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Improv Notes: May 2012


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IMprov Notes:
News of the Moment
May 2012

Research Matters Because Jazz
Improvisation Can Build Stronger Communities


The ICASP project is featured on the Research Matters website, a major new campaign just launched by the Council of Ontario Universities. Each Ontario University was asked to nominate major research projects or activities to be profiled. ICASP was chosen as the project to highlight from The University of Guelph.

Once again, the ICASP project is commended and highlighted for its ability to use improvised music to help transform people and build communities.

Read the article and watch the video:

Jazz Improvisation Can Build Stronger Communities

2012 Guelph Jazz Festival Colloquium

University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
September 5-7, 2012

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,” invites proposals for papers to be presented at our annual three‐day international interdisciplinary conference. This year's colloquium will take place September 5th to 7th as part of the 19th annual Guelph Jazz Festival (running from September 5th-9th). It will bring together a diverse range of scholars, creative practitioners, arts presenters, policy makers, and members of the general public. Featuring workshops, panel discussions, keynote lectures, performances, 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 2012 edition of the colloquium will focus on the relationships between social responsibility, social justice, and improvisation as reflected through various musical genres. Beginning with the notion of the paradigmatic possibilities of jazz improvisation, the colloquium will explore how improvisation, as pedagogy and as paradigm, creates spaces of praxis that operate as socially responsible and social justice-oriented practices for human life.  How might we envision a social praxis indebted to the poetics of improvisation that operates as an emancipatory form of human knowledge and life? Acknowledging that a deep social engagement with the paradigmatic possibilities of improvisation might dramatically alter our present knowledge system, do theoretical analyses of improvisation’s pedagogic possibilities present us with socially responsible tasks as scholars, performers, and citizens? 

Points of focus may include: teacher education and improvisation; hip hop culture and improvisation; the improvising musician as troubadour or diplomat; soundsystems and improvisatory poetics; improvisation as education / education as improvisation; jazz education and community development; autodidactic methods of learning jazz and improvisation; the pros and cons of institutionalized forms of jazz education; educating for social change through jazz; critical pedagogy and jazz education; pedagogies of the oppressed/pedagogies of the privileged; learning by doing: the bandstand as classroom.
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 to our peer‐reviewed journal, Critical Studies in Improvisation/Études critiques en improvisation ( for consideration.
Please send (500 word) proposals (for 15 minute delivery) and a short bio by 
May 31, 2012 to:
The 2012 Guelph Jazz Festival Colloquium
c/o Dr. Ajay Heble, Artistic Director, The Guelph Jazz Festival

Quote of the Month:

“you have to understand improvisation, how a standard reference can become something else. The text is context for what erupts like a solo— the phrase of iambic pentameter in a strophe of vers libre.” 
-George Elliott Clarke, from the introduction to Whylah Falls, discussing his poetic process

George Elliott Clarke, is a Canadian poet and playwright. His work largely explores and chronicles the experience and history of the Black Canadian community of Nova Scotia, creating a cultural geography that Clarke refers to as "Africadia". In 2003 Clarke wrote the jazz libretto Québécité at the request of the Guelph Jazz Festival, with music composed by Juno award-winning pianist D.D. Jackson. His most recent book of poetry is Red.

On April 27th, accompanied by bassist David Lee, Clarke delivered a reading and interview entitled, “Your bass sounds like a typewriter” at the TransCanada Institute at the University of Guelph. The event was presented in partnership with Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice. 

Landing on the Wrong Note translated into Spanish

Ajay Heble with Alain Derbez promoting Caer en la que no era in Mexico.

Ajay Heble’s seminal Landing on the Wrong Note (in Spanish, Caer en la que no era) has been translated into Spanish by Alain Derbez (poet, essayist, storyteller, musician) for Universidad Veracruzana.

Ajay Heble was recently in Mexico (shown above) promoting the Spanish translation of his book.

Guelph Jazz Festival and ICASP Now Hiring: Outreach and Development Assistant

Guelph Jazz Festival (GJF) & Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice (ICASP) are currently hiring for an Outreach & Development Assistant (ODA)

Status: Full-time, year-round employee (1-year, renewable)
Hours of Work: 35 hrs/week for 52 weeks
Job Location: Guelph Jazz Festival Office: 123 Woolwich Street, 2nd Floor, Guelph & ICASP Project Office, University of Guelph

Job Summary: The Outreach & Development Assistant will be responsible for coordinating community outreach programs, including the Improviser-in-Residence program. The ODA will also assist the Guelph Jazz Festival with fund development, fundraising, special events, marketing and public relations.

Applications must be received by Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Click here for full details about this opportunity.



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:

photo by  Katia Taylor 

Muskox (Ontario)

In 2008, Now magazine named Muskox Toronto’s best jazz act. Their music might not be strictly jazz, but as Now avowed, "where else are you going to slot instrumental banjo prog folk?"

Muskox is a Toronto-based instrumental group which performs the compositions of Mike Smith. Since its inception in 2006, the group has developed a unique ensemble sound based on the diverse musical backgrounds of its membership and unusual banjo-led instrumentation. Muskox’s music is a challenging fusion of jazz, American minimalism, various folk musics, and progressive rock, with a focus on densely structured poly-metric pieces.

And, considering that the banjo was integral to Dixieland jazz, as well as to bluegrass, why not bring it into jazz-fusion?

Give Muskox's music a listen: check out the song "Gallantries", and the video for their song, "Generic Organs."

ICASP Staff Changes

It is with mixed emotions that we bid farewell to our Website Content Coordinator, Dr. Elizabeth Jackson, our Outreach and Knowledge Mobilization Officer, Amadeo Ventura, and our Video Producer, Dawn Matheson. Liz, Amadeo, and Dawn have all been vital to the ICASP community, and they will be sorely missed.

Dr. Jackson left her position as our Website Content Coordinator on April 27th to take up a postdoctoral fellowship at McMaster University. During her time with us, Liz has been the driving force behind the production of our web-based research collection. This one-of-a-kind research resource contains over 300 specially commissioned multimedia entries, articles, documentary films, keyword essays, profiles, etc., and offers innovative research outputs in video, audio, and print formats. Liz has worked closely with several research team members and students, and she has been a tremendous source of wisdom, generosity, and inspiration for all of us involved with the project.

Amadeo Ventura left his position as our Outreach and Knowledge Mobilization Officer on April 26th to focus on his own musical and creative projects. During his time with us, Amadeo (who was hired through a grant from the Trillium Foundation) coordinated—and participated as an artist in—our community outreach programs, with a particular focus on the Improviser in Residence initiative.

Dawn Matheson also recently left her position as Video Producer for ICASP to take on the role of Research Project Manager for the Mobilizing New Meanings of Disability and Difference project at the University of Guelph, a 3-year Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) funded project exploring the efficacy of the arts (digital media and theatre) in transforming cultural and medical perceptions of women with disabilities in Ontario. The amazing videos that Dawn produced for us about the inaugural edition of the Improviser in Residence program (made possible through our partnership with the Musagetes Foundation) are available at

Please join me in thanking Liz, Amadeo, and Dawn for their contributions to the Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice project, and in wishing them the very best in their new endeavours.

Ajay Heble
Project Director

McGill Colloquium 2012:

Skin—Surface—Circuit: Embodying the Improvisatory
June 14-16, 2012, Montreal 

What does it mean to say we improvise our bodies, or embody our improvisations? This conference will address the implications of new research emerging from the humanities, social sciences, arts and sciences on what counts as a body, and specifically, what improvising bodies might be. What is the relationship of improvisers to their corporeality? Do the social dimensions of improvisation suggest limitations, or opportunities for new kinds of improvising agents and networks? What bodily norms do genres, communities, instruments and technologies either assume, or question?

This ICASP-McGill interdisciplinary conference will explore these issues, and the host of other questions they suggest, such as: How do new methods of musical mediation and new technologies for improvising across times and places question assumptions of what improvising bodies might be? How are traditional sites of essentialist thinking about bodies, be they concerning sex, gender, race, class, culture, ability or other either undermined, or assumed, by new ways of improvising, and new technologies for facilitating it? Has the whole notion of a body become redundant, or do we need a new concept to make sense of emerging modes of music making and new models of embodied knowledge and community?

The Adaptive Use Musical Instruments group ( will be in attendance, and will conduct a series of events concerning their work.

For more information, please contact Eric Lewis at

Koumaria New Media Art Residency: Open Call 2012

Koumaria 2012 Open Call (Oct 8th – 21st, 2012)
By artist collective Medea Electronique

Deadline: July 15th, 2012

Since 2009 the artist collective Medea Electronique has organized an annual 10-day experimental artist residency, Koumaria, near Sparta in Greece, focusing on improvisation and new media practices. Avant-garde artists from all over the world, inspired by the Greek natural landscape, come together to create a multicultural and cross-media ‘dialogue’ culminating in a collective presentation in Athens at the end of the residency. Past residents have formed lasting friendships and new artistic partnerships. For us the residency serves as a model for future creative collaborations.

The residency is held at an organic olive oil farm at the foot of Mount Taigetos in Sparta.

Please see
Open Call for full application details.

Call for papers: Nostalgias

A special issue of Volume! The French Journal of Popular Music Studies

Edited by Hugh Dauncey (Newcastle University) & Christopher Tinker (Heriot-Watt University)

Version française ici:

Volume!, the French peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of popular music – seeks contributions for a special issue on nostalgia and popular music in a variety of national, international and transnational contexts.

See link for more details:

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Improv Notes was initially distributed in 2008 as a quarterly newsletter. The newsletter is now distributed once a month. If you have anything improvisation related that you would like to have included in the newsletter, please send an email to:


Musical improvisation is a crucial model for political, cultural, and ethical dialogue and action.

– Ajay Heble