Improvisation: Stage 2
Students are invited to improve their improvisation skills, which may already have been rehearsed in earlier exercises. This includes exploring the potential of improvisation in helping to understand and build musical forms and as a tool for testing and refining musical ideas.
Goal and output
How to perceive and build musical forms.
Testing and refining musical ideas using improvisation as a tool.
Completed soundscapes and/or compositions, if the improvisation is subsequently notated.
• The purpose of this assignment is to evolve improvisation into a coherent and regimented musical form. It is feasible for this purpose to agree on specific signals or sounds, etc., to govern the improvisation as it progresses.
• The sections to be included should be discussed before the improvisation begins: specific kinds of moods and shifts between them, or specific kinds of musical situations (dense/sparse texture, registers, intervals, dynamics, harmonies, etc.)? How can these be attained? Which musical parameters should be agreed in advance, and which can be left to improvisation?
• Specific ideas or themes may be agreed upon for the various sections to guide the improvisation, e.g. 'bright/dark', 'summer/winter', 'fast/slow'.
• The improvisation may be repeated multiple times; after each one, discuss what has changed and what has stayed the same.
• Through the discussion, analyse the musical form. You may then, depending on the students' interests, select musical parameters for further development, perhaps as a basis for completed compositions to be created.
Topics in the assignment
The work in this assignment is intended to be more goal-oriented than in the introduction to improvisation, assignment 14. Small assignment: How to begin an improvisation.
One of the goals of the assignment is to highlight the potential of improvisation as a tool for finding musical ideas for a composition. Organising ideas and placing them on a timeline is also important, i.e. the planning and consideration of musical form.
The form may be outlined using graphic notation or traditional notation as appropriate, or in any other feasible way.
It is easy to move from this assignment to conceiving an actual composition. The further the process progresses, the more reliance there will be on notation, i.e. writing things down.
Reference works may be used as a basis for improvisation. This requires analysing the key features of existing pieces of music and using these to improvise a new soundscape. This approach can also lead to the creation of a new composition.
An improvisation may be inspired by an extra-musical element such as an image or a text.
See also Markku Klami’s article.
Assignment suitable for further study