This week I am making a recording with the amazing violist Jonah Sirota. The project is quite unique. It will be a recording of improvisations for viola and organ. Naturally, my thoughts have turned to some of the interesting aspects of working on improvised music. I’m going to document the project a little here on the blog, so check back during the week to find out how things are progressing.
My personal background in improvisitory music goes something like this. I was writing music down from my early teens, so I was always noodling around a lot on my instrument. I eventually got interested in jazz and played out regularly in small groups and big bands. In grad school I participated in an avant garde improvisation ensemble led by the adventurous spirit of Kevin Hanlon. Also, I’m an organist, so I improvise every week in church services..
The great thing about doing improvised music is that it retains some of the fresh, simple joy of spontaneously breaking out into song. The danger is that it can become meandering and a little pointless. One of the tricks for great improvisations is creating meaningful structures. They have to be free enough to allow creativity to happen and sturdy enough to provide an emotional and directional framework.
So, we have our structures all sketched out. They even have working names like “Kind of Messiaen” and “B majory thing”. Tomorrow we will start recording them for real.
Did I mention that Jonah has a digital Tabla box?