October 20, 2018

A 52 Week Autobiography Through Music – Week 42 – Improvised Music and Free Jazz

I have been listening to and thinking a lot about improvised music over the past few months and one thought keeps coming back to me. it seems to me that free improvised music is the natural and more honest and natural extension of the 12 tone and atonal work of early 20th composers like Shoenberg, Webern and others. While many of these composers works rejected the standard western ideas of tonality and even rhythmic structure and moved towards a certain unpredictability and chaos they were still composed pieces of music - written down and meant to be played more or less the same way every time allowing for some but not necessarily a lot of of artistic interpretation by the performers. In other words they are to some extent static. Improvised music on the other hand is an organic and living creation.

Free improvised music is almost never entirely free. It is misleading to think that it is. There are agreed upon structures and ideas and restrictions that guide musicians through any given “freely" improvised work. while a certain piece of music could be codified and performed repeatedly the improvised aspect ensures it will never be played the same way twice.

This can be applied to all jazz of course so what’s the difference? Improvised music is music that lacks the traditional structure, melodic standards, chord changes and harmonic and rhythmic expectations of Jazz and other western musical forms. The compositions draw more from texture, timbre, density, dynamics and the interplay of those elements. Also experimenting with unusual ways to play, treat and extract sound from traditional instruments can be a big part of improvised music.

In this video I focus on only 4 artists (the three I speak about and the 4th who's music ends the video) but of course there are countless other, very important and significant improvisors from both the Rock and Jazz genres.

An example of how many of these artists are interconnected, Manafon a later David Sylvian album features a wonderful group of improvisors one of whom is Evan Parker laying the foundation for his songs. A performer who also appears on a few later David Sylvian records is Arve Henricksen Who plays trumpet in SuperSilent.

In the Process of making this video I found out that Cecil Taylor Died in April of this year. Here is an article from the Guardian about him.

About Marilyn Crispell


One Response to A 52 Week Autobiography Through Music – Week 42 – Improvised Music and Free Jazz

  1. patricia says:

    your commentary about what makes this kind of improvisation different from the “usual” jazz improvisation is extremely informative! thanks.

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