Skip to Content

Improv Notes: September 2014


Email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser

IMprov Notes:
News of the Moment  September 2014

Guelph Jazz Festival Continues to Inspire, Engage, and Incite Dialogue

Lee Pui Ming and Dong-Won Kim in intense conversation at the Guelph Youth Music Centre. ©Brett Delmage, 2014

​Reviews for the 2014 Guelph Jazz Festival are coming in, and as usual, the Festival is celebrated for its daring and unique sounds, community engagement, and inclusivity.  
Ottawa Jazz Scene, Guelph Jazz Festival helps kids find their voices through technology.
The Ontarion, An Afternoon at the Guelph Jazz Festival.”
Arts Journal, “Guelph Jazz Fest Colloquium of Cosmic Improvisation.”

Ottawa Jazz Scene, “Guelph 2014: Lee Pui Ming and Dong-Won Kim astonish the audience (review)."

Oral Histories is a showcase of interviews, performances, and articles by and about improvising musicians, artists, writers and scholars.

William Parker and Amiri Baraka

"People Get Readt"/ The Future of Jazz: Amiri Baraka and William Parker in Conversation. 

William Parker—one of the most inventive and expressive avant-garde jazz musicians today—is an American free jazz double bassist, poet, composer, and an urban Zen monk. In 2007, William Parker’s book, who owns music?, was published by buddy’s knife jazz edition in Cologne, Germany. who owns music? assembles his political thoughts, poems, and musicological essays. In who owns music?, Parker describes music as a “sound painting,” opening up music as an organic material that cannot be owned: “No one owns music, no one invented music, it existed before the human species was created and may have played a part in the creation of man and womankind. Music lives in a world separate from the musician, a world of which we have only touched the surface” (34). In 2011, Parker’s second book,Conversations, was published by Rogue Art. Parker has been a mainstay at the Guelph Jazz Festival, having performed numerous times.

Amiri Baraka is a poet and playwright of incendiary rage and collective insight, who went from Beat poet to Black Nationalist and finally Marxist-Leninist. He left the planet on January 9, 2014. Among his most known works are the poetry collections The Dead Lecturer and Transbluesency: The Selected Poetry of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones (1961-1965), his plays Dutchmen and A Black Mass, and his various works on Black music, such as Blues People and Black Music. Along with Ezra Pound, Amiri Baraka remains one of the most controversial and least understood American poets. As M.L. Rosenthal wrote, “No American poet since Pound has come closer to making poetry and politics reciprocal forms of action” (qtd. in Baraka Reader xxi). For Baraka, art was a weapon of revolution. Further, Baraka wrote some of the most insightful works on African American music, appropriately referring to the music as American classical music. His poetry was always musical, for as he states in Blues People, the poem must “swing—from verb to noun.” The “changing same” was his designation of the interplay between tradition and the individual talent in Afro-American music.

In 2007, William Parker released The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield with poet Amiri Baraka, a project that examines what was happening to the people through Mayfield’s enduring and empowering music and legacy. A discussion between Parker and Baraka—moderated by jazz and creative music radio personality Ron Gaskin—around this work, the nature of art and social change, and the very future of jazz took place during the 2007 Guelph Jazz Festival Colloquium. For this month’s Oral History we travel back to that lively 2007 panel discussion.

  • Watch the entire interview, here.
  • The full transcript is available, here. (Check out the new format).


Lately my life has been one of change, from a cross-country move to Vancouver Island, a new professor gig, preparations to finish graduate studies, and a new baby who continues to teach me more about improvisation every day. Fortunately, much of the music I listen to is about embracing change, and it has made recent transitions and risks not only attainable, but thoroughly enjoyable. It is at this time, with a heavy heart, that I move on from Improv Notes, while remaining, of course, part of the ICASP/IICSI network.
This marks the 39th consecutive newsletter I've written and assembled. The wealth of content and "news of the moment" available to print affirms the vitality of creative improvised music in Guelph and beyond.  I have learnt a great deal in my various roles at ICASP/IICSI. I am continuously inspired by the ongoing hard work of the URAs, GRAs, and staff; my own aesthetic palette and capacity for community-focused thinking and work has expanded enormously thanks to the project’s daring and spirited approach to research and efforts to break down that false dichotomy between academic practice and community. You will still see material come in from me, as I have a few Oral history projects on the go (a project I curate, which will include an interview with David Lee and a collaborative performance/interview with Ben Grossman), and you will certainly see me at future IICSI events, such as the Festival Colloquium. I am fortunate that ICASP and IICSI continue to provide excellent models for my own career and aspirations as I forge forward making my own sounds.
Keep on improvising, making the music, and asking the difficult questions.
Soudin’ off from B.C,
Paul Watkins

Quote of the Month:

“I say, play your own way. Don’t play what the public wants. You play what you want and let the public pick up on what you’re doing, even if it does take them fifteen, twenty years.”  
-Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Sphere Monk was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, in 1917, and by 1940 he was working with the major jazz figures of his time. Monk is said to have started playing his style of jazz in the early forties, when he played piano at Minton’s in Harlem. In ’47 he recorded sessions for Blue Note records that placed him at the epicenter of modern jazz. In 1964, Monk became the third jazz musician to have his portrait on the cover of Time magazine, after Duke Ellington and Dave Brubeck. Monk remains, for poets, writers, and musicians alike, a symbol of creative freedom. 

Image of Monk in the public domain, from here.



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.

Want to read past newsletters, or refer a friend to the monthly newsletter, then please do! Check us out on Twitter 

Follow us on Facebook

Artist of the Month:

Image from here.
Flying Lotus (US)

“The future is always here in the past.”
-Amiri Baraka, “Jazzmen: Diz & Sun Ra” 255
Last month featured one of the great architects of Afrofuturism: the one and only Sun Ra and his Arkestra. From Sun Ra to Janelle Monáe, Afrofuturism lets us know where we’ve been (from griot traditions and Egyptian pyramids and astronomy) to where we are going (mixing culture, technology, liberation, and imagination), particularly as a new generation of artists embody the movement's philosophy and push jazz and hip-hop into new realms. As Afrofuturist Ytasha Womack writes of the movement, “It’s a way of bridging the future and the past and essentially helping to reimagine the experience of people of colour.” Few working DJs in the “beat scene,” particularly with mainstream recognition, embody the creative spirit of Afrofuturism as much as experimental electronic artist Flying Lotus, whose aunt is the legendary Alice Coltrane. He’s also the cousin of saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, and the grandson of singer/songwriter Marilyn McLeod (notable for writing Diana Ross’s “Love Hangoverand Freda Payne’s “I Get High (On Your Memory).”

Rather than letting his deep musical roots hold him down, Flying Lotus (Steven Ellison) forges forward, sounding futures and making music that uses past recordings--made live through scratching and remix--as sources for improvisation. Flying Lotus first came to recognition making beats for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, eventually releasing a full-length record in 2006 entitled 1983. His more recent releases include the albums Cosmogramma, and 2012’s sparse sounding and critically acclaimed, Until the Quiet ComesUntil the Quiet Comes displays the complexity of Ellison’s production, characterized by consonant and dissonant sounds, counterpoint, diverse shifts in tone and feel, and various improvisational modifications in mood, time signature, and overall structure. The psychedelic undertones, a mixture of downtempo jazz and post-rock ethos, add a dream quality to the album. Andy Beta of Spin described the record as the “dreams within dreams within dreams” concept of the 2010 film Inception while Karen Lawler of State insists that, “If the limbo between awake and sleeping, dreams and nightmares could be expressed through music, this album might well be it.”
Unique to Flying Lotus is how much sound he can get using a computer and digital production tools. Often he performs with live musicians (such as Ravi Coltrane) and his complex melodies, syncopated rhythms, and textured productions are largely a product of his own diverse interests. Some of his favourite albums, as he describes in one
 interview, include Alice Coltrane's Lord of Lords; Radiohead's Amnesiac; Charles Mingus's Black Saint and the Lady Sinner, and J Dilla’s Ruff Draft. Stylistically, Lotus’s music reflects these diverse records, as Lotus's albumscontain free form jazz undertones and jazz-based patterns and time signatures. In 2010, Flying Lotus worked with the Ann Arbor Film Festival in a live scoring of the 1962 avant-garde film, Heaven and Earth Magic. Lotus continues to surprise his audiences with imaginative live performances and by remaining true to the cross-fertilization of ideas so present in Afrofuturism, Lotus (and the larger movement of young creative artists) continue to imagine possible futures. On October 6th, Lotus will release his latest effort, an album that embraces his psychedelic, technological,  and mind-bending afrofuturism, You’re Dead!


"Putty Boy"

Also, check out his live performances with his Infinity band:

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 #2: Rhythm for Designing Space - Tuesday, September 23rd 7-9 pm
Session #3: Dimensional Voice, with special guest Jaap Blonk - Wednesday, October 8th 7-9 pm
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
Session #7: Homage to Silence - Tuesday, December 2nd 7-9 pm


The Improvisation Studies Reader: Spontaneous Acts

Edited by ICASP/IICSI Project Director, Dr. Ajay Heble and Regina Improvisation Studies Centre (RISC) Director, Dr. Rebecca Caines.

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, 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.

The sections include:
·         Listening
·         Trust/Risk
·         Flow
·         Dissonance
·         Responsibility
·         Liveness
·         Surprise
·         Hope

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.

Newly Published Book: Esthétique de l’improvisation libre – Expérimentation musicale et politique (Authored by Matthieu Saladin)

Full details, available
The Muted Note
Friday, September 26th 7 pm 
George Luscombe Theatre, University of Guelph

The Muted Note, a multi-faceted collaboration including the performance of a suite of songs based on poetry by P.K. Page, one of Canada's most celebrated literary figures. Scott Thomson and Susanna Hood perform the suite as a duo; with Scott's quintet, The Disguises (with Nicolas Caloia, Yves Charuest, and Pierre Tanguay); and as a full stage work featuring Susanna's choreography on three other dancers (Ellen Furey, Alanna Kraaijeveld, and Bernard Martin) with live music by The Disguises.

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:

...the innovative working models of improvisation developed by creative practitioners have helped to promote a dynamic exchange of cultural forms, and to encourage new, socially responsive forms of community building across national, cultural, and artistic boundaries.

– Ajay Heble