knowledges.

The 2013 edition of the Colloquium will take the form of a global summit for improvisers. Bringing together a diverse range of creative practitioners, scholars, arts presenters, journalists, policy makers, jazz activists, and members of the general public, it will provoke consideration of a wide range of issues related to cultural activism and social responsibility. We invite papers and creative presentations that will help focus public attention on the role that jazz and improvised music have played as catalysts for social engagement, as pivotal agents of change. The summit seeks to raise questions about appropriate models of artistic responsibility as well as to offer a unique forum for musicians to discuss, develop, and showcase new works that will add immeasurably to the body of existing activist art.

What does it mean to be an artist in the world? How can we best assess what it means for performing artists to be socially responsible? How might that responsibility most purposefully and most creatively manifest itself in practice? How does sound translate into knowledge, into obligation, into social action? How have jazz and improvisation been used to create greater understanding and cooperation between cultures? What is the role of translocal contact and cooperation—not the undifferentiated movement of music around the globe, but particular links between specific places as in Brazilian music in New Orleans, Cuban rumba in New York, Mexican son jarocho music from Vera Cruz and Seattle, Indigenous Zapotec music in Fresno? How do indigenous communities across the world improvise, translate, transform, and indigenize the form of jazz (or of other arts practices)? How might institutions concerned to advance transcultural understanding make use of jazz and improvisational arts? Has the globalizing impact of mainstream jazz on world markets (and the festivals that use “jazz” in their title and marketing) led to a homogenizing of the music?

We invite presentations that address these questions and concerns, as well as case studies focusing on any issues of jazz and musical improvisation in relation to broader questions of social responsibility and transcultural understanding, historicized studies of material practices, practice‐based research interventions, and analyses of exemplary sites of political and social transformation keyed to music. We are particularly interested in interdisciplinary work that speaks to both an academic audience and a general public. We also invite presenters to submit completed versions of their papers and presentations to our peer‐reviewed journal, Critical Studies in Improvisation/Études critiques en improvisation ( for consideration.
Please send (500 word) proposals (for 15 minute delivery — alternate formats may also be considered) and a short bio by May 31, 2013 to: Dr. Ajay Heble, Artistic Director The Guelph Jazz Festival email:


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.


Wasanti Paranjape was born into a family of exceptional singers in 1927 in Maharashtra, India. She was one of nine children, and went on to study music in her Matriculation, where she received the “Visharad” from the Ganharva Maha-Vidyalva, a famed Institution for Music in India. Her Brahmin parents, Shridhar Anant and Kamala Sohoni, believed in professional education for both girls and boys, and also recognized the importance of music as religious expression and as a manifestation of Indian heritage at a time when the country was still under British rule. Wasanti completed her studies at the renowned Bhatkhande School of Music, and in 1954 entered into an arranged marriage with Balachandra (Bala) Paranjape, a young physicist, also from Maharashtra, who was living in England and studying for his doctorate. They immigrated to Canada and settled with their three children in Edmonton in 1961.

Over the next forty-five years, Wasanti made a significant contribution to the musical scene in Edmonton, sharing her knowledge of North Indian classical music through performance, private teaching, through instruction in Hindustani classical music at the University of Alberta, and, eventually, as the director of the Indian Music Ensemble there. She also performed bhajans regularly at traditional devotional functions. Western classical music is typically learned and performed from written notation while the Indian tradition is rooted in oral training, so Wasanti combined the traditional method of learning ragas through oral lessons with written notation in a basic textbook on Hindustani music (entitled Naad Tarang; Waves of Sound), which she wrote in 2004. The book contains two CDs demonstrating ten basic Indian classical ragas, many of which were adapted and translated from Bhatkhande's textbook series. In 2006 Mrs. Paranjape and her husband moved to Guelph, Ontario.

In the following interview, conducted by Rob Wallace (writer, musician, educator, holding a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of Improvisation and the Making of American Literary Modernism), Wasanti Paranjape recounts her personal history and how she became involved in music, as well as discussing various topics including different musical cultures, the history of Indian music, and musical roles. The interview is concluded by a musical performance between Wallace and Paranjape, appropriate given Wallace’s proficiency as an active percussionist in a number of genres ranging from Hindustani classical music to free improvisation.

Visit the Oral Histories page for the full video and transcript.

Also, check out Paranjape's piece on Khyal, Improvisation, and Social Change, published in the latest edition of Critical Studies in Improvisation.


Silence concert series continues with a new space!

Upcoming shows:

19th March 7:30pm [$10 or pwyc] 

Silence (46 Essex St. Guelph)
*University of Guelph Contemporary Music Ensemble under the direction of Joe Sorbara

22nd March 8:00pm [$10 or pwyc]
Macdonald Stewart Art Centre (358 Gordon St. Guelph)

24th March 3:00pm [$10 or pwyc]
silence (46 Essex St. Guelph)
*Build to Suit

From the March 1st Silence event featuring Theresa Wong, Anne Bourne, Matt Brubek, Ben Grossman and Germain Liu. Photo by Icon Photography.

ICASP Reading Group Series continues with more exciting sessions

Recently, the ICASP Reading Group Guelph was treated to two exciting talks and an intimate discussion with the eminent musicologists Susan McClary and Robert Walser. This event was part of the Seventh Annual Creative Music Symposium, hosted by the School of Fine Arts and Music.

The Guelph Reading Group continues to engage with experts in improvisation studies, as well as providing an accessible space for fervent discussion between students, the community, and faculty. The Thinking Spaces series will continue with meetings on March 25 (Graduate Student Colloquium, which will feature Brian Lefresne, Greg Fenton, Ian Sinclair), April 5 (Tanya Williams), and April 12 (Matt Brubeck). And stay tuned for a special colloquium, which will take place in May - details to be announced soon!

Quote of the Month:

Improvisation is located at a seemingly unbridgeable chasm between feeling and reflection, disarmament and preparation, speech and writing. Improvisation—as the word’s linguistic roots indicate—is usually understood as speech without foresight. But improvisation, in whatever possible excess of representation that inheres in whatever probable deviance of form, always also operates as a kind of foreshadowing, if not prophetic, description. (63)

-Fred Moten, In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition

Fred Moten’s field is in black studies, where he works at the intersection of performance, poetry and critical theory. He teaches at Duke University, where he is the Helen L. Bevington Professor of Modern Poetry. Moten’s provocative In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (University of Minnesota Press, 2003) takes as its subject matter black performance and black radicalism, arguing that the two concepts are, if not one and the same, generatively related to the point of being nearly impossible to separate. Jazz is not merely the subject matter of much of Moten’s work, but rather in texts such as In the Break it is the stylistic inspiration. For Moten, black performance equals improvisation, and his elaborate, recursive prose reads as an extended experiment with this idea.

“Free Ensemble Improvisation” dissertation available as free download

Harald Stenström, recently retired from his position as assistant professor in music theory and improvisation at the Academy of Music and Drama, University of Gothenburg, would like to bring to your attention his doctoral thesis which is available for free download. The thesis, “Free Ensemble Improvisation,” examines the so-called non-idiomatic improvisation in ensembles consisting of two or more musicians who play together without any restrictions regarding style or genre and without having predetermined what is to be played or how they should play.

The thesis and the mp3 files can be reached and freely downloaded from:


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:



This Month's Featured Artist:

Image copyright of Geert Vandepoele


Ornette Coleman, born March 9, 1930, in Fort Worth, Texas, just celebrated his 83rd birthday. Coleman has gifted the world with his music for over fifty years now and was one of the major innovators of the free jazz movement, beginning in the early 1960s. His primary instrument is the saxophone, but he is also known for his work as a violinist, trumpeter, and composer. Largely due to the work of Coleman and others during the 60s avant-garde music movement (Archie Shepp, John Coltrane, Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor, et al.), improvisation in jazz defies simple categorization, and has ignited furious debates about whether certain improvised music belongs to the jazz tradition or not, particularly since Coleman dropped the album The Shape of Jazz to Come (1959), and then the even more harmonically free Free Jazz (1961). Coleman’s timbre can be recognized by its keening which draws from the blues tradition. A few years back, Coleman received the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for music for his excellent live album, Sound Grammar. Recorded live in Ludwigshafen, Germany in 2005, Sound Grammar  features an eclectic mix of old and new material, with clever musical quotations throughout the record. The reception of the album was incredibly positive, appearing at or near the top of many jazz magazines, including Jazz Times and Down Beat. But Coleman’s music was not always so well received.

Coleman helped–many argue he was at the helm–steer the course and genesis of avant-garde jazz, a direction that many music critics and neoclassical jazz purists still have trouble with, ever after all these years. Coleman’s early music, such as heard on The Shape of Jazz to Come, definitely—although quite loosely—invokes blues-based influences which are often melodic, while doing so in harmonically unusual or unstructured ways. Many musicians and critics alike saw Coleman as a heretic who tore down jazz traditions with little regard for the “proper” techniques of playing jazz. For example, Miles Davis, in his Autobiography, describes that when Ornette Coleman stepped on the scene he “just came and fucked up everybody” (249) with his new style; a style that Davis argues was one-dimensional because “Ornette could play only one way back then” (250). Part of Davis’s critique was that Coleman would simply pick up an instrument one week and play it live the next, which Davis says was disrespectful to other musicians: “to pick up a trumpet with no kind of training is disrespectful toward all those people who play them well” (250). Yet, even Miles Davis had to eventually give props to Coleman once he realized what he was really doing with music, recanting some of his early criticisms in his Autobiography and describing Coleman’s philosophy of playing a piece three or four ways, independently of each other, as similar to the compositions of Bach. Coleman’s music elicited such responses from both critics and musicians: he was an iconoclast to some, and an innovator and genius to others (as he was to conductor Leonard Bernstein). Such controversy is explored by ICASP researcher David Lee in his fantastic book, The Battle of the Five Spot, which examines the struggle between old and new styles when Coleman brought his quartet to New York’s Five Spot Café in 1959. Coleman often performed with Don Cherry on cornet, Charlie Haden on bass, and Billy Higgins on drums, and later often with his son Denardo on drums.  Coleman has played and recorded with all sorts of genre-crossing musicians in a variety of media: from Yoko Ono (he cut a track with her on Plastic Ono Band) to composer Howard Shore (with whom he collaborated on the Naked Lunch soundtrack). After his Atlantic period, and into the early part of the 1970s, Coleman’s music became even more angular in its innovations, and it is during this period that Coleman recorded many of his most daring albums, including Science Fiction (1971) and Skies of America (1972), further developing his musical theory of harmolodics.

Ornette Coleman asserts, in his description of harmolodic music, it is “The kind of music we play, no one player has the lead” (liner notes, “Science Fiction”), signifying that meaning for Coleman in the jazz tradition is a patchwork of multiple disparate, yet distinct, speaking voices. Aldon Lynn Nielsen asserts in Black Chant that “harmolodic music destroys the conventional view of the relationship between melody line and background musician” (236). The issue of who is speaking becomes less important than an impulse to listen. Harmolodics is the musical philosophy of Ornette Coleman and is defined by Coleman as the use of one’s physical and logical components into an expression of sound. Applied to the particulars of music, harmolodics means that “harmony, melody, speed, rhythm, time and phrases all have equal position in the results that come from the placing and spacing of ideas” (“Prime Time” 54-55). Basically, Coleman is arguing for a democracy of sound in music, which can be extended to a freer conception of how we think of the self in relation to a community, something to be taken seriously. And as mentioned earlier, it took time, but his most recent accolades are well deserved: a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement (2007), The Miles Davis Award, a recognition given by the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal to jazz musicians who have contributed along their careers to the evolution of the jazz music (2009), and in 2010, Coleman was awarded an honorary doctorate in music from the University of Michigan for his vast musical contributions. So whether or not you consider Coleman a virtuoso, he remains an obvious giant of jazz, and he is incredibly important to how we conceptualize jazz and improvisation here at ICASP.

Have a listen and freely space out to a couple of his tracks below.

Lonely Woman,” from the album The Shape of Jazz to Come:

Law Years,” from the album Science Fiction:

Matador,” from the album Sound Grammar:

ICASP Graduate & Undergraduate Research Assistantships: Call for Applications 2013-14 

Application Deadline: April 5, 2013 

Position Descriptions 

ICASP is currently accepting applications for Graduate & Undergraduate Research Assistants for Summer 2013, Fall 2013, and Winter 2014. Interviews will be held in April 2013 for the following positions: 

1) Proofreading/Copywriting for academic journal, research website, and various project documents
2) Website Content Generation
3) Administrative and Research Assistants
4) Policy paper development and analysis
5) Public Relations Support
6) Videography and Digital Media Editing – experience with Final Cut Pro an asset

Research stipends may be available to graduate students actively working in the area of improvisation, community, and social practice.

To apply 

Interested candidates should address a CV and cover letter to Dr. Ajay Heble, c/o by no later than April 5, 2013. GRA and URA positions are limited to University of Guelph students.


York College / CUNY, Queens, NY
Final performance at Roulette, Brooklyn, NY
Call for participation:
The International Society for Improvised Music (ISIM) is happy to announce the first of two events focusing on the theme of “Cross-Cultural Improvisation.” The first event, hosted in collaboration with York College / CUNY and with generous support from Arts Council Korea, will be held from June 29-July 1, 2013 and involve workshops and performances of musicians from highly diverse cultural backgrounds. Each day’s schedule will include three to five hours of workshops and rehearsals in addition to the culminating performance on July 1st. The second event, to be held in 2014, at a time and place yet to determined, will continue the cross-cultural improvisation theme, but within the more expanded ISIM festival/conference format that also features papers, panel discussions, and a broader array of daytime and evening performances.
Featured guest artists and teachers for the 2013 event will include Korean musicians Gamin Kang (piri, tae-pyong-so, saeng-whang) and Hyun Sik Shin (ajeng), Jane Ira Bloom (saxophone), and Elliott Sharp (guitar). Jin Hi Kim will serve as Program Director.
Applications are invited for the June 2013 event from ISIM members wishing to participate as either observers or ensemble participants in one of several groups that will be led by the guest artists. The event presents an ideal opportunity to gain exposure to wide-ranging creative strategies and approaches to improvisation pedagogy, as well as to interact with top-level musicians from highly varied backgrounds. The three-day event will culminate in a final performance at Roulette, an internationally recognized NYC venue for improvised music. Time will also be allotted for ad hoc jam sessions, cultural exchange, and discussions of the unique historical differences in improvisation.
Prospective attendees should indicate if they are interested in participating as observer or ensemble member. To apply for a spot in one of the ensembles, please send a brief biographical sketch that highlights your performance background and audio link of your playing. Limited to 30 ensemble spots.
Deadline for submissions: March 20
Notification of acceptance: April 1
Send applications and questions to
Note: Applications will only be considered from ISIM members. To join ISIM or renew membership, see the following link:

Please save this date: Sunday, April 21st, 2013, 2-6 pm, for the Guelph Jazz Festival’s 8th Annual Sounds Provocative Jazz Art Auction. The auction will be held at the beautifully renovated Holiday Inn Guelph Hotel & Conference Centre (601 Scottsdale Drive, Guelph, ON). Expect a beautifully-curated exhibition by Renann Isaacs, featuring stunning works by emerging, mid-career and established artists who are locally, nationally and internationally recognized.

This year the auction will be Emcee'd by Robert Enright, University of Guelph Research Professor in Art Criticism, and one of Canada's most prominent cultural journalists.  

Your ticket to the event includes two drinks, delectable nibbles and live music for a luxuriously delicious experience! Also enjoy the Silent Auction with a selection of some of the finest crafts and intriguing gifts from the area and beyond. 

Make your choices by previewing the artwork online 
HERE, or by viewing in person at the Red Brick Café, Meridian Credit Union, and Planet Bean.

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

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Improvisation implies a deep connection between the personal and the communal, self and world. A “good” improviser successfully navigates musical and institutional boundaries and the desire for self-expression, pleasing not only herself but the listener as well.

– Rob Wallace