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Improvisation - what is it all about?

December 23, 2019

Improvisation is about finding our own limits and surpassing them.

Improvisation is about tapping into our innermost feelings in real time.

Improvisation is the key to creativity and to interpretation.

Can Improvisation be taught?

Should Improvisation be taught?

Improvisation should be improvised, not taught.

Improvisation should be played, like a game.

Improvisation should be practiced, like a religion.

Improvisation should be lived, or rather just be.

We should ask:

What does improvisation teach us?

It teaches us to be here and now.

It teaches us to listen to ourselves and to others at the same time.

It teaches us when to lead and when to follow.

It teaches us when to support and when to take a stand.

It teaches us about colors.

It teaches us about shapes.

It teaches us about the conflict between shape and freedom.

It teaches us to be free within a shape.

It teaches about conflict.

When improvising we create our rules and follow them.

When improvising we create our rules and break them.

When improvising we explore our sound(s).

When improvising we may discover ourselves:

Our limited selves.

 

 

 

 

Many years ago, when I was an undergraduate student at Tel Aviv University, I took a counterpoint class with Professor André Hajdu. It was just the beginning of the year and we barely got to know each other. It was a rainy day. Only another student and I showed up to the class. Professor Hajdu suggested that instead of studying counterpoint maybe we could just improvise.

We both agreed and he started by asking us to take turns improvising with him.

First he suggested that we use our left hand only. After that he stepped aside and let us two improvise without any rules.

At the end of the lesson he said things that he has learned about us from the way we improvised.

I can still remember what he said about me and it is true today just as it was 35 years ago.

How did he know so much about me just from one hour of improvisation?

Since then many things happened but improvisation has become more and more part of me.

It probably existed deep in me but I had never given it much importance before that event.

Prof. Hajdu then became my composition teacher for the next two years. He was a recipient of the Israel Prize, the highest award granted in Israel. Reflecting back on that day we improvised, I realize that the limitation to play just with the left hand was a false limitation. He was smart enough and experienced enough to know what we needed it in order to feel more secure. Without it, we would have felt in a kind of chaos. This false rule made us feel we had something to lean on, yet didn't influence our music.

How much time do we devote to improvisation in our musical studies? How much do we really improvise when we play music? How many surprises happen in real time? How often do we use improvisation as a teaching tool?

At the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance we have created a special graduate program in contemporary improvisation. The artistic director is Albert Beger (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Beger). The wonderful students come from all disciplines:  Classical Music, Jazz, Arabic Music, Performance and Composition. We all get together to explore The art of improvisation, to explore our own limitations and to try to break out of our comfort zone individually and collectively.

https://www.jamd.ac.il/en/contemporary_improvisation

André Hajdu- Bagatelle no. 2 from 3 Bagatelles for Guitar and Double Bass.

Duo BassGuitar: Shani Inbar- Guitar, Michael Klinghoffer- Double Bass (from new CD soon to be released)

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