R2: Improvisation

This week we read articles by Nettl, Lewis (Gittin’ to know y’all), DJ Spooky and Vijay Iyer, and David Wessel and Matthew Wright.  I enjoyed the articles by Nettl and the conversation between DJ Spooky and Vijay best, so I will begin with those.  I really liked how in Nettl’s essay, he described how people used to view improvisation as a craft, while composition as an art.  As an artist, I see the supposed divide between craft and art every day and this was a really useful analogy for me.  Although Nettl’s article was simple, it definitely made me think about how improvisation and composition can (and probably should be) mixed together.

I also really enjoyed the piece with Paul D. Miller (DJ Spooky) and Vijay Iyer.  I liked how DJ spooky connected musical improvisation with Melies and other visual artists, as this is more how I think.  I thought the idea put forth in this essay that sound and music is now “eerily post-geographic” was really interesting.  Many people believe that to truly understand a work, you must also understand the context in which it was made.  Because of sound recording and mixing, sound is now removed from it’s context.  It is at once a live moment, yet a moment past and in a very different place.  I also thought the questions of how can you own a recorded piece was really engaging.  If a recorded piece is a live moment, who says that moment is yours to own? This made me question whether improvisation still a community or if it has begun to shift to individuals owning parts of their improvisation, so it is less collaborative.

Lewis’s second piece was interesting to read as now I had a slightly better context for what he was talking about (I am not very familiar with the history of jazz).  This paper went along similarly to the first paper, speaking of African Americans creating jazz and how improvisation was put down partially because of racism.  He went further in this paper to explain how some white jazz musicians (Eurological Jazz artists) believed that jazz was doomed to end up in recycling it’s conventions and that this was an attempted erasure of African Americans as experimental music makers. The idea that whether one’s identity plays a part in the agency and identity of the player (and thus is expressed at least somewhat through his/her playing style) is interesting as it brings up then was Euro Jazz jazz at all? European Jazz players did not have the same history as the people who created jazz, was their style similar, but yet not jazz?

Lastly we read a piece by David Wessel and Matthew Wright.  This was a very technology heavy piece, that honestly I did not understand all the terms in (although I’m getting there).  Luckily there was a lot of explanation in this piece.  I suppose I hadn’t realized that some of these things such as dipping, scrubbing, and catch and throw had names, but I could think of examples and understood exactly what was meant by these terms once they were explained.  I was definitely mostly confused about the field programmable gate array. My main takeaway from this reading was more knowledge about the technology side of music and also how we should begin to look for ways to allow continuous gestural information and ways to make it intuitive even through software.

Leave a Reply