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#1494621 - 08/12/10 07:47 PM Gabriela Montero
Bech Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/10
Posts: 844
Loc: Indiana
Gabriela Montero is my latest discovery and I'm hearing beautiful sounds coming out of her piano I've never heard from typical classical music.

Since she is known for her improvisational skills I'm guessing she's always pushing the envelope for new piano sounds as well.

Bech
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#1494627 - 08/12/10 07:57 PM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: Bech]
Wizard of Oz Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/12/09
Posts: 873
She's good. Her improvs are in the classical vein. I wouldn't call it new piano sounds, just using classical vocab. If you want new piano sounds try Cecil Taylor or some free improv from Keith Jarrett.

Something like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUmQczg4B38

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#1494740 - 08/12/10 09:53 PM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: Wizard of Oz]
Tmoose Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/31/07
Posts: 112
Loc: Washington State
Personally, I think Gabriela Montero's improvisations are even more impressive in many cases than Jarrett's. Her ideas are usually based on classical themes, though not always, but her ideas are always expressed within the phrasing and melodic 'constraints' of the style that she's chosen for that improv. There isn't any 'free' noodling while the next idea develops, the structure and harmonic direction are maintained throughout. That, in my mind, requires an extremely disciplined and musically trained mind, and an incredible ability to generalize within a 'known' structure.

Not to say that Jarrett isn't brilliant, but frankly some of his atonal, 'free' improvs leave me cold (much of the 'Radiance' CD, for example). The melodic ones are beautiful, but are in the minority.

Just the opinion of an admitted Bach enthusiast!
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#1494782 - 08/12/10 10:25 PM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: Tmoose]
JustAnotherPianist Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/20/08
Posts: 798
Loc: United Kingdom
Gabriela Montero is an interesting musician. She's a very good pianist in the traditional sense, in addition to being skilled in improvisation.

I had a couple lessons with one of her old teachers... he of course spoke very highly of her, before joking about how she's discovered a way to give all these piano recitals without ever having to practice...


Edited by JustAnotherPianist (08/12/10 10:26 PM)

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#1494834 - 08/12/10 11:32 PM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: JustAnotherPianist]
Chris G Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/09
Posts: 737
Loc: Portland, Oregon
I've seen her play in a live setting where the audience members would take turns to suggest a simple melody that she would then use as the basis of her improvisation. She had the audience member sing the melody and she would take it from there. A couple of the things she improvised on were a theme from the Muppets show ( which she had never heard before ), you are my Sunshine and a few show tunes.

What she did with those melodies was nothing short of astounding. She would play one in the style of Bach with all kinds of counterpoint going on, another in a style more like Beethoven etc. Everything she played could pass for a classical composition written a hundred or more years ago except that you could hear the melody she was improvising on. Her improvisations were not in any way a simplified version of the classical style, they were complex and all of the voices were there.

If you ever get a chance to see her play you should take it.

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#1494850 - 08/12/10 11:55 PM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: Chris G]
Piano*Dad Offline
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Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10362
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Quote:
Everything she played could pass for a classical composition written a hundred or more years ago except that you could hear the melody she was improvising on. Her improvisations were not in any way a simplified version of the classical style, they were complex and all of the voices were there.


Watch out, Bruce Adolphe! Gabriella could make some kick-butt piano puzzlers.

And this comment from JustAnotherPianist made me smile and chuckle at the same time:

Quote:
I had a couple lessons with one of her old teachers


When I was in high school, I studied with a faculty member at the University of Miami school of music. In my last year, I remember hearing about this young prodigy from Venezuela who would soon be joining the studio. smile
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#1494974 - 08/13/10 05:06 AM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: Chris G]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7838
Originally Posted By: Chris G
Everything she played could pass for a classical composition written a hundred or more years ago except that you could hear the melody she was improvising on. Her improvisations were not in any way a simplified version of the classical style, they were complex and all of the voices were there.



There must be two Gabriela Monteros, I guess, because the one I've heard improvising doesn't do anything very remarkable or complex at all - it's just pretty ordinary note spinning of a sort that many university-level pianists can probably do for hours on end, especially the ones who've had to learn how to realize a figured bass.

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#1494978 - 08/13/10 05:23 AM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: wr]
Derek Hartwell Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/03/09
Posts: 219
Loc: United Kingdom
This discussion has motivated me to get out a 2-CD set I have of Gabriela Montero playing. I am listening now as I write. She is playing Rachmaninoff, and on the same CD she continues with Scriabin, Falla, Granados, Ginastera, Chopin and Liszt. The second CD in the set consists entirely of improvisations mostly (but not entirely) based on themes by the great composers.
I think her playing is astonishing. I am always fascinated by improvisers ( I am not, myself, an improviser) and usually amazed at their creations. Gabriela Montero is in a class of her own,though, in my opinion : a classical pianist who records and gives concerts of composed classical works AND improvisations both classical and other. I do not know of another classical pianist today who does this.
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#1494995 - 08/13/10 06:03 AM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: Derek Hartwell]
Wizard of Oz Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/12/09
Posts: 873
There must be dozens if not more of her improv playing put up on Youtube. I'd say she's top of the class for classical musicians, wr doesn't seem impressed but I don't see any other concert pianist doing it, like Lang Lang or what have you.

To Tmoose: who thinks Montero is a better improviser than Keith Jarrett, you must be out of your mind!!

Listen to Koln, La Scala, and all his Sun Bear concerts.

He's playing completely improvised solos that are like 30-45 mins long without a pause.

Montero's improvs are always based on a well known theme or song.

His latter solo stuff is wide ranging, yes there's alot of atonal stuff which vamps and has no real melodic purpose. Some are hard on the ears and I don't find it the most pleasing either.

Some of the KJ solo live albums like Carnegie Hall and the latest one, Testament has some bloody astounding stuff.

Montero only has classical vocab in her playing. There's no altered chords or jazz inflected rhythms.
Jarrett has both.

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#1495004 - 08/13/10 06:23 AM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: Derek Hartwell]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7838
Originally Posted By: Derek Hartwell
Gabriela Montero is in a class of her own,though, in my opinion : a classical pianist who records and gives concerts of composed classical works AND improvisations both classical and other. I do not know of another classical pianist today who does this.


And with good reason - most would be too embarrassed. But hey, more power to her - if she's found a shtick that works for her, fine. I just find it hard to believe that people think it is so special.

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#1495018 - 08/13/10 07:31 AM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: wr]
Derek Hartwell Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/03/09
Posts: 219
Loc: United Kingdom
It's so special because it's so rare among classical pianists.
It's characteristic of jazz pianists but even in jazz there are few GREAT ones.
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#1495047 - 08/13/10 08:43 AM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: Derek Hartwell]
JustAnotherPianist Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/20/08
Posts: 798
Loc: United Kingdom
I'd like to make a coherent post stating my feelings on improvisation in general. I don't think it'll come out all that well, and it's bound to cause some sort of a flame war, but w/e.

I love improvisation. After playing classical music my entire life, I only started seriously studying improvisation quite recently. I believe that it has been a godsend for my technique and musicianship. I improvise whenever I am in the mood, frequently for an hour or more without stopping. It is an intense and liberating experience, and I would highly recommend all classical pianists include its study as part of their training. I greatly resent how improvisation has all-but-disappeared from the classical tradition.

However, I am highly puzzled by the attitudes toward improvisation which I have encountered in the jazz comunity. Many of them, it seems, have quite a fetish for improvisation. If it's not improvised, it lacks inherent creative value. If it's not improvised, you're just "reading notes off the page". I find these types of attitudes quite widespread amongst serious jazzers-I've encountered them quite a bit on this very forum, in fact, and much, much more in private conversations I've had with my many friends in jazz.

In my experience, and in my opionion, I have rarely seen improvised music which really touched my soul in a meaningful way. I HAVE seen it, many times. But far more often I see improvising musicians who are HIGHLY skilled on their instruments, yet seem quite obsessed with displaying this skill rather than taking the audience on a meaningful musical journey.

Coltrane was undoubtedly the best sax player. This I cannot argue. He could do absolutely anything with his instrument-he had no limitations of technique whatsoever. While I find some of his playing to be beautiful in the most unearthly sublime manner, much of it strikes me as, forgive the crude term, highly sophisticated and refined musical masturbation.

Composition takes a great deal of time. Improvisation happens on the spot. Composition allows the composer not only to erase, change, and edit the musical material. It allows composers to create music that is more thoroughly, dare I say more artfully constructed.

It almost boils down to a basic quality vs. quantity thing. I think most people agree that your average Beethoven concerto is better than your average Mozart concerto (of course many of the Mozart concerti are gems, but, imo, he would have done himself a favour had he composed not quite so many). The same can almost be said of Haydn's symphonies. I love Haydn symphonies, but the Beethoven symphonies are closer to my heart. They are more significant works of art.

The skill which it takes to improvise over jazz standards (and not sound like a complete idiot) is enormous. It requires three things: complete mastery of the instrument, a vast knowledge of theory, and an ability to apply that knowledge of theory INSTANTLY.

At the end of the day, however, you're just noodling over some chord changes.
Unless you REALLY are something special, it's just not likely going to be of much artistic value. Not compared to a Schubert sonata in the hands of a master.

I will always continue to develop my skill in improvisation. The day is not far off when I will include an improvised number in own recitals. But it will be an improvisation from scratch.
With all due respect for Ms. Montero, I find the 'improvise When the Saints Go Marching In in the style of Mozart' kind of a gimmick.... more of a comedy routine than an attempt at serious music-making.


Go ahead. I am immune to the scorchings of any flames...

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#1495065 - 08/13/10 09:15 AM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: JustAnotherPianist]
izaldu Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 1250
Loc:
I totally agree with you, when you listen to a piece, who cares if it is improvised or composed? The best music there is was not improvised, i believe.

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#1495083 - 08/13/10 09:48 AM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: izaldu]
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10362
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Well, JustAnotherPianist, the flames will be erupting from eweiss any minute! smile

Actually, I find your position quite reasonable. I may not fully agree with the generalizations about Mozart/Haydn symphonies suffering by comparison with Beethoven, but your logic -- that overproduction may lead to less creativity and more formulaic writing -- makes good sense. Reasonable people may disagree about this piece versus that piece, or what actually touches the heart more.

Improvisation in general can indeed suffer from paint by number syndrome. One can learn certain improvisational techniques, and then shuffle them around a bit. Voila, a new piece. I agree that the care and attention of a composer is more likely to lead to a musically more coherent drama than something dreamt up on the spot.
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#1495120 - 08/13/10 11:01 AM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: Piano*Dad]
eweiss Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
No flames from me. To each his own. smile
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#1495127 - 08/13/10 11:14 AM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: eweiss]
JustAnotherPianist Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/20/08
Posts: 798
Loc: United Kingdom
Eweiss' mere presence in this thread forces me to use all of what little restraint I possess in order to avoid making a mighty and well-aimed thrust with my dagger of truth deep into the heart of the new-age genre.....

But then again.... to each his own.

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#1495131 - 08/13/10 11:19 AM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: eweiss]
Elene Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/07
Posts: 1412
Loc: under monsoon clouds
Gabriela Montero is truly astonishing in her fluency with improvisation. I'm not real crazy about her renditions of Chopin, etc., but what she's able to come up with on the spot is quite an accomplishment.

I can't remember the man's name, sadly, and I've never heard of him since, but a few years ago I heard an organist who came to Albuquerque for a concert at a church, and he did something rather similar. Four themes were given to him in sealed envelopes, which (obviously) he hadn't seen, and he used them to construct a sonata on the spot, with each movement in an appropriate form, everything complex and contrapuntal, not in any way just using "tricks" or repeating the same tired ideas. I'm not even the same species as a person like that.

(And of course Bach, Chopin, Mozart etc. could do all that effortlessly.)

Bruce Adolphe-- his Piano Puzzlers may be a "gimmick," but he does them exceedingly well.

Elene
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#1495339 - 08/13/10 05:11 PM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: wr]
stores Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/09
Posts: 6646
Loc: Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: Chris G
Everything she played could pass for a classical composition written a hundred or more years ago except that you could hear the melody she was improvising on. Her improvisations were not in any way a simplified version of the classical style, they were complex and all of the voices were there.



There must be two Gabriela Monteros, I guess, because the one I've heard improvising doesn't do anything very remarkable or complex at all - it's just pretty ordinary note spinning of a sort that many university-level pianists can probably do for hours on end, especially the ones who've had to learn how to realize a figured bass.



Pfffft. Get a clue. She's remarkable. Not every pianist (classical pianists especially so) has the gift of improvisation. It's not simply note spinning and if you think that it is, then perhaps you should try it some time and see what you come up with. I can read figured bass (per your theory) with no problem whatsoever and can't come close to what she pulls off.
_________________________

"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $


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#1495344 - 08/13/10 05:15 PM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: stores]
JustAnotherPianist Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/20/08
Posts: 798
Loc: United Kingdom
It does take a great deal of confidence to pull it off in public the way she does... I don't think anyone's really arguing that. I know many many university-level pianists, and only one or two of them would dare to improvise in public.

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#1495384 - 08/13/10 06:03 PM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: Elene]
LisztAddict Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/12/05
Posts: 2896
Loc: Florida
Originally Posted By: Elene
I can't remember the man's name, sadly, and I've never heard of him since, but a few years ago I heard an organist who came to Albuquerque for a concert at a church, and he did something rather similar. Four themes were given to him in sealed envelopes, which (obviously) he hadn't seen, and he used them to construct a sonata on the spot, with each movement in an appropriate form, everything complex and contrapuntal, not in any way just using "tricks" or repeating the same tired ideas. I'm not even the same species as a person like that.


Cameron Carpenter?

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#1495406 - 08/13/10 06:41 PM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: stores]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7838
Originally Posted By: stores
Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: Chris G
Everything she played could pass for a classical composition written a hundred or more years ago except that you could hear the melody she was improvising on. Her improvisations were not in any way a simplified version of the classical style, they were complex and all of the voices were there.



There must be two Gabriela Monteros, I guess, because the one I've heard improvising doesn't do anything very remarkable or complex at all - it's just pretty ordinary note spinning of a sort that many university-level pianists can probably do for hours on end, especially the ones who've had to learn how to realize a figured bass.



Pfffft. Get a clue. She's remarkable. Not every pianist (classical pianists especially so) has the gift of improvisation. It's not simply note spinning and if you think that it is, then perhaps you should try it some time and see what you come up with. I can read figured bass (per your theory) with no problem whatsoever and can't come close to what she pulls off.


Sorry, but your lack of ability doesn't translate into me being impressed with what she does. And whether I can or can't improvise doesn't have any bearing on the matter.

I'm much more impressed with the organists who have to improvise fugues in their competitions. Also, I once heard a composer improvise a full-fledged sonata movement on notes given from the audience and it actually was of the kind of complexity that astonished, unlike Montero's quite modest achievements.

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#1495418 - 08/13/10 06:52 PM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: wr]
stores Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/09
Posts: 6646
Loc: Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: stores
Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: Chris G
Everything she played could pass for a classical composition written a hundred or more years ago except that you could hear the melody she was improvising on. Her improvisations were not in any way a simplified version of the classical style, they were complex and all of the voices were there.



There must be two Gabriela Monteros, I guess, because the one I've heard improvising doesn't do anything very remarkable or complex at all - it's just pretty ordinary note spinning of a sort that many university-level pianists can probably do for hours on end, especially the ones who've had to learn how to realize a figured bass.



Pfffft. Get a clue. She's remarkable. Not every pianist (classical pianists especially so) has the gift of improvisation. It's not simply note spinning and if you think that it is, then perhaps you should try it some time and see what you come up with. I can read figured bass (per your theory) with no problem whatsoever and can't come close to what she pulls off.


Sorry, but your lack of ability doesn't translate into me being impressed with what she does. And whether I can or can't improvise doesn't have any bearing on the matter.

I'm much more impressed with the organists who have to improvise fugues in their competitions. Also, I once heard a composer improvise a full-fledged sonata movement on notes given from the audience and it actually was of the kind of complexity that astonished, unlike Montero's quite modest achievements.


No need for an apology, since I'm not trying to convince you as such. She's considerably talented whether we think so, or not (dial up Ms. Argerich and ask her what she thinks).

Now to hear someone improvise as you did with this composer/sonata movement would be truly interesting. Was the improvisation truly in sonata form, or was that what he, or the audience decided to label it? I only ask, because I'm not sure actually composing something like a sonata movement on the spot is the same as improvising on the spot.
_________________________

"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $


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#1495435 - 08/13/10 07:09 PM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: stores]
al-mahed Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/09
Posts: 769
Loc: Rio de Janeiro
Would be very interesting if we start to do the same. Give each other themes and some time (of course it cannot be done in real time) to bring up something.

If anyone is up to it I'd like to try and see whateter I (we) can do in terms of creativity. I'm thinking about a ludic activity, not some sort of competition... anybody?

smile
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Working on: music

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#1495479 - 08/13/10 08:05 PM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: stores]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7838
Originally Posted By: stores
Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: stores
Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: Chris G
Everything she played could pass for a classical composition written a hundred or more years ago except that you could hear the melody she was improvising on. Her improvisations were not in any way a simplified version of the classical style, they were complex and all of the voices were there.



There must be two Gabriela Monteros, I guess, because the one I've heard improvising doesn't do anything very remarkable or complex at all - it's just pretty ordinary note spinning of a sort that many university-level pianists can probably do for hours on end, especially the ones who've had to learn how to realize a figured bass.



Pfffft. Get a clue. She's remarkable. Not every pianist (classical pianists especially so) has the gift of improvisation. It's not simply note spinning and if you think that it is, then perhaps you should try it some time and see what you come up with. I can read figured bass (per your theory) with no problem whatsoever and can't come close to what she pulls off.


Sorry, but your lack of ability doesn't translate into me being impressed with what she does. And whether I can or can't improvise doesn't have any bearing on the matter.

I'm much more impressed with the organists who have to improvise fugues in their competitions. Also, I once heard a composer improvise a full-fledged sonata movement on notes given from the audience and it actually was of the kind of complexity that astonished, unlike Montero's quite modest achievements.


No need for an apology, since I'm not trying to convince you as such. She's considerably talented whether we think so, or not (dial up Ms. Argerich and ask her what she thinks).

Now to hear someone improvise as you did with this composer/sonata movement would be truly interesting. Was the improvisation truly in sonata form, or was that what he, or the audience decided to label it? I only ask, because I'm not sure actually composing something like a sonata movement on the spot is the same as improvising on the spot.


Yeah, I know that Argerich said she was impressed. I am glad she liked what she heard, but you know, that just makes me wonder about Argerich's taste and discrimination, rather than change my opinion of Montero's improvisations.

Yes, the composer's improvisation was really in sonata form, although in a modern dissonant style that didn't rely on tonal cadences for structural marks. He asked for people in the audience to name a few notes. He scribbled them onto a large paper sheet, and then quickly came up with a secondary theme derived from the first motif, which he also wrote down. Then he just sat down, collected his thoughts for about 30 seconds, and dove right into an improvised exposition, and about five minutes later, was finished.

I don't understand your distinction between "composing on the spot" and "improvising on the spot". To me, improvisation is composing, regardless of whether there is a predetermined formal outline or not (if that's the issue - I can't tell).

BTW, Rzewski also improvises on stage (much more interestingly than Montero, IMO), and asks for the pianist to do some improvisation in his "Variations on 'The People United'".

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#1495558 - 08/13/10 11:03 PM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: al-mahed]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7838
Originally Posted By: al-mahed
Would be very interesting if we start to do the same. Give each other themes and some time (of course it cannot be done in real time) to bring up something.

If anyone is up to it I'd like to try and see whateter I (we) can do in terms of creativity. I'm thinking about a ludic activity, not some sort of competition... anybody?

smile


Sounds interesting if enough people here would participate - I might attempt to do it if at least 4 or 5 others are willing to make fools of themselves along with me. And if it is after the "Unsung Heroes" e-cital.

Maybe everyone could work from the same theme/motif/series of notes. It could perhaps be something everybody knows, like the first eight notes of Beethoven's 5th symphony, or the first phrase of "Fur Elise". Or it could be some random series of notes, on the other hand.

To make it simple, you could just start a thread in the Members Recordings area and people could upload there.

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#1495561 - 08/13/10 11:06 PM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: wr]
beet31425 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3784
Loc: Bay Area, CA
Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: al-mahed
Would be very interesting if we start to do the same. Give each other themes and some time (of course it cannot be done in real time) to bring up something.

If anyone is up to it I'd like to try and see whateter I (we) can do in terms of creativity. I'm thinking about a ludic activity, not some sort of competition... anybody?

smile


Sounds interesting if enough people here would participate - I might attempt to do it if at least 4 or 5 others are willing to make fools of themselves along with me. And if it is after the "Unsung Heroes" e-cital.

Maybe everyone could work from the same theme/motif/series of notes. It could perhaps be something everybody knows, like the first eight notes of Beethoven's 5th symphony, or the first phrase of "Fur Elise". Or it could be some random series of notes, on the other hand.

To make it simple, you could just start a thread in the Members Recordings area and people could upload there.



I'm in! Sounds fun.

-J
_________________________
Beethoven: op.109, 110, 111

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#1495655 - 08/14/10 03:19 AM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: beet31425]
Wizard of Oz Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/12/09
Posts: 873

Just Another P, I play jazz and I agree with your thought on improvisation. In fact, most of jazz improv is based on chords and scales that we have worked out before.

It's like when we speak English, we are saying it on the spot, but using words that we know and make sense.

"Apple bird fly can't dog sit over and." Now that was just a random sentence made up, it was "free improv" if you will, but made no sense.

Same with any improvised music. You aren't going to play a tune that changes keys every 2 bars and make it sound good, because no music is like that. Nor play some weird chord progressions like 5 major 7th chords in row followed by 5 dominant alt and then end on a minor. There's a reason why 2-5-1 is the foundation for jazz and nothing else.


Chick Corea wrote an article called "The myth of improvisation", where he said we are playing the things we know, just in a new way.

Most melodies are based on either the major or minor scale, or a combination. I could play something completely chromatic, but it would sound horrible, because that's not the structure of music. Or I could play some weird tune where I only used a a perfect 4th or 5th interval. IT wouldn't sound that great.


If you listen to all the great jazz guys, Coltrane, Jarrett, Bill Evans, Herbie, Miles, you can tell they regurgitate certain patterns and lines in their improvs. It's just natural, like when you talk you have certain favourite words or catch-phrases.

There's a jazz pianist called Chris Donnelly, who's from Toronto too and he writes about this in his blog:

http://www.chrisdonnellymusic.com/Blog/Blog.php/reflections-on-solo-piano


Basically, improvisation is much more heavily prepared beforehand than people realize.

Interesting hearing how your jazz friends have almost a "snobbish" attitude towards improv. I haven't seen it as much myself.

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#1495660 - 08/14/10 03:47 AM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: Wizard of Oz]
JustAnotherPianist Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/20/08
Posts: 798
Loc: United Kingdom
The snob attitude was encountered on this forum in the forms of disciple1 and bjones, if any of you remember....

I agree with what you've said, Wizard. However, in the method of improvisation which I study (yes, there is a method) we try to move away from preconceptualized motoric patterns as much as possible. And it's NOT easy to do that. Not when you've been perposely ingraining motoric patterns into your brain for ten or twenty years...

But yeah the improv vs reciting thing..... it's like stand up comedy vs. shakespeare comedy. Both can be awesome. Both can suck. Depends who's involved.

I understand why jazz musicians value improv so much-it was very central to the development of jazz. Before bebop, a lot of jazz pretty much sucked. Big band and dixieland, anyone?

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#1495666 - 08/14/10 04:32 AM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: JustAnotherPianist]
Wizard of Oz Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/12/09
Posts: 873
ah i remember bjones, i think people were saying if he was the same guy as disciple1.

Tell me more about your method of improv. I learned it on the fly, just listening to alot of records and piecing things together. No real rhyme or method, but more a pick and choose.

I know what you mean about the motoric patterns. If you've played the same scale 1000's of times, like you would in classical exercises, the fingers automatically go to what they know. You almost have to unlearn things.

The battle is hearing the sound in your mind first, but it's hard when you want to do fast runs like in jazz where literally the fingers will take over.

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#1495681 - 08/14/10 06:09 AM Re: Gabriela Montero [Re: Wizard of Oz]
JustAnotherPianist Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/20/08
Posts: 798
Loc: United Kingdom
yes, the battle is in hearing the sound in your mind and being able to produce it with the body.

I don't ever practice regular scales anymore. Complete waste of time, imo. The only scale practice I do is improvising scales and modes. Much better than enforcing the same old same old patterns.

The method I study was developed by the teacher with whom I study improvisation. He is the scariest pianist I have ever seen. He can play anything, absolutely anything. He can improvise multiple-voice polyphony in any style, in any tempo. He has the smallest hands of any pianist I know, yet he can play and hold down the interval from A to F# with only his fourth and fifth fingers. Scary scary man.

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