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Improv Notes: October 2014


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News of the Moment
October 2014

With Paul Watkins leaving the Guelph orbit for Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, David Lee will be taking over the majority of the Improv Notes writing duties. David has been an active contributor to ICASP / IICSI since he began the PhD program in Literary Studies and Theatre Studies in English at the University of Guelph in 2011. Visit David online here.

IICSI in Amsterdam
"Jazz Beyond Borders" Rhythm Changes Conference

The nucleus of the Artists' Jazz Band in the early 1960s consisted of four of the city's most prominent young abstract expressionists. Left to right: Nobuo Kubota, Graham Coughtry, Robert Markle, Gordon Rayner.
ICASP/IICSI associates Alan Stanbridge (University of Toronto, Scarborough) and David Lee (PhD candidate, School of English and Theatre Studies, University of Guelph) each recently returned from Europe, where they presented papers at the third annual Rhythm Changes conference, “Jazz Beyond Borders” at the Conservatory of Amsterdam September 4-7. Dr. Stanbridge’s paper, All the Rest is Propaganda: Jazz, Class and Race in British New Wave Cinema examined the placement of jazz music in British New Wave films circa 1960 while David Lee’s We Can Draw!: Canadian Improvised Music, The Artists’ Jazz Band and the Discourse of Absence discussed connections between free improvisation and abstract expressionism.

Think Pieces
Improvisation and Interspecies Performance (Kimber Sider)

Think pieces is a special project curated by PhD student Mark Kaethler (School of English and Theatre Studies, University of Guelph).

In this piece, Kimber Sider develops a unique theory of equestrian improvisation. This praxis-based research combines Kimber’s practices with horses with theories of improvisation and performance, as well as anthropological studies, to provide an outlook on interspecies connections that is beneficial for the well-being of all animals.

Note: This paper is to be read in conjunction with a silent video of horses and humans improvising together through ground training. View video here


The Muted Note
Scott Thomson and Susanna Hood
This autumn, former ICASP improvisers-in-residence Scott Thomson and Susanna Hood will perform their new suite The Muted Note a total of 40 times in nine provinces across Canada.

Critic Stuart Broomer has called The Muted Note  “a striking accomplishment. It ultimately resonates like P.K. Page’s galvanized language itself.” This suite of songs and dances is based on the works of Canadian poet P.K. Page (1916-2010), with Thomson playing his own compositions on trombone and Hood’s singing and choreography, both largely animated with improvisation.

As Improv Notes goes to press, the duo have completed their eastern performances, including Toronto and Montreal stints with the full stage production which includes lighting design by Paul Chambers, dance by Ellen Furey, Alanna Kraaijeveld and Bernard Martin, and musicians Nicolas Caloia (bass), Yves Charuest (alto saxophone) and Pierre Tanguay (drums). 

From Newfoundland, they will fly west to begin their next circuit of concerts:

14 Oct – Roberts Creek BC, Gumboot Cafe
15 Oct – Vancouver BC, The Western Front, 8pm
16 Oct – Vancouver BC, performance and conference, University of British Columbia
18 Oct – Victoria BC, Open Space, 7pm
19 Oct – Salt Spring Island BC, ArtSpring Art Gallery, 7:30pm
20 Oct – Salt Spring Island BC, workshops (hosted by ArtSpring)
20 Oct – Victoria BC, Artists’ Talk, University of Victoria
21 Oct – Salt Spring Island BC, workshops (hosted by ArtSpring)
22 Oct – Nanaimo BC, workshop (hosted by Crimson Coast Dance) 
23 Oct – Nanaimo BC, Harbour City Theatre (presented by Crimson Coast Dance)
25 Oct – Kelowna BC, The Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art, 8pm
27 Oct – Calgary AB, National Music Centre (presented by Bug Incision)
28 Oct – Edmonton AB, venue TBA (presented by Bug Incision)
29 Oct – Saskatoon SK, Free Flow Dance Centre, 7pm
30 Oct – Regina SK, The Artesian (presented by Holophon Audio Arts), 8pm
31 Oct – Brandon MB, Artists’ Talk, Hawkweed Literary Forum, Brandon University, 12:30pm
31 Oct – Brandon MB, Works in Progress Cabaret, Park Community Centre, 7pm
1 Nov – Brandon MB, workshops TBA (hosted by Brandon University)
2 Nov – Regina SK, workshop (hosted by New Dance Horizons), 2pm
15 Nov – Rimouski QC, Co-op Paradis (presented by Tour de Bras)
16 Nov – Québec QC, Bar Co-op L’agitée

Scott Thomson and Susanna Hood were the 2012 Improvisers-in-Residence with the Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice research project.

Boarding House Arts Incubator
2015-2016 Call for Submissions (due Oct 31)

Boarding House Arts Incubator is an eighteen-month studio residency and mentoring program designed to help Guelph area artists advance their professional careers. Artists are selected through a competitive process in response to an open call for participants. The program supports a breadth of artistic practices ranging from media-based work to painting to socially engaged art.
The Arts Incubator aims to assist emerging and mid-career artists to advance to the next level of professional achievement. A particular focus is placed on understanding the business dynamics of the art world and upon the requirements of sustaining a career as a professional artist.
At the start of the program, an individual mentoring and goal-based development plan is established with each artist. The plan is developed jointly between the artist and members of the Mentoring Committee. The focus of the plan is both on the artist’s creative development and on building their professional capacity as a practicing artist during and after the program.
Participants in the program may re-apply for a second term through the open call for participants.

For more details, please visit Musagetes'

Quote of the Month

"Although this short essay is no more than an introduction, by now it will be clear to you that status transactions aren’t only of interest to the improviser. Once you understand that every sound and posture implies a status, then you perceive the world quite differently, and the change is probably permanent. In my view, really accomplished actors, directors, and playwrights are people with an intuitive understanding of the status transactions that govern human relationships. This ability to perceive the underlying motives of casual behavior can also be taught.” (Keith Johnstone)

Improvisation and the Theatre (London: Methuen, 1981), p. 72


The International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation stemmed from the work done by the Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice (ICASP) research project. IICSI explores musical improvisation as a model for social change and 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 the Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice research collection.

Want to read past newsletters, or refer a friend to the monthly newsletter? Please do! Don't forget to check us out on Twitter and follow us on Facebook. 

Artist of the Month
Kenny Wheeler (1930-2014)

Image courtesy of Cuneiform Records. 

At the Rex in Toronto on October 2, saxophonist Mike Murley (with a quintet of John MacLeod trumpet, Jim Vivian bass, Dave Restivo piano and Ted Warren drums) paid tribute to an iconic Canadian musician, trumpeter/composer Kenny Wheeler (1930-2014). The concert was one of many benefits staged in Canadian cities to help London, England residents Wheeler and his wife Doreen with the costs incurred by their recent ill health, and proceeds will go to Doreen who is still in need.

Although he moved to England as a young man, and stayed there for the rest of his life, Kenny Wheeler was a huge and immediate influence on many Canadian musicians.

If I may offer a personal memory, I first heard Ken when I was first introduced to live improvised music in 1975—he was at Toronto’s A Space in Anthony Braxton’s quartet with Dave Holland and Philip Wilson. A year after that, I began studying double bass, and in 1978, when I went to Germany’s Moers Festival as correspondent for Coda Magazine, I was able to meet Ken backstage (plus the other members of his amazing quartet—Evan Parker, Barry Guy and Paul Lytton). A warm and gracious man, when he heard I was coming to London he invited me to stay with him and Doreen, and introduced me to some of the city’s pubs and music. Moreover, with a Toronto visit pending, he expressed interest in playing a Toronto gig.

“Trouble is …” he said hesitantly, “I don’t know any of the free musicians there …”

Having recently started playing with Bill Smith and others in Toronto, I cleared my throat and nervously suggested that perhaps I could, uh, set up something. Later that summer we did a concert where Ken played with trumpeter Larry Cramer and drummer Geoff Stewart, along with Bill and myself. We got a good crowd, the music sounded great, and I know that artistically it was a huge leap forward for all of us to find out how we fared playing with a musician of Ken’s stature. Actually, I found out, it is always easy to play with a great musician, although not “easy” in terms of conserving energy. Quite the opposite—they bring out energy you didn’t know was there and ideas you never thought you had.

This was the beginning of a mutual rediscovery between Kenny Wheeler and Canada that lasted for the rest of his life. In the following years, Ken taught regularly at Banff and gigged across the country with a variety of bands. For a shy man who grew up in St. Catharines, he managed to touch many people with his inclusive attitude, his beautiful compositions and the sound of his horn. Thank you Kenny Wheeler.


Ding-Dong with Dong-Won

Photo by Paul Watkins

Bring open hearts, open minds, voices, feet, bodies, ears, instruments, curiosity, and joy to this event. Both audience members and performers welcome. No prior experience necessary. Free.

Future sessions (all Ding-Dong sessions will be held at Silence, 46 Essex Street):

Session #4: Movement in Sound, Sound in Movement - Tuesday, October 21st 7-9 pm
Session #5: When A Volcano Sings, with special guest Il-Dong Bae - Tuesday, November 4th 7-9 pm
Session #6: Composition in Improvisation - Tuesday, November 18th 7-9 pm
Final Concert: Dong-Won Kim with collaborators (stay tuned for more details!) - Saturday, November 29th 6-10pm, Co-operators Hall, River Run Centre
Session #7: Homage to Silence - Tuesday, December 2nd 7-9 pm

And don't miss a special concert on December 12th at 8pm at Gallery 245 in Toronto. The evening is titled "The Path Home: An Evening of Celebration with Lee Pui Ming (piano), Dong-Won Kim (Korean drum), Rob Clutton (bass), Randi Helmers (voice/visual art), & Mary Ganzon (movement)." These five extraordinary artists journey through the labyrinth in sound, song, and movement. Tickets $25/$15.
South Korean percussionist Dong-Won Kim is the 2014 Improviser-In-Residence, a joint initiative between the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation and Musagetes. 
Call for Papers
Critical Studies in Improvisation/Études critiques en improvisation
Critical Studies in Improvisation / Études critiques en improvisation (CSI-ÉCI) invites submissions for a special issue with the theme “Cultural, social, and political issues of current improvisation practices in music,” guest-edited by Postdoctoral Fellow Amandine Pras. We seek contributions from scholars whose interdisciplinary research lies at the intersection of music and life sciences disciplines (ethnology, anthropology, economics, politics, sociology, gender studies, cultural studies, psychology, among others). 

View the full call for papers here.

The Walrus Talks Resilience
Enacting the Possibilities we Envision: Improvisation, Resilience, Hope 

On October 8th, 2014, IICSI project director Ajay Heble delivered a talk at the Art Gallery of Ontario as part of The Walrus Talks series. Dr. Heble was joined by poet and student Mustafa Ahmed, Rick Huijbregts (Cisco Canada), Annie Kidder (People for Education), David Miller (WWF Canada), Gabrielle Scrimshaw (Aboriginal Professional Association of Canada), Matthew Teitelbaum (Art Gallery of Ontario) and Frances Westley (SIG@Waterloo). 
Assistant Professor Position in Music: Composer-Improviser 
University of California, Irvine

University of California, Irvine is seeking applicants for a composer-improviser with an established reputation who will diversify the range of contemporary creative practices explored in the department's graduate program in Integrated Composition, Improvisation, and Technology (ICIT), complementing the existing faculty. We especially seek applicants with a body of innovative work that challenges traditional academic distinctions such as high/low culture and Western/non-Western music. Areas in which we are particularly interested include intercultural music making and synthesis of different musical traditions, and interactive and performative uses of music technology. In addition to offering graduate courses in ICIT, this person will contribute to the Department’s curriculum in music theory and analysis and fulfill normal service duties appropriate to the position.

Apply by November 15th. For more details and application instructions, please visit
UC Irvine online. 

The Improvisation Studies Reader: Spontaneous Acts
Ajay Heble & Rebecca Caines (eds)

Improvisation is a performance practice that animates and activates diverse energies of inspiration, critique, and invention. In recent years it has coalesced into an exciting and innovative new field of interdisciplinary scholarly inquiry, becoming a cornerstone of both practical and theoretical approaches to performance.

The Improvisation Studies Reader draws together the works of key artists and thinkers from a range of disciplines, including theatre, music, literature, film, and dance. Divided by keywords into eight sections (Listening, Trust/Risk, Flow, Dissonance, Responsibility, Liveness, Surprise, and Hope), this book bridges the gaps between these fields. The book includes case studies, exercises, graphic scores and poems in order to produce a teaching and research resource that identifies central themes in improvisation studies.

Each section of the Reader is introduced by a newly commissioned think piece by a key figure in the field, which opens up research questions reflecting on the keyword in question. 
By placing key theoretical and classic texts in conversation with cutting-edge research and artists’ statements, this book answers the urgent questions facing improvising artists and theorists in the mediatized Twenty-First Century.
Improv Notes was initially distributed in 2008 as a quarterly newsletter. From June 2011 until September 2014 the revamped Improv Notes was assembled, written, and distributed on a monthly basis by ICASP's Media and Public Relations Coordinator, Paul Watkins. As of October 2014 Improv Notes is edited and written by PhD candidate David Lee and assembled by administrative assistant Rachel Shoup. If you have anything improvisation related that you would like to have included in the newsletter, please send an email to Rachel at:

Listening itself, an improvisative act engaged in by everyone, announces a practice of active engagement with the world, where we sift, interpret, store and forget, in parallel with action and fundamentally articulated with it ("Mobilitas Animi" 113).

– George E. Lewis