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Improv Notes: May 2013


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IMprov Notes:
News of the Moment       May 2013
Musagetes and the Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice (ICASP) project usher in the 2013 Improviser-in-Residence program with Brampton artist, Rich Marsella. 

Photo credit: Adam Marsella.

Join Musagetes, ICASP and Rich Marsella to launch the 2013 Improviser-in-Residence Program on Saturday, May 25th from 7-9 PM at Musagetes (Suite 103, 6 Dublin St. South, Guelph ON). The launch will feature drinks, snacks and a performance by Friendly Rich and the Lollipop People. We hope to see you there! This concert will be their first appearance in Guelph and will be followed by a monthly concert series at Silence (46 Essex St. Guelph), and a special Halloween concert for the University of Guelph’s Thursday at Noon Concert Series in MacKinnon 107. The residency will run April-September 2013 and will culminate in a performance at the Guelph Jazz Festival on Saturday, September 7th at 12:00 PM at St. George’s Church (99 Woolwich St.). Stay tuned to and for updates!
A Remix Project in Guelph:
The collaborative partnership of ICASP and Musagetes is proud to continue the Improviser-in-Residence program, now in its third year. From the moment Jane Bunnett, the first Improviser-in-Residence, undertook the role in 2011 the program has been a resounding success and continues to ignite community interaction, research communication, and musical dialogue. Last year the exuberance and musicianship of the program centered around three amazing improvisers: New York sound artist, Miya Masaoka, followed by interdisciplinary artists, Scott Thomson and Susanna Hood.
The excitement around the program continues as ICASP and Musagetes introduce Rich Marsella who will bring his collaborative style of composition and oddball aesthetic to Guelph this summer as the 2013 Improviser-in-Residence. In this role, Marsella will initiate workshops alongside ensemble musical performances to promote and advocate community building and diversity through improvisatory practices. Remarking on his role as the new Improviser-in-Residence, Marsella said, “It’s a chance to connect with Guelph in a way that I’ve always dreamed of. There’s something special in Guelph, and I want to tap into it and celebrate it with this project.” Marsella plans to work with as many local organizations and musicians as possible to bring his remix project to life: an arrangement of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s epic piece, Scheherazade.
Ajay Heble, Artistic Director of the Guelph Jazz Festival and Project Director for ICASP, remarked that “an imaginative, inventive, colourful and creative practitioner such as Marsella, with a solid reputation for working directly with the community through music impact projects is at the core of what the Improviser-in-Residence program is all about. Having Marsella work with the project strengthens our commitment to diverse musical multiplicity and collaboration through the promotion of improvisation and dynamic exchange with the cultural, communal, and creative community of Guelph and beyond. It is with keenness for this well-suited collaboration that I welcome Rich Marsella to the Guelph community.”
Shawn Van Sluys, Executive Director of Musagetes, comments, “Now that the Improviser-in-Residence program is in its third year, we’re seeing evidence of how artists like Rich Marsella, Jane Bunnett, Scott Thomson and Susanna Hood build communities through the co-creation of music. Musagetes is committed to continuing this work of making the arts a central part of our lives.” The Improviser-in-Residence program helps to accomplish this by using improvisation as a locus to facilitate unique creative collaborations across boundaries.
Throughout the summer of 2013, Improviser-in-Residence Rich Marsella will be directly engaged with the Guelph community through a series of performances, and innovative collaborations with a variety of community-based organizations. The main focus of Marsella’s residence in Guelph will be an installment and tribute to Russian composers, using Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherezade as a starting point. Marsella will dramatically rearrange Scheherezade, and rather than the violin, Marsella intends to place electric guitar at the centre of the piece. Marsella comments that he “will treat this piece as a concerto for electric guitar, with as many interesting ensembles as possible to help colour the arrangement.” Marsella imagines a Theremin ensemble, a whistle choir, a turntable ensemble, a ukulele ensemble, a symphony orchestra and more, all coming together with people of all ages and musical abilities to bring this extravaganza to life. The final piece will bring together a unique group of artists and community members, culminating in a performance at the Guelph Jazz Festival on Saturday, September 7th at 12:00 PM at St. George’s Church (99 Woolwich St.).

Rob Wallace (ICASP Research Associate) and Ajay Heble (ICASP Project Director) co-edit a new collection on jazz studies: People Get Ready: The Future of Jazz is Now!

"If you thought jazz was dead, think again. As this remarkable collection of essays makes crystal clear, jazz is alive, loud, messy, sprawling, old and wise, born again, and playful.” -Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original
In People Get Ready, musicians, scholars, and journalists write about jazz since 1965, the year that Curtis Mayfield composed the famous civil rights anthem that gives this collection its title. The contributors emphasize how the political consciousness that infused jazz in the 1960s and early 1970s has informed jazz in the years since then. They bring nuance to historical accounts of the avant-garde, the New Thing, Free Jazz, “non-idiomatic” improvisation, fusion, and other forms of jazz that have flourished since the 1960s, and they reveal the contemporary relevance of those musical practices.
People Get Ready offers a vision for the future of jazz based on an appreciation of the complexity of its past and the abundance of innovation in the present. Some of the contributors include: Ajay Heble, Vijay Iyer, Thomas King, Tracy McMullen, Paul D. Miller/DJ Spooky, Nicole Mitchell, Roscoe Mitchell, Aldon Lynn Nielsen, Marc Ribot, Matana Roberts, Julie Dawn Smith, Wadada Leo Smith, Alan Stanbridge, John Szwed, Greg Tate, Scott Thomson, Rob Wallace, Ellen Waterman, among others.
For more information, and to order the book directly from Duke University Press, please click

Video Recap of Research Matters Event in Kitchener, Ontario

Photo credit: Research Matters.

As previously reported on our website, January's Research Matters event in Kitchener, Ontario, featuring ICASP Project Director, Ajay Heble, was a resounding success. Heble, speaking on the conference theme of "Life in 2030," presented an inspiring talk on the social benefits of improvisation research, "Improvisation will be at the core of sustainable communities and unprecedented change." The organizers of the Research Matters speaking series have now made the Kitchener talk viewable, in full, online. In addition to Heble, the event featured talks by Donna Kotsopoulos from Wilfred Laurier University, Andrew Pelling from the University of Ottawa, and Amir Khajepour from the University of Waterloo.

A video webcast of the event is available here for your viewing.


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? 

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:

Quote of the Month:

"The pedagogy of the oppressed, as a humanist and libertarian pedagogy, has two distinct stages. In the first, the oppressed unveil the world of oppression and through the praxis commit themselves to its transformation. In the second stage, in which the reality of oppression has already been transformed, this pedagogy ceases to belong to the oppressed and becomes a pedagogy of all people in the process of permanent liberation." 

-Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed 54

Paulo Freire was a Brazilian philosopher, perpetual educator, and a significant theorist of critical pedagogy. He is most known for his seminal work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Freire remained an ardent advocate for the dialogical process of pedagogy, believing that students should have an equal opportunity to express their opinions with their peers and instructors. Rather than be beneficiaries of curricular knowledge, students and the oppressed could become co-performers—improvisers—of putting knowledge and theory into practice to change the world.  

Photo copyright: Slobodan Dimitrov


Featured Artist:

Photo credit: Lyne Mainville


Rich Marsella, the 2013 Improviser-in-Residence, is also this month’s artist of the month. Rich Marsella, known as Friendly Rich, is a composer and avant-garde musician from Brampton, Canada. His music is incredibly eclectic and has been featured on everything from CBC Radio and MuchMusic to three seasons of MTV’s The Tom Green Show. Since 1994, Marsella has recorded a great deal of material exclusively for his own distinguished record label, The Pumpkin Pie Corporation. Marsella has a Masters degree in music from the University of Toronto, which he completed under the supervision of Dr. Lee Bartel and composer R. Murray Schafer. His main area of focus included instrument construction as well as parade pedagogy. In addition to producing and composing 9 full-length albums to date, Friendly Rich Marsella is also the Founder and Director of the Brampton Indie Arts Festival, an annual event that promotes emerging artists including musicians, poets, and visual artists, held every year since 2000.

Marsella and his live ensemble, The Lollipop People, signed a deal with German record label, Hazelwood Records, to release two albums in Europe, which they have since toured three times, releasing three records there to date. Currently Marsella is the Director of the Regent Park School of Music, providing a valuable musical outlet to youth-in-need. Rich Marsella’s coalescing of community engagement with creative musicianship makes him an apt fit for the Improviser-in-Residence program.

Have a listen to Friendly Rich’s exciting and delightfully odd music below:

Friendly Rich & The Lollipop People live in October 2010 at the Bernsteinzimmer in Nürnberg:

"Goodbye Blue Monday":

Friendly Rich and the Lollipop People: "Where the Baker Sleeps":

Innovative and thought-provoking Improvisation Summit to take place in Guelph from May 23rd to 25th at Boarding House for the Arts.

The Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice (ICASP) project, with generous support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and community sponsors, is delighted to present roundtables, panels, workshops, and first-rate performances from some of the finest music educators and improvisers working in the world today. The best part: it’s all free and open to the public!
The Summit on Improvisation Pedagogy and Community Impact
When: May 23rd to May 25th, 2013
Where: 6 Dublin Street South, Guelph at Boarding House for the Arts.
From May 23-25, The Summit on Improvisation Pedagogy and Community Impact will bring together some of the top musicians, music educators, and music researchers from around the world. We will hear from leading thinkers on improvisation and pedagogy as they present their current research on the subject and discuss their own experiences as teachers, students, and researchers of improvisation. The Summit will include a number of performances. On Thursday, May 23 at 7 pm, the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre will see a double bill featuring the acclaimed Toronto jazz quintet Engine in concert with a group of Guelph musicians under the direction of renowned bassist William Parker. On Friday evening, at 8 pm, the community will be treated to a performance from Christine Duncan with the University of Guelph Symphonic Choir. Saturday night will culminate around the launch of ICASP and Musagetes’ 2013 Improviser-in-Residence, Rich Marsella. 

A full schedule of events can be found

Call for Presentations: The Final McGill ICASP Conference! Time Forms: The Temporalities of Aesthetic Experience
September 18-21, 2013

To celebrate the final McGill ICASP conference we are partnering with IPLAI, and other Montreal based organizations to run a major-three day event. This will not be a “standard” conference, and in keeping with ICASP’s emerging focus on practice-based research, it will be a site for experimenting with new methods of both research dissemination and conference interactions. ICASP will have a dedicated session on temporality in/and improvisation, but much of the conference will address, both directly and more obliquely, this subject.
General Statement of Purpose: This event aims to explore forms in time and the ways time forms experience by bringing together scholars and creators of artistic media that intimately involve a temporal dimension in the experience they engender. Participants will explore different concepts, kinds and components of experiential temporality as they are manifested in a variety of artistic forms. The event itself is designed to have a large-scale temporal structure that modulates the temporal experience of continuity, immersion and distraction over the whole event, within which are embedded smaller structures with an interleaving of thought-provoking scholarly presentations, performances or presentations of art forms, creative workshops, and moments of repose, reflection and nourishment or other modes of distraction such as moving around space to get to different events, thereby discovering spaces in between the events.
ICASP will have a dedicated time-slot for presentations related to improvisation and time. We ask that you send your proposals by July 1, 2013 to Eric Lewis (

Proposals can include a standard oral paper presentation of up to 30 minutes, but, ideally, will also include other media/forms of presentation. You can also propose “interventions” or other events/happenings that might require or have a less standard temporal structure. Please be as specific as possible in regards to what you would like to do, and what your technical/space needs might be. This will be an exciting event!
See the PDF of the Call for Papers more details.

The Video Art of Sylvia Safdie 
Eric Lewis is associate professor of philosophy at McGill University and the director of the McGill Center for the Critical Study of Improvisation. The Video Art of Sylvia Safdie brings into focus the complete video oeuvre of a pioneering Canadian artist. Tracing the development of Safdie’s work and its implications for the future of media art, this volume provides a stunning perspective on her videos and sets a new standard for the presentation of video art in book form.

Safdie's principal video works are presented in the form of more than 200 images, selected and arranged to suggest the content, rhythm, and movement of the videos themselves. Alongside the rich illustrations, the book explores Safdie's video art through a thoughtful introduction to the artist and two insightful critical essays. Eric Lewis relates her videos to her works in other media, considers how she poses key questions in the philosophy of art, and addresses issues concerning Jewish art and identity. He discusses the complex relationship between Safdie's video images and the improvised music she often employs as soundtracks. An essay by music scholar and conductor Eleanor Stubley explores the relationship between the body and mind in Safdie's videos, shedding light on the emotive and sensorial qualities of the breathing body. 

A vibrant appeal to both the eye and the mind, The Video Art of Sylvia Safdie showcases an artist at the vanguard of video and intermedia art and demonstrates how her work is representative of the next stage in artistic explorations of time, change, corporeality, and our place in nature.

The Silence concert series continues to build momentum in Guelph with numerous innovative concerts and events every month.

Make sure to catch Juno Award winners Stretch Orchestra, incredible free-jazz bassist, William Parker, and others this month. Check out the Silence event page for the latest in inventive music in Guelph.

Jazz Art Auction a Major Success!

Thanks to all who attended the Guelph Jazz Festival's Sounds Provocative Art Auction at The Holiday Inn Guelph Hotel & Conference Centre as art lovers bid on over 50 works created by some of the region's best-known contributing artists. The 8th annual event and chief fundraiser for the festival hosted a live and silent auction on Sunday April 21st, estimated to have raised nearly $35,000. The funds generated will contribute to this year's festival, its 20th Anniversary.

To read more visit the Guelph Jazz Festival website.

Guelph Jazz Fest Seeking Volunteer Manager - Applications due May 22, 2013

Click here for more details.


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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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.