Ever hear some music, maybe a jazz pianist who has a great command of the instrument, or a piece by Debussy that seems to take wing, and think, “If only I could improvise like that!” I have felt that many times, and I still enjoy trying to capture and take inspiration from the sounds created by others. But more and more I am coming to value a regular practice of listening to myself and finding my own sounds. In fact, these two pursuits are not separate.
On Saturday, May 15th, I’ll be giving a workshop for the New York Chapter of the Dalcroze Society of America. As the pandemic hopefully begins to wind down in the United States, I am as eager as anyone else to get back into the classroom with students again. The heart of our work doesn’t exist in online teaching. But while we are still in this moment, I wondered if I could offer something that would only be possible by teaching online, with the participants isolated from one another. I realized it would be an opportunity to lead people through a personal investigation of this process, which is really best explored in one’s own practice studio.
So this workshop will be somewhat unusual. I won’t be playing or offering any musical material to work with. We won’t be playing together. Instead, I’ve designed it as a guided personal improvisation and practice session that will be unique to each individual. The objective will be to strengthen your connection to yourself and the music that only you can make.
You can register for this workshop here, and I’ve included the information I sent to the chapter below.
Improvisation Workshop: Finding Your Sound
What is your sound as an improviser? Having your own unique sound is one of the highest aspirations shared by jazz musicians, but it’s also something that improvisers of all stripes and genres can benefit from, especially those who, like Dalcrozians, teach through the medium of improvisation.
During this session we’ll both improvise and listen to ourselves improvising. As we play (players of any instrument, including voice or movement, at any level of musical and improvisational experience are welcome), we’ll explore the difference between improvising and practicing improvisation. We’ll work with our spontaneous reactions to what we hear, think and feel when we improvise and when we hear ourselves improvising. We’ll talk about ways to sustain this practice beyond this workshop (how does 5 minutes a day sound?) with a goal of strengthening your connection to yourself as a creative artist, whether you are in the classroom or on the concert stage.
Nervous about improvising in front of other people? Not a problem for this workshop. Sound (and cameras for movers) will be turned off as you improvise while I guide you through the process. We’ll come together as a group to share experiences and gain inspiration from each other.
For full participation, workshop attendees should have access to a space in which they feel free to make as much sound (or movement) as they wish, uninterrupted and unencumbered. They should also have the ability to record and listen to themselves while also participating online.