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Improvisations

Discussion in 'Composing' started by 88man, Apr 18, 2009.

  1. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    I thought I'd share a few inspirations/improvisations...

    Improvising at the piano can be a meditative experience, a time for self-realization and discovery, however, only when the ideas are working. Sometimes, it's to no avail and I find something else to do. I tend to record "spur of the moment" improvisations; they're musical first sketches where I just press record on the CD recorder and play whatever comes to mind, so they're not perfect. The Pieces are:


    "A Call To The Crane." (Gm) The crane is a symbolic bird of Armenia since ancient times. According to legend, it is a messenger that bears news of importance. The opening starts with a call. This leads into the flight and journey of the crane as it passes by. The ending echoes the first call as the crane disappears into the distance...

    "Kindred Spirit." (F#) I chose to play this improvisation in a musical scale that I devised in 1985, while searching for a distinctly nostalgic sound that I could consider uniquely Armenian. The fluid and free flowing nature of the piece makes it sound highly improvisational, against a dhol-like rhythm in the accompaniment. The dhol is a drum made from hide and it looks like a tamborine. For me, it is intensely Armenian - nostalgic, airy with harmonics, evocative, sense of belonging, and mystical. While recording, I heard a certain ''Truth in Spirit; and Spirit in Truth." So I entitled the piece Kindred Spirit...

    "Spring Thaw" (B-flat) is a musical celebration of our long and harsh New England winter ultimately letting go of it's grip on the land, and finally allowing Spring to take hold. The opening theme starts with the rumbling bass chords, symbolizing huge boulders of ice beginning to crack and break up. The broken chord theme in the treble depicts the formation of icicles and small pools of water, signaling the first hope that perhaps winter's end is near. This gives way to a more emphatic cycle of rumbling bass chords, with more ice crumbling down. The broken chords in the treble begin to form larger pools of water, until the running arpeggio theme gives way to water flowing and forming streams through the forests. The cycle of seasonal transition continues where the last boulders of ice finally break up in a losing battle with Spring, and dissipate their vast energy in gushing streams and rivers that follow through the landscape. The ending echoes all the musical elements that has taken place - the storms, bitter cold, and ice are now long gone, all that remains is a humble reminder of our endurance and resolve...


    I've notarized about 80 such improvisations over the years. From the Sep08 to the Apr09 recording, the piano has slightly become out of tune since April 2008. Time to call the tuner!

    Improvisation - Spring Thaw ( 3:14 )
    Improvisation - Kindred Spirit ( 2:08 )
    Improvisation - A call to the crane ( 2:28 )
     
  2. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I like especially the Crane and the Spirit, very beautiful and atmospheric. The Spring Thaw, for all its beauty of sound, I find rather trite and meandering, not living up to its portentous description. I can't see how something can be an improvisation and yet have such a detailed programme.
     
  3. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks Chris for the comments. I agree that Spring Thaw meanders - either a new middle section must be introduced or take out some of the redundancy.

    Since I enjoy landscape photography, I envisioned the program of nature as a landscape before starting the improvisation in Spring Thaw. I knew I wanted to recount and merge the events in the seasonal transition from winter to spring and what makes it special in relation to where I live. I was recalling what was going through my mind as opposed to describing an afterthought.
    Everybody has a different compositional approach. Before recording any improvisation for the first time, I have to be inspired by something and then begin the plot/drama process in my mind. The only difference is that I am using a CD recorder and not a notation method due to time constraints. Besides, the spontaneity and free will would be gone if I were to notate everything for the first time. Someday, when I have time, I'll commit these to manuscript after some reworking, then they can be called compositions. Hey, it would be nice to retire early?!?!

    George
     
  4. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Great, if you can afford it....
     
  5. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi George,

    I listened to these and think all three sound very nice. I like the exotic sound of "Kindred Spirit". And even if 'Spring Thaw' meanders a bit, your piano sure sounds good!
     
  6. Francois de Larrard

    Francois de Larrard Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi,
    For some reasons, I cannot download these files. Thanks to the webmasters for fixing the problem.
     
  7. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi François, I deleted them myself since I thought I'd post for a week or so. Sorry, were you still be able to download them?
     
  8. Francois de Larrard

    Francois de Larrard Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    I'd like to do so, but I can wait for some days. Just tell me when they're available. Thanks !
     
  9. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    Bonjour François, J'ai rattaché les improvisations. Il devrait fonctionner maintenant... Good opportunity to use my French. I hope that made sense, as it has been 21 years!

    George
     
  10. juufa72

    juufa72 New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Very good improvs! A helluva lot better than mine!!! Thanks for sharing.
     
  11. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    We still have not decided what do do about improvisations. We get a lot of crap (even so-called compositions) but I feel that there should be a place for the real good stuff like this.

    Maybe we should just have one single page named 'Improvisations' where we can park each one we deem good enough (it will have to be down to the admins to decide on that). This way it would not be a lot of work to get them on the site.

    I don't feel like adding everybody who does an improvisation as a composer, not even if they provide a score. Apart from the fact that it may be impossible to distinguish between an improvising
    performer and a performing composer. I still don't know what makes someone a composer. But that is another discussion.
     
  12. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    Improvisations, Compositions, Composers

    Thank you Julius and Chris.

    Techneut wrote:
    I agree. This dilemma cannot be answered easily on a philosophical basis. For Piano Society, or any other institution in the position of considering an improvising performer as a composer, there is the issue of formality and defining standards, as there would be for any profession within an institutional framework. As complete as an improvisation may be, it cannot be considered a formal composition without a score. Furthermore, the improvising performer cannot formally be considered a composer in the eyes of any institution unless there is a score to confirm a composition. The score provides the completeness, proper mode of dissemination, and validity required for all formal compositions.

    That's why I didn't post my improvs in the "Audition" section because I don't have time to write scores. And without scores, I can't be formally acknowledged as a composer by an institution based solely on recordings of improvisations. I am sure there are people like me who don't have time to write everything down on scores. Improvisations are an important part of music and in the development of any composer. In this case, I would agree that a separate "Improvisations" section might be easier to group such pieces. It would also make for interesting feedback...
     
  13. Francois de Larrard

    Francois de Larrard Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Dear George,
    I ended up getting the files, and I've just listened them. Very nice, ample inspiration and beautiful spatial piano !
    Well, it could be nice to have a section of improvisations. I just wonder how we could classify them. Also, sometimes a recorded improvisation supports less auditions, because it cannot be as rich and well structured than a written composition. On the other hand, the good ones have the advantage to be unquestionably rendered and totally spontaneous. Therefore I think each pianist should regularly spend some time improvising, as most great composers did...
    Finally, to support the idea of an improvisation section, I am loading one I recorded on a beautiful Steinway some... 18 years ago ! Hope you enjoy ! The title is "Lacs" (lakes), and it was inspired by a series of lakes seen in the Quebec province.

    Improvisation - Lacs ( 12:04 )
     
  14. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    A very impressive piece of work, even though it's on the long side and at some places seems to doodle along. Great sound, and great pianism. Sounds a bit like Sorabji at times ! Definitely, one for the Improvisations page. I think we should proceed with that now.
     
  15. Francois de Larrard

    Francois de Larrard Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hurrah for the improvisation page ! And thanks for your appreciation, and also to quote Sorabji (I had not heard about him before). I've just listened some transcendental studies on YouTube: quite impressive music, very virtuosy and harmonically rich. This is a new area I will probably explore in the coming weeks...
     
  16. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    George and Francois, your improvisations are up on the IMPROVISATIONS page - it's a new top level page under ARTISTS and COMPOSERS. Please check if links etc. are in order. If any or both of you can write some not too verbose blurb for this new page that would be welcome. Not sure what to use for an image here !

    To any wannabe improvisers : We are going to be fairly critical about what we put up here. Not only does it have to be good and sound good, we also have to like it 8)
     
  17. Francois de Larrard

    Francois de Larrard Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    I can make a proposal this week-end (1st of may is off in France, as in many other countries I think). I am less inspired by the illustration item !
     
  18. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thank you Chris for your diligence in creating an Improvisations page. I've been away. I certainly don't have the time to write music, but improvisation has replaced composition for the time being. I am sure I am not the only one who enjoys improvisation here.
    Very good larger scale improvisation, François.
     
  19. Francois de Larrard

    Francois de Larrard Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    As promissed, this is a proposition for an introduction to Improvisation. Also a kind of improvisation :) Maybe a too long one, but this is a big subject ! Otherwise, should improvisation remain in the 'composition' section of the forum, or should there be a special section, parallel to 'audition room'?

    'The art of improvisation is as old as music itself. It certainly existed before any notation was used for composition. Hence improvisation can be viewed as an instantaneous, real time composition. Before the time of recording, all improvisations were lost as soon as they were performed - although, according to certain legends, some famous composers played long improvisations and wrote them later. But now, with the possibility of burning recordings, it becomes possible to keep and to re-listen improvisations.

    In the past most composers, especially keyboard players, were great improvisers. Bach, Beethoven or Liszt were famous in this type of exercise, and improvisation was a popular kind of encore in some concerts. Nowadays, among the classical music world, organists seem the only performers who continue the practice of public improvisation, while other musics like Jazz are entirely built around improvisation.

    How an improvisation is made up ? It would certainly be a great challenge for neurobiologists to analyse what happens in the head of an improviser. Musically speaking, an improvised piece can have no visible structure (totally amorphous), but may also obey to very strict rules: some outstanding improvisers can create a 4-voice fugue in real time. To improvise after a theme is a more common practice, either playing some free paraphrase, or developing variations. In the last case, the melody can be kept with various acompaniments, or the harmonic structure can be reproduced, with different melodies and voicings. A simple way of improvising at the piano is to repeat a short series of notes at the left hand (ostinato), while the right hand improvises. This is the same old trick which was used by J.S. Bach in his famous organ piece 'Passacaille in Cminor', and in some boogie-woogie tunes...

    As compared to the execution of a written music piece, an improvisation is generally less deep and rich in terms of musical ideas (sometimes it can be even very empty and without any interest for the listener!). However, it can only be spontaneous, and the fit between music and its interpretation is not questionable, since they come from the same creative source. Also, in terms of communication it has the merit to provide a flow of information at a rate which can be received by the listener. By comparison, some contemporary (written) pieces take years to the composer, and last some minutes when executed. In such a case, there's no way for the listener to catch any of the composer intentions.

    Finally, for the pianist, improvising is another way of discovering his instrument, and can be a very relaxing kind of self-psychoanalysis...'
     
  20. Francois de Larrard

    Francois de Larrard Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    I realize that on the top of the 'Composers' page, there is the following sentence:
    "...The reason for this "rule" is that we in the past has been provided recordings which are more or less improvisations which we do not accept. '
    that needs to be updated...
     

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