Freitag, 28. Februar 2014

Minimal Improvisation Duo Score

Here are some impressions from yesterday´s lab. We are working on the Minimal Improvisation, using a duo score based on imitation and repetition that owe´s some inspiration to the Katajjait, a traditional form of Inuit duo singing. We had the pleasure of having british singer and performer William Woolf with us and vocal improvisator Yifat Cohen from Israel. From the duo format we went on to further explore Minimal Improvisation as a group which was delicate.

Freitag, 14. Februar 2014

The impertinence of constraint

Jennie Zimmermann and me doing Minimal Improvisation at Tatwerk, Berlin.

When perceived within a certain context, for example in comparison to works of Morton Feldman, what we do seems pretty natural and while we do it, it happens within an easy flow. But still, in the broader context of music, there seems to be a certain obscenity, a provocative quality to it.
No presentation of artistic skills, no effort to capture an audiences attention, the impertinence of constraint. What we do, may easily be perceived outside the boundaries of cultural practices labeled 'music'. Specialists may enjoy it, but for the general public, the amount of passivity involved causes irritation.

I am asking myself why I am content with this position. My aim is not to adress only an audience of specialists. What is demanding about Minimal Improvisation is it´s sparseness -  as if something is missing. I do love this quality of emptiness, I enjoy it while performing, but I understand that it is demanding and I guess I do love it exactly in being demanding. It forces any listener to lean forward into the music or stay outside, there is no attempt to catch the attention.

Of course, there is a contradiction: art is always communication, although in many cases it is by no means clear what it is, that it communicates, it is basically an act of putting something forward, of showing something, it´s no use denying that.

Of course there is a long tradition of art that is centered around this contradiction: showing that it is not showing anything, or, emphasizing that it is showing only very little. With Minimal Improvisation, we are part of that tradition.
I did mention Morton Feldman, but I do also relate to the repetitive primitivism of Heavy Metal pioneers Black Sabbath or the cold absence of human individuality that some Techno tracks display.

But still, there is the potential to irritate be acting so artistically restraint, by evoking the feeling that something is missing and somehow, that irritation is crucial to me. Why?

In my search for an answer to that question I came across the writings of Victor Klemperer and Imre Kertesz about their experiences under the Nazi-regime. I noticed that I actually enjoyed their descriptions, especially the point of view that they use to tell their stories: it is a somewhat disconnected perspective to the world, a remoteness from life and also, from one´s own personality.
Something is missing in their descriptions, there is a lack of identification with themselves, with their own emotionality. Reading their works gives me a sense of comfort, because I strongly connect to this disconnectedness.

I have to go deeper into this later, but for now I feel that this is a perspective that is worth being shown and that it can not be conveyed by describing it, but by imposing the experience on the listener. Don´t get me wrong, I´m not about history here, I am about a perspective that is relevant today.

Montag, 10. Februar 2014

What is Minimal Improvisation?

Minimal Improvisation is a form of improvising music and movement, developed by Phyla (Jennie Zimmermann and me). It´s main characteristics are strict reduction and repetition. Within this framework, subtle nuances can be highlighted effectively. Also, it can be used to develope more complex musical structures gradually and to transform these structures continuously in an ongoing collective improvisational process.

In the beginning of this process, each performer strictly reduces the vocabulary of sound or movement to only one. Reducing the means of expression of the single performer emphasizes the collective process, the interaction of the performers and the way the sounds affect each other. The decision, which specific sound or movement to use lies completely in the hands of the individual performers. Also, the temporal structure of that sound´s repetitions and, later on, it´s transformations are chosen by the performers - within a certain range.

By labeling this process 'Minimal Improvisation' we take recourse to Minimal Music, it´s emphasis on repetition and reduction. Also, we refer to Contact Improvisation and it´s non-hierarchical interactive approach.

Dienstag, 21. Januar 2014

Minimal Improvisation Simulation

This is a simulation of phase two of the MINIMAL IMPROVISATION process. We recorded some vocal expressions, I put them into the sampler software in ableton live and controlled them via Fabián Keslers DRK HETERO4 Max4live device, which I modified to use it for the slow tempos I desired. This device makes it possible to work with different tempos simultaniously which works fine as a simulation of musicians repeating material without sticking to a common pulse, so that the same material is shifted again and again. The whole recording is played backwards, thus emphasizing the surreal, non-human quality which already comes along with the process of sampling the human voice by seperating it from the person it may be associated with. Also, while any human singer would adjust the pitch to what others sing the samples are fixed, thus creating an impression of stoically sticking to one statement. For more info on the MINIMAL IMPROVISATION process look here: (german).

Donnerstag, 9. Januar 2014

Minimal Improvisation

Over the last month Jennie Zimmermann and me developed a specific improvisational process: Minimal Improvisation. An approach to improvising music by relating to the qualities of reduction and repetition taking from Minimal Music. Also, Minimal Improvisation is inspired by scores used in Contact Improvisation. Here are two exampes:

These are recorded by the two of us, which is the minimum setting for this score. We developed it in our Lab with more singers involved.

In the background we are working on the website for our shared project called 'Phyla', the future label for our teamwork and it will be online soon, yeah!