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#589933 - 05/17/07 05:31 PM The limits of improvisation
Reaper978 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/08/05
Posts: 1325
What do you think the limits of improvisation are?

If someone had masterful composition skills, a brilliant ear, and a great technique, could that person churn out something as extraordinary as... oh, I don't know, 3 movements of Petroushka?

I just find it fun to think that the pianist is improvising while I listen to obviously pre-composed music.

But if the technique and compositional knowledge is there, what's stopping the pianist from simply improvising pieces?

At the moment I would like to study composition and improvisation. Now that it has become clear that counterpoint between improvised jazz and classical music is fundamentally the same (it's just expressed differently), this has my mind going all over the place. Listening to pianists like Eldar, where a classical presence is VERY visible, also makes me wonder what the true limitations, or even if there are any.

This is becoming extremely interesting.

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#589934 - 05/17/07 05:49 PM Re: The limits of improvisation
Bob Newbie Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/02/06
Posts: 1549
unlimited..I just viewed a DVD called free improvisation..with Marilyn Crispwell..
in the end she was playing weird things..
..well it sounded like Von Dexter..creepy soundtrack stuff...so you can go from being tasteful..to bizzare..

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#589935 - 05/17/07 06:06 PM Re: The limits of improvisation
Bassio Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/24/03
Posts: 2480
Loc: Alexandria, Egypt
I guess it is only limited by your abilities and/or your imagination.

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#589936 - 05/17/07 07:28 PM Re: The limits of improvisation
Kisch Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/11/07
Posts: 144
Loc: Bristol
Whatever the limitations are, Keith Jarrett must be sailing pretty close to them - some of the finest piano albums ever recorded, entirely improvised.

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#589937 - 05/17/07 11:58 PM Re: The limits of improvisation
tomasino Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/05
Posts: 2039
Loc: Minneapolis, Minnesota
The limits of improvisation are in the lack of deliberation. Too often, when I listen to a very fine pianist improvising, or a good jazz group, I hear idiom and mood, but I do not hear composition.

Composition takes place over a longer period of time than improvisation. Something meaningful happens when a composer takes the time to cross out something and rescore it. I call this "deliberation."

Improvisation usually lacks this quality of deliberation, although it may have a spontanious quality. To my ear, though, it usually lacks weight and gravitas, and does not transcend the moment.

Tomasino
_________________________
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10


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#589938 - 05/18/07 12:28 AM Re: The limits of improvisation
steveb40 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/02/06
Posts: 113
Loc: New York City
I agree with some of what Tomasino says (and I'm a professional improviser), however I would say the difference is that when I improvise I'm tapping into an emotional core that can only exisit at that moment in time.

I think if it lacks wieght and gravitas then you may be listening to the wrong music. There are many levels of improvisation in jazz and unfortunately the term has become synonomous with some boring music in today's society.

I consider the greatest music to be composed music (not all of it, of course) by some great composers and many who were also great players...Scriabin, Beethoven, Prokofiev etc...

But to discount improvisation would be such a narrow view in this life for some of my most precious musical listening experiences have been from improvisers, both recorded and in concert (Bill Evan's version of Ellington's Reflections in D comes to mind). Improvised music is very deep and can speak volumes...Like everything great it requires knowledge of the language and a familiarity with the art. To me it most definitely transcends the mundane existence of day to day life.

This comes from someone who enjoys both equally and I'm thankful each day...Great music knows no boundaries...
_________________________
-steve
www.steveblanco.com

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#589939 - 05/18/07 11:12 AM Re: The limits of improvisation
whippen boy Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 3886
Loc: San Francisco
 Quote:
Originally posted by tomasino:
Improvisation usually lacks this quality of deliberation, although it may have a spontanious quality. To my ear, though, it usually lacks weight and gravitas, and does not transcend the moment.
I beg to differ! Some of the greatest, and indeed *transcendent* organ works of the 20th century began as improvisations. (Excuse my bringing up organ music again, but it is a specialty of mine... \:\) )

Consider this list: Duruflé Reconstructions

Maurice Duruflé spent many tedious hours with gramophone recordings, transcribing masterful improvisations. I doubt he would have expended all that effort if the works lacked weight and gravitas, and did not 'transcend the moment'. The url above is also a partial list of the many recordings of these transcriptions.

The Tournemire pieces in particular, are a cornerstone of French 20th-century organ music today. His improvisation on the "Te Deum" is a work I've performed many times. The work is always fresh, always stunning. I have no doubt that it was completely improvised on the spot on that fateful day in 1931 when the recording engineers came to St-Clotilde to "capture" Tournemire's improvisational genius for posterity.

And so it is with the French organists.

Another great improvisateur whose works were transcribed by many, many others: Pierre Cochereau.

Colin, you keep asking questions about improvisation - if you would check out any of the organ improvisation CDs I keep recommending ;\) you would know[/b] the answer to some of these questions! Check out some Cochereau CDs or perhaps the "Symphonie-Passion" of Marcel Dupré. Yes, an improvised symphony! \:\)
_________________________
Grotrian 225
S&S Hamburg-C
M&H "A" at home

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#589940 - 05/18/07 12:00 PM Re: The limits of improvisation
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8828
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
 Quote:
Originally posted by whippen boy:
Colin, you keep asking questions about improvisation - if you would check out any of the organ improvisation CDs I keep recommending ;\) you would know[/b] the answer to some of these questions! Check out some Cochereau CDs or perhaps the "Symphonie-Passion" of Marcel Dupré. Yes, it is an entire symphony! \:\)
Yes, Colin- by all means. I know these works well -I have mentioned the Duruflé reconstructions elsewhere several times- and they are fine examples of the French improvisational style in full flower. The Tournemire (via Duruflé) Victimae paschali laudes will knock your socks off- and freighten your neighbors!

Dupré's Symphonie-Passion is also impressive, particularly the last movement, though I suspect when he came around to notating it, some parts may have been "tightened up" a bit. (Am I correct, whippen?)
_________________________
Jason

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#589941 - 05/18/07 12:12 PM Re: The limits of improvisation
whippen boy Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 3886
Loc: San Francisco
I think a large ratchet might have been involved, yes. ;\)
_________________________
Grotrian 225
S&S Hamburg-C
M&H "A" at home

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