Interested in literature? See my bibliography...

December 2016: I have a new definition for a virtuoso musician... you should be able to improvise in private and more, of any ability, at any time... it shouldn't matter who it is or where it is or what kind of sounds come forth...
  Pauline Oliveros, at vs. Interpretation Festival of Improvisation Prague 2014, keynote lecture 18.July.
November 2016: Every moment is precious but every moment flees from itself.
   Le Quan Ninh: Improvising Freely: The ABCs of an Experience. PS GUELPH 2014 p.35. Download:
October 2016: Designing the exercises becomes an aesthetic action on its own and should reflect the interest and ambition of the ensemble. This allows rehearsal methods to contribute to, or even constitute, the musical output of the ensemble without imposing restrictions on the performance itself.
   Michael Francis Duch; Bjørnar Habbestad: "Lemur in Rehearsal and Performance" in: Rothenberg, David (ed.): vs. Interpretation. An Anthology on Improvisation, Vol.1. Prague (Agosto Foundation), 2015 (p. 130-135), p.134.
September 2016: The kind of music we are developing in this workshop...may...add to our present musical scene a more informal type of chamber music, offering both the composer and the performer a new hunting ground, ultimately, possibly, a much-needed new career.
   Foss, Lukas (1958): A Beginning. Report from a Workshop for Composers and Performers in Search of a New Mode of Making Music Together. source. The Juillard Review, Spring, Vol.V, No.2:12-16, p 14-15.
August 2016: For [Evan] Parker, freedom is connected to experience, to a shared knowing developed over a long period of time. This view, and Parker's practice, has been challenged by Jim O'Rourke, who makes a distinction between "people who play improvised music and people who improvise"
   From Michael Francis Duch; Bjørnar Habbestad: "Lemur in Rehearsal and Performance" in: Rothenberg, David (ed.): vs. Interpretation. An Anthology on Improvisation, Vol.1. Prague (Agosto Foundation), 2015, p. 133
July 2016: The thing I always come back to is Paul Klee's description of drawing - taking a line for a walk. I think of solo saxophone as taking a note for a walk. And we'll see afterwards where we went rather than me leading you round a path I know well".
  Evan Parker, quoted from Borgo, David: Sync or Swarm, New York/London (Continuum) 2005, p.36
June 2016: Without discipline, I would be in such an agitated state that I wouldn’t be able to perceive the unexpected surging up inside moments.
   Lê Quan Ninh: Improvising Freely: The ABCs of an Experience, PS GUELPH, p.35. Read it HERE (right-click at the hyperlink upper left to download).
May 2016: I would like to continue working on the score as a training programme. I find it interesting to work with structures and forget the structure again in performance.
   Max Stehle, Intuitiva 2014 (oral communicsation). See about upcoming Intuitiva New Arts Conference 2016 here!
April 2016: In fact, the material you have practised is much more instinctive in the moment, else you would not be fast enough...
(Deutsches Original: Letztendlich ist es auch so, dass das Material, das man geübt hat, in dem Moment sehr viel instinktiver ist, sonst wäre man auch nicht schnell genug...)
   Michael Griener in: Gagel, Reinhard: "Porträt: Vario 51" in improfil 78, March 2015, p.58
March 2016: Pure improvised playing would probably become too emotional for me in the end. It is also important... not to do things which would be natural to do... so that a structure results which is diverse... I am not only a player but a listener as well and I try also to satisfy my ears and my spirit.
   Günter Christmann in: Gagel, Reinhard: "Porträt: Vario 51" in improfil 78, March 2015, p.59.
February 2016: When several participants bring along their feelings and voices or tones, come together and crisscross each other, then the sum of improvisatory possibilities is multiplied to such a degree that anyone new to free improvisation will quickly become exhausted. To perceive, and to act at the same time intuitively and consciously in free improvised music are important themes of the learning process. Deutsches Original: Wenn mehrere Mitwirkende mitsamt ihren Empfindungen und Stimmen bzw. Tönen zusammen kommen und diese sich überkreuzen, wird die Summe der improvisatorischen Möglichkeiten derart multipliziert, dass jeder, für den die Freie Improvisation neu ist, von diesem komplexen Hörerlebnis schnell überfordert wird. Das Wahrnehmen sowie das intuitive, aber auch bewusste Handeln innerhalb der frei improvisierten Musik sind wichtige Themen im Lernprozess.
   Mäder, Urban; Baumann, Christoph; Meyer, Thomas (2013): Freie Improvisation – Möglichkeiten und Grenzen der Vermittlung. Part of a series: Forschungsbericht der Hochschule Luzern – Musik 5. Electronic document: p.70
January 2016: We have the potential to act in a way that defines the time in which we are living, and if this is what we want, we should also talk as if we are actually doing it.
Danish original: Vi har potentialet til at lave noget, der definerer den tid, vi lever i, og hvis vi vil det, så må vi også tale som om, at vi gør det.

  Peter Mühlmann, Director of Berlingske Tidende (daily newspaper), 27.April 2015.
December 2015: One particularly enthousiastic student wrote, 'Communication is the most important thing, even if it is at the expense of technique.'
  Charles E. Ford: "Free collective improvisation in higher education", British Journal of Music Education 1995, vol. 12, 103-112, p.109. Also online at IIMA:
November 2015: An improvised choir offers a scene where to observe the basic musical and social conditions of the moment. A scene which is always in a state of continuous emergence. What you learn can be applied to special occasions of family celebrations, to an executive meeting, to a weekend workshop, to the daily morning meeting of a school class, to an improvising circlesong group, or used as warm-up in your mixed village choir.
  Thomas-Maria Reck: "Stegreif-Chor und Stegreif-Coach", Ringgespräch über Gruppenimprovisation LXXVII, April 2014, p.76. This is about a new Swiss education - see
October 2015: ...the interpreter of open scores by Cage was a servant of the composer in the traditional sense. Cardew, on the contrary, wished to bring the interpreter to a maximum of personal involvement and individual research through the openness of his structural prescriptions.
   Nina Polaschegg: "INTERWEAVINGS. Towards a new view of the relation between composition and improvisation, p.10-11. See the article here
September 2015: The methodical division of labor (I write it, you play it) served us well, until composer and performer became like two halves of a worm separated by a knife, each proceeding obliviously on its course.
   Lukas Foss: The Changing Composer-Performer Relationship: A Monologue and a Dialogue. Perspectives of New Music, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Spring, 1963):45-53, p.45.
August 2015: To describe it in a simplified way, for the representatives of the first generation, composition and improvisation were two parallel music cultures which had equal rights and which, in the end, would mutually exclude each other. For those of the second generation, by contrast, they were aspects or moments of one art music.
   From Nina Polaschegg: INTERWEAVINGS.Towards a new view of the relation between composition and improvisation.
July 2015: Prèvost argues that the collaborative nature of music exploration is not fully acknowledged through the process of writing scores, of fixing sounds and their innovative techniques of production. The result of this appropriation of sound by composers is an embedded capitalism within music...
   About: Edwin (Eddie) Prèvost: "Free improvisation in music and capitalism: resisting authority and the cults of scientism and celebrity", by Saunders, James (ed.) in the introduction to: The Ashgate Companion to Experimental Music (Ashgate), 2009, p.3.
June 2015: I am convinced that genuine coordination must ultimately be obtained via 'reaction', in other words, via musical points of reference, via listening and playing accordingly. (...) Performance always required the ability to combine, say, passive and active, leading and following. Every downbeat is also an upbeat; our senses take in, enjoy what is just moving into the past, as our mind is shaping the next sounds.
  Lukas Foss: The Changing Composer-Performer Relationship: A Monologue and a Dialogue. Perspectives of New Music, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Spring, 1963), (45-53)pp. 50
May 2015: Mette: Duchamps said, unawareness is not art. There is a real problem when people lose awareness and do something they don't mean.
  Cristian: then it becomes impulsive music instead of intuitive music, impulses intead of getting the big scope of things
From Denmarks Intuitive Music Conference 2006 - Discussion

April 2015: It is clear from the descriptions in chapter one and the chapters which follow that some improvisors are inspired by many of the same values and practises associated with the work concept - in particular, the concert performance - but what differentiates improvised music from most other practises in its challenge to the work concept is its basis in collaboration
   Chase, Stephen Timothy: Improvised Experimental Music and the Construction of a Collaborative Aesthetic. PhD, Dep.of Music, University of Sheffield, 2006. p.78f.   Read my summary here: - please scrool down to the book list and find (g3)/Chase...
March 2015: The twentieth century ramificated into countless "isms" ...searching for the systematic ... but the question remains to be asked, whether an aesthetic system ... really can catch the essence of art.
  The only contradiction to a system is the unforeseen. Improvisation, in latin improvisu, means not to be able to foresee ...

   From the booklet to CD "impositioner" - Davork Kajfes, piano, Peter Schuback, cello. nosag CD067, 2001.
February 2015: After all, no one has ever made their way on their bicycle on a cold winters' night and paid 150 DKK for a concert ticket in order to enjoy how people read notes. We are talking about art
   Henrik Sveidahl, head of Rhytmic Conservatory of Music. About changes of the curriculum since 2011, with less demands of music reading and theory to applicants. In: Bennike, Christian: "Farvel til bryllupsjazzen" [Goodbye to Wedding-Party Jazz], Information (daily newspaper), 19.January 2015. Danish text here.
January 2015: ...before us there is an entirely new year which we are already filling up with expectations and wishes. "Your wish will be fulfilled", an old Christmas song states which many of us have sung, but we know well that it is not all that simple. We expect so much. Maybe we should rather remember to expect something from each other... We really must expect something from our fellow human beings, just like we wish that others expect something from us.
   Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, in her New Year's speech to the nation, 31. December 2014. [Editor's note: if you don't see the point instantly: think of how both collective improvisation and composition for improvisors radically require that we expect something from each other - and unlock new ressources from that.]
December 2014: "...because I find oral communication too fleeting and also too commanding. It doesn't allow them enough room for their own fantasy. ... I think paper is a sort of God, but it can be disregarded because one can always take a distance from God" (p.137).
   Anna la Berge on using verbal text as notation, quoted from Guy de Bièvre: Open, mobile and indeterminate forms. PhD, Brunel University 2012. Available through See also my bibliografphy
November 2014: Concepts like “instant composing” attempt in a certain way to treat composing and improvisation as the same thing and to differentiate only between the way the music was created (at the desk or while playing respectively). They do, however, not lead much further, and they neglect or negate the possible specific characters and subtle differences.
   From Nina Polaschegg: "Interweawings. Towards a new view of the relation between composition and improvisation".
October 2014: Since there is no written part to watch, all the performers’ attention can be given to sound and invention.
   Pauline Oliveros. From preface to Four Meditations for Orchestra, Publ. 1996 by Deep Listening Publications.
September 2014: "With a playful hint of paradox, John Corbett describes improvisation as "making a decisive statement and at the same time giving oneself over to the situation"
   From Corbett: "Ephemera underscored: Writing Around Free Improvisation", Jazz Among the Discourses, ed. Gabbard, Krin, Duke University Press 1995, p.225-6. Quoted from From Borgo, David: Sync or Swarm, New York/London (Continuum), 2005, p.191
August 2014: "When I get the question after playing: was it improvised or composed? - then I think it's a superficial one. Where is the border between them? In everyday life improvisation and planning are so interwoven you don't notice it. We need to look at it from this angle: what's so special about it? We prepare ourselves to be unprepared, that's the paradox".
   Zdenek Konopásek during interdisciplinary panel discussion (17.July) at Vs. Interpretation, Festival of Improvisation, Prague 16-20. July 2014.
July 2014: "Improvisation is the art of the possible, and as such affects vastly differing strata of the population: The pauper must improvise in order to survive; but then so must the merchant, the general, sailor, thief, and magician. It could therefore, theoretically at least, provide a partial model for some kind of post-revolutionary language that would promote reconciliation and unity among different classes of people; and for a while, during the sixties, such ideas were widespread and exerted considerable influende on large numbers of artists (myself included)."
  Frederic Rzewski, "The Algebra of Everyday Life". Preface to Gronemeyer + Oehlschlägel (hrg.): Christian Wolff. Cues. Writings & Conversations / Hinweise. Schriften und Gespräche, p. 14, 1998.
June 2014: ...when to lead when to follow... all of this happens at the speed of thought or - even better - intuition...
  Interview with Evan Parker in: Saunders, James (ed.):The Ashgate Companion to Experimental Music (Ashgate), 2009, p.331.
May 2014: There is too much control in contemporary music. It's like trying to control a horse by telling it each step to take. We should seek to have control at a higher level.
   Stefan Tiedje during the Conference Discussion at DIMC 2013 - now Intuitiva New Arts Conference. Next Conference upcoming, 30.July til 3.August 2014 - see here!
April 2014: ...When I first encountered NIFI [Non-Idiomatic Free Improvisation] in places like the legendary Klinker club or through the Bohman Brothers' Bonnington Centre events, its carnivalesque mutations and the sheer immediacy of the music opened a portal into what seemed like an unlimited musical galaxy. What was also significant to me – revelatory even – was not just the aesthetic approach, but the way the music approached that other dimension of the gig space continuum: the audience.
   Bespoke creations composed right in front of you, musicians less than half a metre away...

Richard Thomas, The Wire February 2014.
March 2014: "What I do is think of the worst case given the indeterminate conditions and the freedom which I give to the performers: what could somebody do given the restrictions I've set? What's the worst that they could do from my point of view? If I can accept that, if that's still okay, then the thing is all right"
   Gronemeyer, Gisela; Oehlschlägel, Reinhard (hrsg.): Christian Wolff. Cues. Writings and Conversations / Hinweise. Schriften und Gespräche. Köln (Edition MusikTexte 005), 1998, p.170. Also in Lely, John; Saunders, James (ed): Word Events. Perspectives on Verbal Notation. New York (Continuum), 2012, p.415
February 2014: To the long conflict between composer and performer-partners who, ideally speaking, should complement one another in a relationship built on mutual need (and who are separated today by the widest gulf) - electronic music offers one solution: divorces. Ensemble improvisation offers another: it brings musical invention together with performance.
   Lukas Foss. The Musical Times, Vol. 103, No. 1436 (October 1962) (684-685) , p.685.
January 2014: Single idioms are no longer regarded as prerequisites for the music making but as tools which can in every moment be used or not used" (p.13).
   Munthe, Christian: "Vad är frio improvisation ?", Nutida Musik nr. 2, 1992
December 2013: As an improvising musician you gain a perspective on improvisation different from what others have. You work within it and understand that it is not just spontaneity. In order to be fruitful its elements must be weaven into the kind of synthesis in which structure and impulse meet.
   David Linnros: Improvisation - ett svar på upplysningens ensidiga ideal. Opgave skrevet ved Fortsättningskurs, Södertörns Högskola. s.3.[Improvisation - a response to the one-sided ideal of the Enlightenment. Paper written as part of a course at Södertörns Högskola, Sweden, p.3]
November 2013: "Freedoms - yes, but only those intended! No sloppiness!"
   Pianist Friedrich Gulda, Worte zur Musik, München 1971. [sorry, page number has slipped away]
October 2013: When I studied the Shakuhachi in Japan my teacher would say, "the sound is the expression of breath". He didn't say, the sound is the expression of your or the composer's intentions, he related it directly to something I had previously thought of as being purely physical.
  ...We now have to address the assumption that mind in some way tells body what to play. Whether we perceive it as the conscious, or the unconscious, we still assume that the mind is directing the physical action. Musical improvisation is unrelentingly at the cutting edge of what is perceived as the mind/body problem. I believe that the traditional ways of thinking do not describe this cutting edge.

   Jim Denly: "Improvisation: the Entanglement of Awareness and Physicality", Resonance 1 (publ. by London Musicians' Collective, 1992.
September 2013: Freeimprovisers are important to the society in bringing to light some fundamental values and ideas, for example: how to get along; how to be flexible; how to be creative; how to be supportive; how to be angry; how to make do. So there is a social and political "content" in their music that seems appropriate today, though it may not usually be overt".
  Tom Nunn: Wisdom of the impulse. On the nature of musical free improvisation. San Fransisco, publ. by the author, 1998. Online edition 2004, p.133. See it here.
August 2013: Improvisation is born out of the now, though of course it constructs itself during time.
   Sylwia Zytynska: "Hier und jetzt. Die Suche nach dem selbstbestimmten Moment", in: Nanz, Dieter A. (ed.): Aspekte der freien Improvisation in der Musik. Hofheim (Wolke Verlag) 2011, p.35
July 2013: ...Fantasies... do not consist of passages learnt by heart nor of thoughts stolen from others. They must spring from a good musical soul - the declamatory quality and the fast surprising moves from one affect to another.
   Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, in "Versuch über die wahre Art, Clavier zu spielen" (1753). Quoted from Jacob, Andreas: "Der Gestus des Improvisatorischen und der Schein der Freiheit", Archiw für Musikwissenschaft 66 (1), 2009, p.9.
May+June 2013: ... the absurdity... arose in music pedagogy of the 19. century... one played music of one's own time, and it was also perceived by the audiences. Suddenly one began to play pieces from earlier times... the role of the musician became strongly narrowed down to a performer only... I am absolutely convinced that there is a certain threshold you cannot transgress if you do not improvise.
  Pianist and improvisor Manon Liu Winter, Interview with Hannes Schweiger "beschreiblich weiblich", freiStil / Magazin für Musik und Umgebung 7, April 2006. Online here, p.3.
  Manon Liu Winter performed at Copenhagen Open Form Festival 2013 - see here!
April 2013: Henrik: why must it be so that people prefer being entertained instead of drawing themselves into challenge ?
Immanuel: our brains like structures, they like patterns. That makes it easy for us to navigate. And in improvised music you get much less of that.

   From our Conference Discussion at Denmark's Intuitive Music Conference 2010. Upcoming conference 8-11 of August 2013. See more here!
March 2013: ...Each particular occasion will, like each new day, have much in common with the one that went before...
  Interview with Evan Parker, in: Saunders (ed.): The Ashgate Research Companion to Experimental Music (Ashgate), 2009, p.332.
February 2013: Most notational systems can be stretched beyond their original purpose. You can eat sandwich with a spoon, but it is not very convenient.
   Jan Maegaard: Musikalsk Modernisme 1945-62, Copenhagen 1964, p.118
January 2013: But rather than composition being something that facilitates more effective improvisation for larger groups, I would say that improvisation is the thing that will sustain, revivify or rescue composition. I think that improvisation can survive perfectly well without composition. I'm not sure that composition will survive or continue to exist in the way it has done without drawing on the incredibly powerful and rich resource of improvised and non-prescribed music
   Simon H. Fell in England, Phil: "Form is only emptiness, emptiness is only form", roundtable discussion, Resonance 6, 1 p.21 (20-27), 1997. About improvisation and composition, p.21.
December 2012: Boulez ... seemed to believe that unless a performer is provided with enough 'primary form of material' he cannot but 'turn to' what he already knows. The Boulez argument rests on the assumption that the improvising musicians ... know what they are going to do or play. Further, he assumes it is possible to know what one knows!
   Prèvost, Edwin: The First Concert. An Adaptive Appraisal of a Meta Music. (Copula, Matchless) 2011, p.161
November 2012: Whatever changes there have been were in the way of refinement and simplification of our basic idea: that of interpreting the moment, rather than constructing repeatable programs; creating meaningful rituals, not images; becoming involved with the process, the operation, and not with the result of it, or its effect on people
   Rzewski, Frederic; Teitelbaum, Richard: liner notes to CD MEV Musica Elettronica viva "Friday". plana-M 29/NMN.073, 2008.

October 2012: Music industry's habit of thinking music according to the sound and according to its sounding documentation will... not be easy to overcome. Through the sounding material, its flowing character and its constant availability, our "Copy & Paste-society" has moved somewhat away from the original notion of the work of art. But it has not changed its notion of music as sound that can be reproduced and which is thus is a commodity. The "non-calculable", the inpredictable, the spontaneous, even the "non-reproducable" are, however, in my view qualities which directly are conditions for that which is "musical"...
   Herndler, Christoph: Wegmarken beim notieren unvorhersehbare Ereignisse. Magazin 31 Nr 16/17, ISSN 1660-2609 (Schweiz), 2011, p. 131. CBN. See more texts by this author in German here .
September 2012: Starting from improvisational practise, we have discovered "virtues" ... one ... virtue is easy to describe but difficult to practise: to keep to a decision once taken and to sustain it also during apparently contradicting circumstances. This sharpens a musical conflict. It has to be solved, but this is difficult - however, that is what makes improvisation so exciting.
   Peter Jarchow: Das Fachgebiet Improvisation an der Hochschule für Musik und Theater "Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy" Leipzig", ringgespräch über gruppenimprovisation LXIX, juni 2003, p. 38
August 2012: I've always regretted that the composer doesn't seem to have as many tools as the painter for presenting an artistic project...The fixedness of conventional notation and the status of the score have stiffened the relation to the musical work, hardly allowing a place... for the sketch, for the concept of 'work in progress'. Now, employing different ways of notating, I have precisely attempted to play with several time levels of the elaboration of a musical idea.
   Jean-Yves Bosseur: Le Temps de le Prendre. Paris (Editions Kimé), 1997 p.15. See - scroll down to A2.2, Bosseur...
July 2012: Listening and playing should become more and more the same thing - and confidence in the sustaining power of quite elementary musical processes helps us with that!
Thomas Reuter, workshop introduction at Deutsches Original: Hören und Spielen sollen immer mehr eins werden - und dazu hilft uns das Vertrauen in die Tragfähigkeit ganz elementarer musikalischer Vorgänge.
June 2012: Why are we talking about security? To me, concert performance is about being well-prepared as a person.
   Henrik Ehland Rasmussen, during the discussion at Denmark's Intuitive Music Conference 2002. Read about the upcoming conference in August here!
May 2012: I think thirty years on the idea of non-idiomatic music is something we would all take with a bit more of a pinch of salt. It's just a rejection of certain other idioms or perhaps an opening up to any idiom but you can't really say it's non-idiomatic.
Simon H. Fell in England, Phil: "Form is only emptiness, emptiness is only form", roundtable discussion, Resonance 6, 1 p.21 (20-27), 1997. About improvisation and composition, p.23
April 2012: I tend to think that on some level or another that pure improvisation isn't pure. When you listen to pure free improvisation, the things that are enabling you to hear it and for it to be played is to do with the existence of other musics.
Tim Hodgkinson in England, Phil: "Form is only emptiness, emptiness is only form", roundtable discussion, Resonance 6, 1 p.21 (20-27), 1997. About improvisation and composition, p.23
March 2012: SF: At one time there was a need in improvised music to reject everything and that in itself was quite restrictive.
   TH: It compromised the music because it introduced a schema which was not the point. I see it as a form that tries to be pure although it's impossible to be pure. But I see that as being a perfectly valid thing to do.

   Simon H. Fell + Tim Hodgkinson in England, Phil: "Form is only emptiness, emptiness is only form", roundtable discussion, Resonance 6, 1 p.21 (20-27), 1997, p.23.
February 2012: The invention of analog or digital sound recording has shed a totally new light on notation ... After that, notation emancipated from the goal of reproduceability, and it can thus, from being a static tool, become a dynamic one.
   Austrian composer Christoph Herndler at his website on new music notations.
ORIGINAL: Die Erfindung analoger oder digitaler Tonaufzeichnung hat [die Notation] in ein völlig anderes Licht gerückt...Die Notation hat sich demnach vom Zweck der Wiederholbarkeit befreit und kann so von einem statischen zu einem dynamischen Werkzeug werden.
January 2012: The red-hot lava of the sixties has cooled down, one beginns to survey the pathless new atoll - in order to inhabit it.
  From Dieter A.Nanz: "Improvisieren und Forschen. Gedanken an Rande der Basler Improvisationsmatineen", MusikTexte 114, August 2007, p.83. DEUTSCHES ORIGINAL: "Die rotglühende Lava der sechziger Jahre ist abgekühlt, man beginnt, das unwegsame neue Atoll zu vermessen - um es zu besiedeln."
December 2011: "Lacking a normally consistent or strong stylist identity, free improvisation can be disorienting at first. But disorientation has a positive function in this music, challenging listeners by breaking down established sets of expectations. Expectations are not destroyed, but rather fragmented or deconstructed to eliminate syntactical determinants. Once disoriented or confused, the listener is in a properly vulnerable state -- the search for meaning, any meaning, begins. The listener is nescessarily involved. How interesting and gratifying this search is will affect the listener's emotional and intellectual response to the music"
  Tom Nunn: Wisdom of the impulse. On the nature of musical free improvisation. San Fransisco, publ. by the author, 1998, p. 60. Online edition here.
November 2011: "I think that to fulfill all our potential as human beings we have to have not just order and not just disorder, but some malleability between the two."
   Simon H. Fell in England, Phil: "Form is only emptiness, emptiness is only form", roundtable discussion, Resonance 6, 1 p.21 (20-27), 1997. About improvisation and composition.
October 2011: A compromise between order and disorder, improvisation is a negotiation between codes and their pleasurable dismantling
   John Corbett, "Ephemera underscored: writing around free improvisation" in: Jazz among the discourses (Gabbard, Krin, ed.), Durham (Duke University Press) 1995, p.237. Quoted from From Borgo, David: Sync or Swarm, New York/London (Continuum), 2005, p.14.
September 2011: Music ... fluctuates between meaning nothing, meaning something and being interpreted as meaning something... The task of naming an improvisation often involves an element of play, sometimes in the form of a joke that refers to the ambiguity or absurdity of assigning titles.
   John Corbett, "Ephemera underscored: writing around free improvisation" in: Jazz among the discourses (Gabbard, Krin, ed.), Durham (Duke University Press) 1995, p.221.
August 2011: Free improvised music seems to be situated somewhere...between jazz and serious avantgarde. But where precisely (if you can accept "between" at all)?
   Meyer, Thomas: Improvisierte Musik in der Schweiz. Dissonanz/Dissonance 22, November 1989, p.23.
July 2011: By Lead or by Seed.
The title of a section in Borgo, David: Sync or Swarm, New York/London (Continuum), 2005, p.147f.
June 2011: Juan: I would like to replace or complement intention with the word motivation which has also an active aspect. Maybe not for a complete agenda, but for something to begin with. We may have motivation without intention of doing this or other concrete thing. The bad aspect of agenda could be that it might be so full that you are not really free. Motivation does not block the idea of intuition.
   From the discussion at Denmark's Intuitive Conference 2008. See all of the discussion here - and read about upcoming next DIMC here.
May 2011: The heroic figures of the lonely painter, composer, poet or rock guitarist still dominate our popular sense of creative genius. No equivalent place has been found for the highest order of collaborative activity.
   Edwin Prèvost: Minute Particulars. Meanings in music-making in the wake of hierarchical realignments and other essays. Wiltshire (Matchless), 2004, p.17
April 2011: I can understand why composers at that time felt compelled to justify their work with intellectual systems and words such as "aleatoric", "intuitive", and "indeterminate. They were trying to justify to the critical community that this was not "improvised music" - music that the performers were making up as they went along - but music that was truly envisioned by a musical mind and then passed down to the performers.
   My particular thrust in writing the game pieces - as with all of my music - is to engage, inspire, and enthrall a group of musicians into doing music that they are excited about, so that that excitement is passed on to the audience.
John Zorn in "The Game Pieces". An original interview to be seen in the text collection Audio Culture. Readings in modern music, by Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner. New York (Continuum), 2004, p. 197.
March 2011: It is not unusual to find free improvisors using their instruments (even the human voice) more as sound-producing devices than their intended use as traditional instruments. This illustrates the strong INFLUENCE of SOUND itself. ...This means the Potential Sonic Material for a free improvisation is enormously broad in scope. Just because an improvisor is holding a violin doesn't mean she/he is going to play Paganini! (though she/he might).
  Tom Nunn: Wisdom of the impulse. On the nature of musical free improvisation. San Fransisco, publ. by the author, 1998. See the online edition here. P.44f (in the paper edition).
February 2011: ...the dominant view of the developing new contemporary music represses or marginalises the fact that aleatorics and open work structures were only a small part of a diverse movement against the traditional notion of music, musician and musical work. And, remarkably, exactly these repressed dimensions of this reaction have lived on and unfolded a strong influence precisely in recent years. Improvisation plays a central role in these new views – and this is the case both inside and at the same time outside the traditional context of New Music.
   From: "Interweavings. Towards a new view of the relation between composition and improvisation" by Nina Polaschegg,
January 2011: Trust that you will get a chance to play. Trust that if you are not playing those that are will play beautifully, and at some point the music will ask you to play again
  From Hall, Tom: Free Improvisation. A practical guide. Boston (Bee Boy Press), 2009. ISBN 978-0- 615-38862-1., p.62.
December 2010: Our (German) official view of music history since 1945 is still centred on two paradigms which were developed within the Darmstadt Summer Courses: serialism on one side and the reaction against it from the side of Cageians, and aleatorics and other strategies for opening up the musical work on the other. In composed music of today, aleatorics plays only an insignificant role, just like the strict serialism, and open structurings of music works are exceptions in contemporary composition. The quasi official view of music therefore concerns itself with positions from the origin of New Music after 1950 which admittedly implied a radical thinking through of principal possibilities for employing a new view of the musical work and which, by consequence, also appeared necessary and revolutionary, but which have remained without a real succession.
   From: "Interweavings. Towards a new view of the relation between composition and improvisation" by Nina Polaschegg,
November 2010: "When you are standing there and don't know what to do, you have no control... there is a loss of control in it into which you have to dare to throw yourself out... and I think that for all of us it has been a big obstacle, but also the greatest satisfaction".
Musician from Danish Ensemble Midt-Vest about starting to improvise. Video published by Danish Arts Council,
   (Dansk original: "Når man står der og ikke ved, hvad man skal, så har man ikke nogen kontrol ...der ligger et kontroltab i det, som man skal turde kaste sig ud i ... og det tror jeg for os alle sammen har været en stor forhindring, men også den største tilfredsstillelse")

October 2010: "Also in this case, improvisation is a medium which takes its fellow players seriously and which brings forth hidden potential."
Matthias Schwabe: Grussworte zum Programm Exploratorium Berlin Sep 2010 - Jan 2011. On special educational arrangements being offered in addition to a large number of improvised music concerts and workshops.
(Deutsches Original: "Auch hier ist Improvisation ein Medium, das die Mitspieler ernst nimmt und verborgene Potentiale zum Vorschein bringt")
September 2010: "Often, many good ideas are lost in improvisation, thrown into the garbage, therefore I like to compose also. But free improvisation is really brilliant when it works"
   Tuomo Haapala, in DIMC discussion 2002.
August 2010: "I think that music, like all the other arts, is destined to disappear as an art-form, becoming another common and natural human activity, like gardening or cooking, freed of intellectual and class associations, and very useful to the human species"
   By Frederic Rzewski. From: Rzewski, Frederic; Teitelbaum, Richard: liner notes to CD MEV Musica Elettronica viva "Friday". plana-M 29/NMN.073, 2008.
July 2010: "IEM [Improvised Experimental Music] is not a commercially or formally a 'functional' area of music making, and therefore its participants locate its value for them by appealing either to art status (usually shown through the medium of performance) or to the seemingly more modest area of communal aesthetic activity"
   Chase, Stephen Timothy: Improvised Experimental Music and the Construction of a Collaborative Aesthetic. PhD, Dep.of Music, University of Sheffield, 2006, p.81f. Read my summary here: - please scrool down to the book list and find (g3)/Chase...
June 2010: Carl: what is your strategy as an improvisor in the jungle of improvised music?
Belinda: there is no jungle but freedom, choices made. I feel it more like exploring
Regine: you have every possibility and that's the jungle
Corinna: often, the music itself makes the choice. If a motif develops, use it and do not go elsewhere
Mette: I experience being increasingly critical of myself, having to conduct activity in some direction
Belinda: energy and aesthetics is bigger than us
Emily: it's a combination of listening and we doing what we think the music needs

   From the conference discussion at DIMC 2009. See more about DIMC and the upcoming conference 5-8. of August 2010 here, as well as read the complete summary of the discussion!
May 2010: "It's that word play. You know, one of the things I talk to the students here a lot about is...'What do you do? You say you play music, what does play mean?'...I think most people actually work music"
   Hugh Nankivell quoted on p.104 in: Chase, Stephen Timothy: Improvised Experimental Music and the Construction of a Collaborative Aesthetic. PhD, Dep.of Music, University of Sheffield, 2006. Read my summary here: - please scroll down to the book list and find (g3)/Chase...
April 2010: "... improvisation the survival kit of nature... in the natural order of the development of music ... the first and primary music of all people were products of a series of discoveries made through the act of improvisation, the impulse being the driving force in the development of music, then action and reaction. It follows that the common thread of all music would be the kinship of improvisation... It's practise and appreaciation may facilitate... the fostering of respect and love among the peoples of the world, for what is greater than sharing one's soul?"
   From the article "What to do at the fork in the road? Improvisation as a model of social behavior and cultural navigational technique" by LaDonna Smith at
March 2010: Due to poor education in modern music, many musicians assume that most pictorial scores are basically alike - that they are pictures of concepts like improvisation, spontaneity, or chance, and that 'anything goes' in performance. Or, since particular notes are not specified in the alphabet-style of traditional notation, the greater latitude of control is misinterpreted as the composer's lack of care what happens sonically.
Smith, Sylvia; Smith, Stuart: Musical Notation as Visual Art, in Percussive Notes Vol. XVIII 1981, p.11
February 2010: Understanding how to make a strong choice and commit to it is an essential skill for every improvisor. However, one of the beautiful paradoxes of improvisation is that every individual choice is simultaneously of the greatest importance and not important at all. At every moment you must be both completely committed to what you are playing, and completely willing to let go of it if the music demands it.
  From Tom Hall: Free Improvisation. A Practical Guide, Boston (Bee Boy Press) 2009, p.30. You can read more about the book and see excerpts here!
January 2010: This appears important to me: I often experienced that listeners who were totally oriented towards traditional music and who could not relate to new music reacted with enthousiasm to improvised music which sounded clearly avantgardistic but which was in this respect well-succeeding. Why? My answer is: because they had a strong experience. They experience that musicians have a strong experience while they play.
   Mathes Seidl: Freie Improvisaton oder Die kreative Intelligenz des Körpers, ringgespräch über Gruppenimprovisation LXIX, juni 2003, p.16
   German original: Das scheint mir wichtig: ich habe oft erlebt, dass Zuhörer, die durch und durch traditionell orientiert sind und mit einem Stück neuer Musik nichts anfangen können, begeistert reagieren auf geradezu avantgardistisch tönende aber in diesem Sinne gelungene improvisierte Musik. Warum? Meine Antwort lautet: weil sie etwas erleben. Sie erleben, dass die Musiker beim Spielen etwas erleben.
December 2009: In fact, I do not consider such a very conservative institute like the Vienna State Academy to be entitled to award a distinction that carries the name of one of the great revolutionaries of music history. Does the Academy educate you to become real successors of the musical rebel and innovator Beethoven? Probably not; it leads you to a tame form of worship. But the message from Beethoven to you says: "I was a musical revolutionary, you should become what I was!" Instead of that you are being educated to become submissive officials. (...)
   In the subject of "Music history", the Academy loads you with the birth and death years of totally unimportant baroque and renaissance composers, instead of telling you where the true musical power of baroque and renaissance ages resides: namely, in the enormous dissemination of musical improvisation born out of spontaneous enthusiasm. They make you believe that the reproduction of previously written notes is musically superior to creative-improvisational activity of your own.

   From the speech held by the great Austrian music rebel, pianist Friedrich Gulda in 1969, 40 years ago, when awarded the "Beethoven medal" by the Vienna Music Academy. Gulda became famous for his interpretation of classics like Beethoven and Mozart, but he also insisted on the importance of being in contact with the present and on the value of improvisation. This speech caused an uproar from the Academy, and in protest Gulda gave the medal back. In these days improvisation is introduced more and more in classical conservatories, so we can truly say Gulda was ahead of his time. Quoted and translated (by CBN) from Worte Zur Musik, München (Piper) 1971, p.95.
   Deutsches Original:
Ich halte namlich ein so durch und durch konservatives Institut wie die Wiener Staatsakademie eigentlich nicht fur berechtigt, eine Auszeichnung zu vergeben, die den Namen eines der grossen Revolutionåre der Musikgeschichte tragt.
  Erzieht die Staatsakademie Euch, ihre Studenten, zu wahren Nachfolgern des musikalischen Rebellen und Neuerers Beethoven? Sicher nicht; sie leitet Euch im Gegenteil zu zahmem Nachbeten an. Die Botschaft Beethovens an Euch aber lautet: »Ich war ein musikalischer Revolutionår, werdet wie ich!« Stattdessen aber werdet Ihr zu fügsamen Musik-beamten erzogen.(...)
   Die Akademie belastet Euch im Fach »Musikgeschickte« mit den Geburts- und Sterbedaten vollig unwichtiger Barok- und Renaissancekomponisten, anstatt Euch zu sagen, worin die wahre musikalischle Kraft des Barock- und Renais-sancezeitalters gelegen hat: namlich in der ungeheuren Verbreitung der aus spontaner Begeisterung geborenen musikalisschen Improvisation. Sie redet Euch ein, dass das Abspielen von vorgeschriebenen Noten eine grössere musikalische Leistung sei als die schöpferisch-improvisatorische.
  So erzieht Euch die Akademie zu einer herablassenden und abschätzigen Haltung jenen Musikern gegenüber, die die gegenteilige Ansicht vertreten - besonders dann, wenn sie es wagen, diese auch zu praktizieren - wie zum Beispiel auch ich selbst.

November 2009: Carl: How do I become aware of my habits?
Regine: Maybe with exercises - maybe in responding to someone else, in a dialogue
Belinda: You may notice, this I have done many times
Regine: You have to be careful about that which you are comfortable about
Corinna: the question is, does it fit the context. Sometimes I think, I will not do this now.
Regine: If it's hard to do it in another way it sure is a habit.

   From the Conference Discussion at Denmarks' Intuitive Music Conference 2009.
October 2009: Free improvisation expresses directly the concept of free will. It is the democratization of musical process.
  Tom Nunn: Wisdom of the impulse. On the nature of musical free improvisation. San Fransisco, publ. by the author, 1998. Online edition, p.8. See it here.
September 2009: MS: What is the place and role of this type of scoring in the larger musical world? What does it uniquely offer?    TS: The role of graphic notation in the world today is to broaden communication between composer, performer, and listener. When Western notation was first developed, the composer was concerned about creating a symbol to represent a sound. Composers still have that viewpoint but now have seen many more possibilities. They have ideas about collaboration, intuition, imagination, improvisation, time, and space, stretching the limits of what we can communicate in symbols.
From "Inside Notations 21", article by Molly Sheridan in, The Web Magazine from the American Music Center, with interview with Theresa Sauer, editor of the book Notations21.
August 2009: "Joëlle Léandre is playing here not from memory but out of memory..."
  Sharon Kanach 1997, quoted in booklet of CD "No comment", Red Toucan RT 9313 (2001)
June 2009: Aus den Sieben Tagen is a big classic, yet rarely performed. “Classical” musicians despise it because a huge part involves improvisation, and improvisers do not consider it because it is “signed” music. What a regrettable mistake do all these people make. It is precisely during these few days when Stockhausen composed this collection, that he had placed the highest faith into musicians, and, through a metonymic extend, into humanity. At this peak point, the last piece of the book states “Play, you do not need me anymore, everything you will do from now on will be right and good.” Yet, the mistake will not be undone as “classical musicians” are too anxious to be abandoned by the composer, and improvisers cannot bear interference in their musical ideas.
   Aus den Sieben Tagen is a collection of pieces to be improvised after the very concise and apparently metaphysical instructions of the Master. But far from delivering us a strange joke or an esoteric manifesto, Stockhausen explores in fifteen pieces the main questions of composition, improvisation, art, its transmission and its origin, the status of the artist, his way of life and thought, the stage, etc.

   From the Insubordinations Netlabel release: LE CAR DE THON Nos meilleurs Stockhausen "intuitive compositions/improvisations", pieces from "Aus den Sieben Tagen" by Karlheinz Stockhausen.
May 2009: "People sometimes ask, why don't you just specify what you want to do and be done with it? I do! Actions are specified.."
   Chr. Wolff, quoted from Leigh Landy: Experimental Music Notebooks. Chur (Harwood Academic Publishers), 1994. Part of a series: Performing Arts Studies Vol.2, p.84. (Origin probably: De Lio: Contiguous Lines: Issues and Ideas in the Music of the 60's and 70's. Lanham, MD (University Press of America), p.200. ("Probably" because there is an error in the reference and the page number given match only this work).
April 2009: During the Intuitiva Festival, at the 26th of October 2007 in Wroclaw Poland, at a discussion, dancer Pawel Dudzinski told us about a comment he got from local dancers in Egypt who were surprised at his form of free improvisation. It made him think over, and maybe it throws our cultural perception of improvisation into relief, pointing out from a slightly new angle the risk aspect. They stated that "Oh, so you are dancing with demons".
  Carl Bergstroem-Nielsen (who was present).
March 2009: The international improvisation scene, as it has established itself as a third genre in its own right besides new music and jazz, was born in these times and takes the consequence of the endeavours to break down the customary division of labour between creation, interpretation and - concerning audience participation - even of reception... Peter Niklas Wilson quotes ...this statement by the clarinettist Theo Jörgensmann from spring 2000: "I am convinced that improvised music is the most modern music, since it has brought forward a wholly new type of musician, a holistic one, which is both conductor, composer and interpreter in one person".
  "Prinzipiell vielseitig. Vinko Globokar "New Phonic Art" und die Improvisation der sechziger und siebziger Jahre", MusikTexte 115, Novem ber 2007, p.61. The Jörgensmann quotation is from Peter Niklas Wilson: "Zur sozialen Irrelevanz improvisierter Musik", Jazz und Gesellschaft. Darmstädter Beiträge zur Jazzforschung Vol. 7 (Knauer, Wolfram hrsg.), p.269.
  German original: Die internationale Improvisationsszene, wie sie sich mittlerweile als eigenständiges drittes Genre neben neuer Musik und Jazz etabliert hat, ging aus dieser Zeit hervor und vollzieht das damalige Anliegen, die herkömmliche Arbeitsteilung in Kreation, Interpretation und - bei Publikumsbeteiligungen - gar teilweise Rezeption aufzubrechen ... Peter Niklas Wilson zitiert ... folgende Aussage des Klarinettisten Theo Jörgensmann vom Frühjahr 2000: "Ich bin davon überzeugt, dass die improvisierte Musik die modernste Musik ist, da sie einen völlig neuen Typ von Musiker hervorgebracht hat, einen ganzheitlichen Musiker, der Dirigent, Komponist und Interpret in Personalunion ist"
February 2009: The bebop pianist Thelonious Monk apparently once left the stage in a morose mood. He was very dissatisfied with the music he had just played. On being asked why this was so he replied that he had made all the wrong mistakes. This observation brings us to a neat, if tight, philosophical knot. It suggests that if there are wrong mistakes then the possibility of correct mistakes also exists ...
  Edwin Prèvost: Minute Particulars. Meanings in music-making in the wake of hierarchical realignments and other essays. Wiltshire (Matchless), 2004, p.101.
January 2009: There is only one freedom: that of the first tone.
   Peter Niklas Wilson in the booklet of CD, Altri Suoni AS 041, with Eichenberger/Torre - Gesänge aus dem Dickicht (1998).
December 2008: Whatever some players find inside theirselves, the others will return a transformed version to them.
   From Reinhard Gagel, "Zeit für Visionen", ringgespräch über Gruppenimprovisation LXXII, april 2008, p.19
November 2008: (...) Even in the light of the various retrospectives and premieres going on this year of Stockhausen's music I found this Aus Den Sieben Tagen (almost) complete project proved to be a very considerable artistic success. In my experience, these performances and their relationships to each other gave the lie to oft expressed convictions that the text pieces were too much of their time, or that only the famous Grammophone records could form the definitive versions for all time!
  It is probably also widely thought that these pieces, more than any others by Stockhausen, required his own performing presence to make them more than collaborative improvisations, or mere studies in group improvisiation.... I beg to differ.. (...)

   BernardP in Google Groups on the BBC transmitted Cut and Splice Festival in London around Stockhausens' textnotated music collection from 1968, Aus den Sieben Tagen. A number of great international musicians are playing in various constellations. After the main concerts on sundays 1. and 8. 10.30pm, you can for the next 7 days HEAR the music at the BBC website.
October 2008: The structures of improvisation are different from those of composition...when improvising, it is possible during playing to make a new interpretation of what was played before, by means of that which was played later, to change it in its meaning and in its weight when remembered. It is like in saying "who laugs last, laughs best", because you have to the very last note the power to really reverse the architecture, and there is no giving away of the musician's own responsibility until the end.
   From Manon Liu Winter: "Visionen", ringgespräch über Gruppenimprovisation LXXII, april 2008, p.23.
September 2008: All of these notations, since they reflect a work's stylistic priorities, influence the psychological attitude that a performer brings to the music. A notational style inevitably sends a message, in essence, defining the perrformer's "job." Here are three such messages: (1) You must articulate numerical truths with great precision: (2) You must make it clear that you are wrestling with overwhelming difficulties. (3) You are to project a spirit of carefree, improvisatory fluidity. Perhaps this larger message, whatever it may be, supersedes individual symbols and their meanings. Though the two versions of Example 19.8 indicate essentially the same pitches and durations, each version would project a different intensity and value in performance.
   From Schwartz, Elliot and Godfrey, Daniel: Music since 1945. Issues, Material, and Literature. N.Y. (Schirmer), 1993. See my full summary of the book here - please scroll down to the category "h1" and find Schwartz et al.
August 2008: "one of the reasons why free improvisation was a logical development in musical history can be understood retrospectively through relatively recent scientific studies of complexity and emergence. Creating musical coherence, variety and beauty without the instructions of a director was possible through the skills of listening and response that many musicians already possessed.
   David Toop, "Frame of Freedom: Improvisation, Otherness and the Limits of Spontaneity", in Undercurrents: The Hidden Wiring of Modern Music. Continuum, 2002. Quoted from Borgo, David: Sync or Swarm, New York/London (Continuum), 2005, p.62.
July 2008: For Lilli Friedemann, there was a pragmatic, even trivial, reason for improvising music instead of writing it down: she did not consider the new sound material capable of being notated, not even of being planned.
  Barbara Gabler, "Klang & Struktur. Improvisationsfestival zum 100. Geburtstag von Lilli Friedemann am 16-18. Juni 2006", Ringgespräch über Gruppenimprovisation LXXI, Oktober 2006, p.65.
June 2008: Carl (acting as a moderator): Does it make any sense to talk about music? (laughter)
  Regine: it makes no sense, but it's fun
Gerhard: it is necessary - in order to develop the playing
  From the discussion at Denmark's Intuitive Music Conference 2007. (Next one is upcoming 8-10.August 2008 - click on the hyperlink to see more).
May 2008: Many beautiful ideas in the contemporary score are hidden in a dense layer of details. Often information of the second rank hinders the "visibility" of the essentials - the composer's intentions and ideas. The aspiration to perform these details as precisely as possible takes most of musician's concentration and restricts the time and energy dedicated to musical thinking. In "RiRo", l tried to reduce the amount of details by condensing them into one main graphical image; this should lead the player to perceive my musical intention first, and only afterwards to think about ways of realization. Believing that a good performer, if he has understood the composer's musical intention, cannot misinterpret the piece, but instead - with his personality - can only enrich it, l tried to make my ideas as clear as possible and provide the freedom for an intelligent musician to explore them. Many ways exist to musically express the same idea. That is why l decided, instead of notating dynamics (p, f, cresc, etc), to use notes and lines of different sizes to represent the different levels of intensity/importance, so as to intensify the perception of the hierarchy of the musical elements. As in each piece, some notes function as structure, which hold the form together, some are only nice ornamentation. l hope that this type of notation will lead musicians to better distinguish these functions. The performer, by respecting this hierarchy, is free to play with the sound and form as given, to search and improvise, to react to the context of the moment and create a free stream of music.
  Note by composer Vykintas Baltakas on his piece RiRo, 1995-1999 for soprano and piccolo trumpet (Chezmuziek / Aust Musik Verlag Köln 1999). It employs a kind of optical notation. Quoted from the book Möller, Torsten - Shim, Kunsu - Stäbler, Gerhard: SoundVisions. Saarbrücken (Pfau), 2005, p.32.
April 2008: After the concert at La Scala, a small man in his sixties came backstage with what appeared to be several orchestral scores under his arm accommpanied by a young relative (grandson? great nephew?). I thought the young man was probably a fan and had brought his relative (a musician, obviously) to see my concert; totally improvised piano concerts being relatively rare.
   It turned out, however, that the older man had been the assistant to the conductors at La Scala for every production for the past 25 years, and had, of course, heard all the music at the hall in those years. He spoke no English (the young man translated).
   With tears in his eyes at times and gesturing towards his heart to try to convey that his feelings were stronger than words, he told me that he had all my albums and had for many years been a great fan of my music, but that nothing had prepared him for the experience of this live solo concert at La Scala. He said it was the strongest, most moving (again putting his hand to his heart and with tears in his eyes) musical experience he ever had, even though he had heard countless concerts at La Scala and even though he had all my recordings.
   My wife and I looked at each other, not really knowing what to do or say. I thanked him, but there was no proper way to say thank you for reinforcing the fragile (and at times, distant) knowledge that music is in the making of the music. The heart is where the music is.

   Keith Jarrett, from booklet to CD La Scala (Solo Concert, 1995), ECM 1640 537 268-2.
March 2008: "... consider these positions espoused by Elliott Carter and Derek Bailey. Carter argues that "You could say that a musical score is written to keep the performer from playing what he already knows and leads him to explore other new techniques and ideas. It is like a map leading a hiker through unknown country to new vistas and new terrain, revealing to him new possibilities of experience that he did not know he could have". Employing the same analogy to hiking, Bailey writes, "One could approach the unknown with a compass and a method but to take a map makes it pointless to go there at all".
   Carter's comments are more allied with a top-down model of organization that involves a hierachy and the execution of sequential operations. Bailey appears more connected to the notion of a bottom-up, self-organizing system that involves decentralized or overlapping authority and typically a patchwork of parallel operations... Nearly all systems in real life appear to involve aspects of both of these approaches, but many of the things that we find most interesting in nature hover near the complex end of this spectrum".
From Borgo, David: Sync or Swarm, New York/London (Continuum), 2005, p.126. See a summary of this book here - please scroll down to the category "g1.1" or search for "borgo".
February 2008: "Imagine a world where you could only use other people's pre-existing printed words when speaking to someone else. If you could only use the ideas of other people to communicate instead of your own thoughts, feelings and attitudes, your personal and cultural language would be dead, lacking means of creative expression. Unfortunately, too many musicians live only in this kind of world, taught to speak and read exclusively the ideas of others (composers). Very few musicians are encouraged to speak for themselves".
   Beginning of Forword to Jeffrey Agrell: Improvisation Games for Classical Musicians. 500+ Non-Jazz Games for Performers, Educators and Everyone Else, Chicago (GIA Publications, Inc.), 2008. More here.
January 2008: "Mike Heffley, in a recent book on free improvisation, highlights three kinds of freedom in the music: freedom-from-form, freedom-to-form, and freedom-in-form." Quoted from Borgo, David: Sync or Swarm, New York/London (Continuum), 2005, p.19. See more about this book here! (If you don't get directly to the entry but just to the beginning, please scroll down to the category G1.1 and see the Borgo entry there ;-)
December 2007:"Free improvised music would not have been attractive till present times if it could not prove as a lasting versatile tool for a common exploration of different musical visions. Derek Bailey, one of Europe's most influential improvisers once said: "You can approach the unknown with method and compass but not with a map". Improvised music is still developed as a method and a compass that enables musicians to exchange ideas within different social- cultural and musical-educational backgrounds" Austrian improvisor Michael Fischer, "Some thoughts on a history of improvised music in Europe". Lecture at Soundplay Festival 2007 (Japan). See the entire text here. NB - Japanese version here!
November 2007:It was a bit of a fight for me to accept that I did not have full control when Carsten told us to improvise. But it was exciting to discover something I would never have believed I could do. We were not to improvise in jazz style with all those rules also involved in jazz. We were to improvise from our own backgrounds and play what came to our minds". Classical cellist Jonathan Slaato about his Ensemble MidtVest working with jazz musician Carsten Dahl. Information (daily newspaper, Copenhagen), 2. July 2007.
September+October 2007:"Metaphorically speaking - in a traditional work my task is to produce a rose, in the way it has been handed down by the composer. In a work with open form, as a performer I'll have just a seed."
   Pianist Else Olsen Storesund, organizer of "Open work - a paradigm of the Arts", Oslo, March 2007. Next festival is planned to take place in 2009.
August 2007: "I dream about a music school having its main focus on improvisation (...) It has to do with making priorities, to allow for other values in teaching. Even at beginner's level, the sound is just as important as to hold the instrument in the right way. It is not a thing first to be dealt with at the fourth year, when Für Elise, Spain and Water Melon Man has come into your fingers. There are no preparatory exercises. First time you hold the instrument in your hand you have the possibility to create someting infinitely beautyful. (...) limitations of musical craft (...) are things that appear difficult, because you focus one-sidedly on a tiny area of the music and practise it till you are fed up with it. You do not get to the moon either by going up and down the Walking Street 500 times"    From a speech by musician Kresten Osgood at Day of the Music Schools at Tivoli, Copenhagen, 13.May 2007. Danish readers: see the whole speech here!
July 2007: "There are really no rewards in this music beyond a sense of personal exploration and discovery, and, on a broader scale, the promotion (and acting out) of an egalitarian, non-hierarchical, anti-commodity social vision. But then what more rewards could you want?"   Improvisor and music teacher Hal Rammel, quoted from Tom Nunn: Wisdom of the impulse. On the nature of musical free improvisation, p.257f. Publ. by the author, 1998. See the online edition here.
June 2007: Cristian: It's like three levels: there is a structure level, then there is the freedom level where you let go of all structure just to try the freedom, and then there's a third higher level of re-integrating the structure, but in a free way. Not freedom and structure being opponents but integrated - so you play Bach when you feel like it and then you stop playing Bach and play sounds and you can change in a free way. I would love to try that.
  Henrik: I wonder - are we afraid of cliches, or are we afraid of being afraid of cliches?

  From the discussion at Denmark's Intuitive Music Conference 2006. We're having this improvisor's meeting again this year 17-19th of August 2007! See much more info and summaries of discussions here!
May 2007: Given that the gesture of speaking with each other is the decisive criterion for those who improvise freely, then it becomes crucial how creatively a musical statement which was put forward for discussion is developed further on by the fellow players, in order to complement it with their own musical thoughts, in order to expand it and to continue it in varied ways.
  (Deutsches Original: Indem der Gestus des Miteinander-Sprechens zum massgeblichen Kriterium für die frei improvisierenden wird, kommt es also wesentlich darauf an, wie kreativ eine einmal zur Diskussion gestellte musikalische Formulierung von den Mitspielern weiterverarbeitet wird, um diese durch eigene musikalische Gedanken zu ergänzen, zu erweitern und fortzuspinnen.)

  Reinhard Kager: "Spontaneität versus Reproduktion. Einige Gedanken zur Situation des Improvisierens heute", MusikTexte 111, November 2006, p. 5f.
April 2007:Selflessness  To do something constructive you have to look beyond yourself. The entire world is your sphere if your vision can encompass it. Self-expression lapses too easily into mere documentation -'I record that this is how I feel'. You should not be concerned with yourself beyond arranging a mode of life that makes it possible to remain on the line, balanced. Then you can work, look out beyond yourself. Firm foundations make it possible to leave the ground.
   From "Towards an ethic of improvisation" - a classic text by Cornelius Cardew. Inspired by Taoism, it deals with individual virtues which improvisation can train - ranging from "integrity" to "acceptance of death". Originally publ. in Treatise Handbook. Ed. Peters; Hinrichsen Ed., 1971. Now online at
March 2007: "The notion of "possibility" is a philosophical canon which reflects a widespread tendency in contemporary science: the discarding of a static, syllogistic view of order, a corresponding devolution of intellectual authority to personal decision, choice, and social context".
  Umberto Eco, from The Open Work, quoted from the excerpt printed in the text collection Audio Culture. Readings in modern music, by Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner. New York (Continuum), 2004. - p.170. This work by Eco was historically an influential one on issues of modern music poetics.

February 2007: "...both the way jazz was put together and its improvisatory drift were wildly exciting to me. The most important insight jazz gave me was that music is a language we speak with each other. The duel between the soloists and that perfectly unique now that arises on the scene. That the trumpet sounds exactly like the trumpeter feels. Compared to how static written music can be, it was great for me to hear exactly where the player was, whether sad or happy, you can hear that in jazz. There is more NOW in jazz than in any other genre. It is a powerful thing to be able to feel it to such a degree, and that was a consciousness-expander of a high order for me".
  Danish rock songwriter and composer Anne Linnet in KODA/DK 4, December 2006.
January 2007: "I suggest you use the tape parts as an inspiration for how you work out your improvisation - that is, you can listen to them and maybe improvise along, as a preparation for the concert, and then let the concert itself form "traces" of this process, not allowing the audience to listen to the tape parts during your improvisation. On the other hand I think it could be both artistically and dramaturgically meaningful to present all the tape parts or a selection at the same concert, but placed elsewhere".
   This is the instruction to pianist Ellen Ugelvik by Danish composer Casper Cordes for the work "Repair - Repair! - Repair!! - Repair?" (2006). So the tape takes the place of graphic notation, so to speak. The electronic parts can be heard here (although you might have to play the final outcome in your imaginiation...). But here is a pre-cursor - "Akser" ("Axis") (2006) for Sinfonietta and improvising pianist, also played by Ellen Ugelvik. Improvisations in this work are based on optically notated phrases and clusters, to be used in a free manner, together with graphics showing the process. These graphics were derived from statistics of US soldiers and civilians killed during two years of the Iraq war.
December 2006: Paradise is now, and can only be now. The question that tormented Pascal - why humans perpetually exile themselves from this Paradise - has never been answered. People continue to choose to live in the Hell of the past, or the Purgatory of the future. For some reason they prefer renunciation or postponement to immediate gratification.
   For some reason they also appear to prefer an existing unequal society, in which there is a possibility of greater domination, to a more equal one in which domination is diminished.
   I believe these two things are somehow connected. The difficulty of living in the present moment is somehow related to the difficulty of creating an egalitarian society. Both of these things are perceived as ideals, only partially attainable, if at all, in reality. Improvised music has somehing to do with both of them.

   From Frederic Rzewski: "Little Bangs: A Nihilist Theory of Improvisation", Current Musicology 67/68 (2002), quoted from the text collection Audio Culture. Readings in modern music, by Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner. New York (Continuum), 2004, p. 270.
November 2006: "In [traditional] music [notation] reading, the loss of memory is an essential part ... while forgetting the precise symbols, a play establishes itself which yield various advantages. ... And why should not a fixed notation free the the musician who is true to the notation from his imprisonment, out where paradises of freedom offer temptations, about which improvisation with its sloppy stautes can only dream of ?
   Free spaces in moving from note to note, from one colour to a new one, from one gesture to a different one, are unlimited. Exactly within this microcosmos of very differentiated situation-bound decisions from the side of the interpreter, that which is notated is reduced to a crash barrier - let's stay within this metapher - crash barrier of a sounding motorway that lead from beginning to end of the composition. ...
   In improvisation there are no such crash barriers. There are only agreements and random happy moments of a musical logic, as well as the randomness of collectively composed cogency".

   From Hans-Peter Jahn: "Zur Qualität des Gedächtnisverlusts. Fesseln der Notation", MusikTexte 109, Mai, 2006, p. 21. This is a paper read at the Notation Congress in Berlin, December 2005, organized by Universität der Künste und Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler.

Interesting criticism. It could be tempting to ask, how small must those free spaces be in order to still be "paradises" and not "sloppy statutes" ? Since so many experimental notations devise free spaces in many sizes, often bigger than traditional note-to-note ones while still maintaing something seemingly comparable to the "crash barrier" - you may for instance think of Earle Brown, as well as of many others [CBN].
October 2006: Dario: composers who compose with an element of improvisation in an aleatoric way do not improvise. They deal with an unknown quality [aspect], like an X in mathematics.
   Daisuke: one interesting point is contradiction. I want to make good music. But I do not know what good music is. I think this is common to many of us.
From the discussion at Denmark's Intuitive Music Conference 2005.
September 2006: I wanted to make it clear to an audience what was happening. If I go to a concert of an improvising saxophonist I want to hear them play their instrument, and would be very disappointed to find they had actually just put on their latest solo CD, and were miming to it. (...) The music might be just as good but the process has been cheated. Our aesthetic appreciation is to some extent dependent on an understanding of process. I have observed, for example, that when children are given their first electronic keyboard they want to play the demo songs ad infinitum. When their friends also discover the 'trick' of pressing a button it seems anyone can do it, and the demo loses its power. The child will then want to play easier sounding pieces, which for them, of course, are more difficult to play. It's more impressive and demonstrates a real skill. We are appreciative of the effort, either physical or mental, that goes into creating the music.
  I go to concerts of improvised music in order to hear people think. I am interested in the musical decisions people make spontaneously.
  From Sylvia Hallett: "Corruption & Trickery: my Personal Path Through Electronic Music", Resonance 10, 2 [2005], p. 46. Published by London Musicians' Collective.
August 2006: "Aesthetic feeling mediates between external impressions and internal patterns of interpretation. It is based on the simultaneous perception of the world and the own self, in other words, of subjective "internal" schemata and the subjective "external" world, and so is bound to the development of the subject.
   (...) improvisers follow the tracks of the other, they follow their passion for the concrete things in the external world, and they take up an inner search for structure, which in part requires and in part causes the willingness to deconstruct habits, established patterns of thinking, and moral beliefs."
From Susanne Metzner: "Following the Tracks of the Other. Therapeutic Improvisations and the Artistic Perspective", Nordic Journal of Music Therapy 14 (2), 2005, p.158. This is an article reflecting on the aesthetic aspect of improvising, among others, in a music therapy context. Music therapy quite often employs free improvisation
July 2006: "Guitarist Derek Bailey (1930-[2005]) is among the founders of "free improvisation", a musical practise linked to, but genealogically and sonically distinct from, "free jazz". On the one hand, as Bailey contends here, "free improvisation" is the world's oldest form of music-making, predating jazz, the modernist avant-garde, and experimental music by millenia. On the other hand, he acknowledges that "free improvisation" also names a musical practise that emerged in Britain and Europe in the early 1960s inspired by jazz and free jazz, and also by Arnold Schoenberg's atonal music. Anton Webern's serial compositions, the indeterminate and experimental work of composers such as Earle Brown and John Cage, and other sources. Where "free jazz" players tend to affirm their ties to jazz and to African-American heritage, "free improvisers" generally resist explicit connections to "idiomatic" musical traditions, jazz included."
  From the introduction to an excerpt from Derek Bailey's Improvisation. Its Nature and Practise in Music, in the text collection: Audio Culture. Readings in modern music, by Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner. New York (Continuum), 2004, p. 255.
June 2006: Suddenly there is a soloist, and everyone accepts that. Undeniably, rules and regulations arise along the way. They are just unspoken. And they can be broken. The rule is that they can be broken. But of course there is joy connected to playing the same thing. Or to feeling that ones has common playing rules. Like children playing...
  An awareness and prescence arises, with the result that when something is really satisfactory, then everyone also knows what it is about"

  Randi Kjær, in Fri musikimprovisation - en vej mod udvikling af kulturfri kommunikation?. Cand.pæd - speciale fra Danmarks Pædagogiske Universitet af Felix Becker i Pædagogisk Psykologi, 2005, p.61. [Final paper in Danish, sorry!]
  [Danish original: ”Pludselig er der en solist, og alle er med på det. Det er jo ikke, fordi der ikke opstår regler og spilleregler undervejs. De er bare usagte. Og de må godt brydes. Reglen er, at de godt må brydes. Alle regler må brydes. Men selvfølgelig er der en glæde i at spille det samme. Eller mærke, at man har de samme spilleregler. Ligesom børn der leger. ….
  Der opstår en opmærksomhed og en præsens, som gør, at vi ved, at når noget er rigtigt tilfredsstillende, så er det også, at alle ved, hvad det handler om”].
May 2006: You have to distinguish between making a composition and playing it. It is only worth listening to when you are also doing like improvising at the same time.
    Gerhard Pischinger at discussion during Denmark's Intuitive Music Conference 2005.
April 2006: "Proposals for revisions ... did not succeed in establishing themselves, just like graphic scores which disappeared way out of sight. The reasons are obvious: publishing houses are to an increasing degree exposed to pressures of achieving economic success, rehearsal time is shortened exactly in the field of orchestral composition which is fundamental for both publishers and composers, and the fixing of instrumental education to traditional notation finishes off the job of deplorably putting a bolt in beforehand before the invention richness of composers. 'Delay of Music as an art form', so often quoted, also has to do with the notation form as a result of institutional barriers".
  From "Under the sign of consolidating" [Im Namen des Konsolidierens], Torsten Möller in MusikTexte 108, 2006, p.80. This is a report from the Notation Congress Berlin 2005, organized by Universität der Künste und Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler.
March 2006: "In fact, much of that which composers think has nothing to do with music writing, on the contrary it gets inhibited by it. For instance, music writing is diatonic and not chromatic; it takes crotches as its point of orientation - even measures of 3 crotchets is a paradox because you have three crotches forming a full measure which, mathematically seen, is nonsense. It is problematic to write three over two or five over four - that's beyond the normal - and it is an even greater problem to write a division by seven covering both sides of the bar line. Those are all things that do not need to be any problem at all in non-written music. This demonstrates that society's division of labor in spiritual and physical, the division of supierior and inferior people affects music even into its innermost structures; for only that which has a bar line can be forced through in front of an orchestra. So, writing a music that cannot be conducted is already a revolutionary act in itself, because it takes as a starting-point the independence of the single parts which has to do with sovereignity or self-esteem or self-responsibility".

DEUTSCHES ORIGINAL: "In Wirklichkeit ist es so, dass das, was Komponisten denken mit der Notenschrift überhaupt nichts zu tun hat, sondern von der Notenschrift nur behindert wird. Z.B. ist die Notenschrift diatonisch und nicht chromatisch; sie ist am 4/4-Takt orientiert - schon ein 3/4-Takt ist ein Widerspruch in sich, weil du drei Viertel hast, die ein ganzer Takt sind, was mathematisch ein Unsinn ist. Es ist problematisch eine Triole oder Quintole zu schreiben - das ist nicht das Normale - und es ist ein noch größeres Problem eine Septole über den Taktstrich hinweg zu notieren. Lauter Dinge dieser Art, die bei nichtschriftlicher Musik überhaupt kein Problem sein müssten.
   Daran kann man sehen, dass die gesellschaftliche Teilung von Arbeit in geistige und körperliche, in Überlegene und Knechte, Musik bis in ihre innerste Struktur total beeinflusst: weil nur was ein Taktstrich hat vor einem Orchester durchsetzbar ist. Also schon allein eine Musik zu schreiben, die man nicht dirigieren kann, ist ein revolutionärer Akt, weil sie von der Selbstständigkeit der einzelne Stimmen ausgeht, die etwas mit Souveränität oder Selbstachtung oder Eigenverantwortung zu tun hat."

Mathias Spahlinger, professor of composition at Freiburg, Germany. Quoted from an interview by Simon Steen-Andersen, Dansk Musiktidsskrift 6, June 2005, p.218. Danish readers may study the whole interview here.
February 2006: Bailey ... was a guru without self-importance, a teacher without a rulebook, a guitar-hero without hot licks and a one-man counterculture without ever believing he knew all the answers - or maybe any at all.
Obituary Derek Bailey, The Guardian, Dec. 29th, 2005. Read the whole obituary here. See also this quotation...
January 2006: Corinna: everyone has own limitations inside - if we get new ones, we can throw our own ones out of the window. [on working with scores and rules]
  Henrik: How do we get inspired ... maybe it's good to make the musician a little bit confused.
From DIMC 2004 Conference discussion
December 2005:    Interviewer: ...the word improvisation first came to me as a technique used by the classic jazz players as improvising upon a theme, so there, the seed is a snippet of melody that's recognizable to all, and I'm looking for what the seed is for Donkey, is it something that one of you picks up from the other...without discussing beforehand...not even an idea but ... totally ... self-generating - ?
   Hans: well, the sense that ...a conversation is completely unscripted... it's less an exploration of a certain theme or idea or motif in terms of pure musical ....- in terms of a bit of melody or of core percussion and it's more an exploration of dialogue's more "Hey, I'm gonna put this out there and we're gonna see how that kind of thing mixes and what that means...
   Interviewer: When improvising live on stage and you two melt over this rich, interior vocabulary you've developed, is there any room to bring in input from the audience, do you play out of any audience's reaction ?
   Hans: ...if the artist on stage isn't interacting with the audience in some sort of meaningful way, I'm really not sure exactly what the point is [laughter from the interviewer] of being live...

Improvisor and composer Hans Fjellestad from San Diegio interviewed in Outsight Radio on the 28th of January 2003. You can hear more at: (the player to hear it is available from More about Hans' context at and . See also .
November 2005: "Focusing on this play process and the art of notating it has interested me at least as much as their translate an idea as concisely as possible... intead of stressing its development which I could have achieved during a later phase of composition with more traditional notation means, to perceive it as a strong organism, with all its potentials"
  Jean-Yves Bosseur: Le Temps de le Prendre. Paris (Editions Kimé), 1997, p.15 (transl. by CBN). This is a large collection of verbally notated pieces.
October 2005: [Starting at this course] ... I felt like having grasped a very juicy orange, but I had no idea of what to do, why I was to have sticky fingers (I would have liked a fixed form) - but the orange has a very nice scent!
  Student about her impression of an Intuitive Music Course at Aalborg University, autumn 2003.
Danish original:
[i starten af dette kursus havde jeg en fornemmelse] ...som at ha fat i en appelsin fuld af saft, men jeg anede ikke hvad jeg skulle, hvorfor jeg skulle ha fedtede fingre (ville gerne ha haft fast form) - men den dufter dejligt.
September 2005: Sometimes we feel like slaves and discover the freedom inside that. Sometimes we feel free and discover we are slaves.
Audrey Rocher, at DIMC 2005 discussion.
August 2005: Berio was very strict concerning the interpretation of his score - it was not to be rendered the same way two times. When he had put freedom and the possibility of improvising into a piece, then it was the performers' duty to make themselves free.
 Lyt til Nyt, Danish Radio P2, 15. March 2005 on "Aron" and Neue Vokalsolisten (Germany).
July 2005: "It is extremely provoking for me to think about the circumstances of music production: the fact that there are composers writing music, conductors who rehearse them, musicians who are to do what composers and conductors say and an audience, the infantility and illiteracy of which is taken for granted. You cannot call that musical communication, it is a propagation system".
  DEUTSCHES ORIGINAL:  "Für mich ist es ganz aufregend die musikalische Produktionsweise zu erkennen: dass es Komponisten gibt, die Noten schreiben, Dirigenten, die das einstudieren, Musiker, die machen müssen, was der Komponist und der Dirigent sagen und ein Publikum mit dessen Unmündigkeit und Analphabetismus gerechnet wird. Das ist keine musikalische Kommunikation, sondern das ist ein Verbreitungssystem"
  Mathias Spahlinger, professor of composition at Freiburg, Germany. Quoted from an interview by Simon Steen-Andersen, Dansk Musiktidsskrift 6, June 2005, p.217-18. Danish readers may study the whole interview here.
June 05: "All humans (so far as I know) are confronted with mortality and the desire to overcome mortality. Recording and cloning represent a kind of permanence. (Even so, media impermanence is also a threat.) The headlong thrust in research all over the world to move towards the singularity, or merger, of humans and technology in a posthuman future is a way to overcome the “weakness of the flesh” - to avoid impermanence - to delay or eliminate death. What, then, about birth?"
     Pauline Oliveros in her article "Tripping On Wires: The Wireless Body: Who is Improvising?" published in the new online periodical Critical Studies in Improvisation / Études critiques en improvisation -
May 2005: "...when it gets improvised - it does have a quite different energy - one could feel that very clearly..." [ CBN]
    Mikael Beier, member of the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, after the concert 28th of April 2005.

"Classical musicians especially seem to have forgotten that the musicians that they venerate were great improvisors - Mozart, Beethoven, Bach..."
Improvisor, composer and conductor Bobby McFerrin, in an interview before the concert.
April 2005: "... lately he wrote a work for choir and orchestra for ensembles of the Danish Radio based on the fairy tale by H.C. Andersen "What one can Imagine". This is a story about a young man who cannot improvise. He has big ambitions as a writer, but all topics are already exhausted, the World has been written out, what then can he write into it?"
 Birgitte Schmidt Andersen on Bobby McFerrin, Klassisk Musik 4, April 2005, p.22.
March 2005: "When it's improvised, you can hear the person who's playing - that's the exciting thing about it".
  Jacob Harder, 13 years.

February 2005: "...a musician playing popular genres is much less inclined to play something which is incomprehensible to himself, he will always try to put himself into it, whereas many classical musicians, according to my opinion, too often play like robots, because the responsibility for what they play has been desposited somewhere else - in the notes and with the conductor"

(Danish original: en rytmisk musiker er langt mindre tilbøjelig til at spille noget, der er uforståeligt for ham selv, han vil altid forsøge at lægge noget i det, hvor jeg synes, at mange klassiske musikere for ofte spiller med hovedet under armen, fordi ansvaret for, hvad det er, de spiller, er deponeret et andet sted – i noderne og hos dirigenten. )

From an interview with Ole Faurschou, artistic director of Danish Ensemble MidtVest, Dansk Musiktidsskrift 3, December 2004/2005. Those who can read Danish can see the whole interview online here.
January 2005: "...'it has a brilliantly firm beat and really fits into my tradition' (...) the Music Master praised the bird to an extraordinarily high degree, he even assured them [the Emperor and the court] that it was better than the real nightingale (...)
    'Since, you see, my dear masters and mistresses, above all my dear Emperor! With the real nightingale one can never calculate what sound is going to come out, but with the artificial bird everything is determined! this is exactly how it will be with no surprises whatsoever! one can account for it, slit it open and show the human thinking, where the cylinders are situated, how they move, and how one thing follows from the other - !'
     (...) but the poor fishermen having heard the real nightingale, said: 'it sounds beautiful enough, it also sounds very much like it, but there's something missing, I don't know what'...
     (...) the Emperor, the court and all of the Chinese people had learned every little clucking in the song of the artificial bird by heart, but exactly for that reason they liked it best of all, they could sing along, and they did."

H.C. Andersen (1805-75) in his fairy tale The Nightingale (transl. from Danish by CBN and David Schwartz). The real nightingale fascinated everybody until a mechanical one was introduced, whereby the real one sank into oblivion. This text quote seems to celebrate the glories of unpredictable, improvised music and to treat with irony both rationalistic music views and the limited benefits of standard tunes! (You can read the whole fairy tale at . (Note: It might be a common error in previous English translations of this fairy tale to misunderstand the Danish word for cylinders (inside the artificial bird). Several translations, even including the 'Harvard Classics', has 'waltzes' which is totally beside the point - and various shortenings and inaccuracies within these passages occur, too.)

December 2004: "A solo chart, commonly used in improvisational music ... has two important functions. First, it can be used as a performance guide to indicate to all of the players where, generally or exactly, the improvisation is going at any moment. Second, it can be used to unify the written and improvised parts of the music. A chart which integrates the two parts cohesively and meaningfully can be a work of art in and of itself, deriving from theoretical knowledge, interpretive insight, creative imagination and a sense of form. Whether simple or complex, the chart must embody, in a musically logical way, the essence of the writing, and at the same time afford freedom of expression, and independence, to the improviser."

Composer Rhoda Averbach on the CD Souls and Masters played by David Liebman and Michael Gerber released by Cactus Records.

November 2004: "Then come the free passages which are always the most beautyful, which partly go beyond associations and are totally lyric. That is, then, for me really new music - and in most cases it is even better, regarding instrumental playing, than that which we have in so-called serious or classical music, because 'classical' musicians are not so sophisticated in free playing, they do not have so very much experience either, I have to say."

Karlheinz Stockhausen, in an interview on his relation to jazz, "Jazz-Gespräch am Telephon" (1977), quoted from Hans Kumpf: Postserielle Musik und Free Jazz. Wechselwirkungen und Parallelen. Berichte - Analysen - Werkstattsgespräche. Rohdorf, (Rohdorfer Musikverlag), 2. Aufl., 1981, p.169.

October 2004: It is actually difficult to imagine a useful dialogic space within the context of a spectacular performance event. Spectacle can seem the opposite of dialog; defining itself according to its own methodology and subsequently monopolizing the space it inhabits, forcing the spectator into a passive, slavish posture. Even with direct input from the spectator (“Cast your vote!”) the spectacle simply reconstitutes itself, cannibalizing the input, feeding back into the system, only to spit it out as the same product repackaged. ... To create a more interesting and meaningful public space, it is useful to break away from these behaviors as much as is possible by aiming for a less passive stance on the part of all participants – performer, audience, environment. A certain amount of unpredictability, or risk, must be programmed into the system so that improvisation is utilized, even necessary, for negotiating and maneuvering within it. This not only makes it more difficult for the dominant social hierarchy to reassert itself, but also promotes a kind of creative tension, a survival instinct...

Composer / improvisor Hans Fjellestad at
(More about Hans' context at and .)

September 2004: It can even be quite frightening that we do not know what is happening ...Maybe the music sounds horrible, but later things assemble ... It is as if the Now is capable of cleaning up in the Past within music.

(DANSK ORIGINAL: Det kan ligefrem være helt skræmmende at vi ikke ved hvad der sker...Det kan godt være det lyder rædselsfuldt, men senere samler det sig...Det er lissom nuet kan rydde op i fortiden i musikalsk sammenhæng.)

Peter Bastian, Danish musician and writer, on free improvisation, DR TV2, 19/7 2004.

August 2004: Musical life today seems to be typified by two conventions. One is that composers are not also performing musicians. The other is that performing musicians should faithfully reproduce the music of others. Thus musicians are first and foremost reproducers today. It is not clear who has decided that it should be that way. The issue has quite literally been played down, and it is with profound wonder that I note the split in the classical music scene and the apparent acceptance of that split by those involved.

I am becoming more and more fascinated by the idea that in every musician or sound artist there must be a longing to improvise. ...So let this neglected but fertile competence be an inevitable starting-point not for free jazz, but for ‘free classical’!

Clarinet player Jens Schou on the occasion of a recent release. The whole essay can be seen here ... here is the Danish version ... and here you can read about the release itself.

July 2004: "The question proposed was whether history and theory were vital or irrelevant to intuitive music.
  Several participants stated that formal theories were not important to them, rather a reflective process centered around their practical musical life.
  This could also be named tradition or a working process. Some standpoints stressed the importance of individual freedom. This could be in order to explore oneself and fellow human beings as they are instead of stereotypes.
  To achieve this end, both the practises of forgetting previous knowledge and remembering individual experiences as well as roots back were pointed out as valuable tools.
  The discussion thus showed differentiated individual approaches to the working process as an improvisor."

Resume of Conference discussion at Denmark's Intuitive Music Conference 1997.

June 2004: "I feel there is considerable case to be made for re-evaluating the dominant emphasis placed on pitch in western musics; whilst one obviously has to respect tradition in music of a historical character, pitch often has too pronounced an importance in creating new musics. By exploring texture, rhythm and melodic contour rather than precise pitch relationships, many of the musicians developed a much more spontaneous and liberated approach to performance."

Simon H. Fell Report On The Composition of Improvised Music No.1. Now also available at International Improvised Music Archive (IIMA) (Appeared originally in Rubberneck and at the author's homepage)

May 2004: "It is important here and now to destroy the myth that free improvisation is easy, that mistakes can't be made, or that anything goes. The truth is, free improvisaiton is a natural expression (but one that needs cultivating), mistakes are made (but they can be "contextualized" in retrospect within the music), and anything might go (but only as an outgrowth of the performance itself)."

From Tom Nunn: Wisdom of the Impulse. On the Nature of Musical Free Improvisation. San Fransisco (publ. by author), 1998 (p.4). Also online at (p.7 in Part 1 of the Pdf Edition)

April 2004: Improvisation is that which is constantly on its way out of a system, although it most of the time exists within a system. [Swedish original: Improvisationen är det som ständigt är på väg ut ur ett system, även om det allt som oftast befinner sig i ett.]

David Linnros: Improvisation - ett svar på upplysningens ensidiga ideal. Opgave skrevet ved Fortsättningskurs, Södertörns Högskola [Improvisation - a response to the one-sided ideal of the Enlightenment. Paper written as part of a course at Södertörns Högskola, Sweden], p.3. - This Swedish paper written by an improvising musician analyses the philosophies of Kant and Schiller and their implications for Western views of rationalism versus intuitivism. - See the Swedish original here: and more about the author here:

March 2004: ...Miles Davis reportedly said of improvisation, "Sometimes you run out of notes. The notes just disappear and you have to play a sound".

Robert Walser quoted from Lewis, George: Singing Omar's Song. A Reconstruction of Great Black Musik", Lenox Avenue vol. 4, 1998, p.69-92.

February 2004: "If you take mistake as a mistake, you don't get very far with improvisation."

Michael Karoli on his rock band Can at

January 2004: "Improvisation is a precise art and an imprecise science, I think. It's about learning to perceive the felt, but unknowable, scenario of the moment and developing the technique that precisely gives voice to those feelings, however vague and shifting."

Wally Shoup: "An Opinionated Treatise on "Doing it Right"", The Improvisor, March 1996, p.6

December 2003: "Usually, the improvising musician needs courage to make spontaneous decisions ...; usually, the composer needs courage to make clear decisions..."

Louis Zett: Zweieiige Zwillinge. Komponieren und/oder Improvisieren, ringgespräch über gruppenimprovisation LXIX, juni 2003, p. 48 (Identical Twins. Composing and/or improvising... - ringgespräch is a German periodical)

Deutsches Original: "In der Regel braucht der Improvisierende mehr Mut zu spontanen Entscheidungen ...; in der Regel braucht der Komponist mehr Mut zu klaren Entscheidungen...." Louis Zett: Zweieiige Zwillinge. Komponieren und/oder Improvisieren, ringgespräch über gruppenimprovisation LXIX, juni 2003, p. 48. Webseite hier:

November 2003: "...Should free jazz be a practice, like yoga? Or a performance art?..."
From the ongoing discussion at, under the discussion topic of "Philosophy". Direct link here. This contribution had 234 responses at the time of publishing this quote.

October 2003: "I realise that I feel like being more philosophic than, well, all these notes. (...)"
   But, then why not give the bigband some messages or designs and leave the rest being up to the musicians theirselves?
   "Yes, in fact I thought about that. (...) But unfortunately, I do not believe in it."
Valdemar Lønsted: "Dette er ikke en koncert" ["This is not a concert"]. Interview with the musician and composer Palle Mikkelborg, P2Musik nr. 1, January 2000.
  (See also here about other composers feeling trapped within traditional notation)

September 2003: Me: "It seems we substituted normal music rules for something else in the free improvisation we just did...what did we substitute them for ?" - "The ears!"

A student during lunch conversation during one of my intuitive music courses, somewhere back in the nineties. More about the Danish Music Therapy education and PhD-course at

August 2003: "...Improvisation is a basic human skill and every human is a master improviser. It seems mysterious because it's a process, not a product; a way of doing something, not a thing we do. Improvisation is easy to use but difficult to pin down, just like memory or perception or any other innate human process."

From Tom Hall, "The Secret of Improvisation",

July 2003: "...while there were only a few consistent lines of progress in composition which influenced improvisation, there were many individual compositional ideas which did. The diverse impacts contributed vastly to the healthy range of improvising approaches available by the 1980s".

Dean, Roger T.: New Structures in Jazz and Improvised Music since 1960. Melksham, Wilks (Open University Press), 1992.

June 2003: Henrik: we have a very important mission, we should not expect thousands of people
Lene: we have no mission
Anne: it's still fantastic so many people came to hear us in the old church

From DIMC conference discussion 2000.

May 2003: "My pieces are written as a series of roles, that is, a series of structures and relations between musicians. As a composer, my interest is to deal in an abstract way with these roles" (p.251).

John Zorn describing his Game Pieces in Solothurnmann, Jürg: "Trickfilmmusik" (1986), Landolt, Patrik; Wyss Ruedi (ed.): Die lachenden Aussenseiter. Musikerinnen und Musiker zwischen Jazz, Rock und neuer Musik. Die 80er und 90er Jahre. Ein Buch der Wochenzeitung (WOZ) im Rotpunktverlag, Zürich (Rotpunktverlag) 1993.

April 2003: "It is no shame to practise, as long as you do it in full public."

This saying has been attributed to the German tenor singer Wolfgang Windgassen. No guarantee that it is correct.

March 2003: "...Of course it irritates me incredibly when, as often happens, the music slips into playing chlichees - but there is nevertheless a chance to do something one can never make with composition. The precious moment of impredictability where you are a witness as a listener to this processs - in which you realise that it goes on right now, in the moment, and that it is a precious moment. One cannot have this experience with composed music, since they clearly play from the notes, it has been planned in advance."

From an interview with composer and guitarist Christian Billian. Simon Steen-Andersen: "Improvisation. Uddrag af en samtale mellem komponisten og guitaristen Christian Billian og Simon Steen-Andersen", Autograf XI, 2, november 2002, [Fourth page of article, no page numbers]

February 2003: "I'm still from a generation which has experienced it being a sin for improvisors to compose - or, for composers, to improvise".

Reinhold Friedl interviewed in MusikTexte 93, Mai 2002. Zeitkratzer Ensemble have both improvisors and academic musicians as members and collaborates closely with its composers. Homepage:

January 2003: "The performer must renew the contact with music, the permanence of traditional forms of practises having led to a stiffening through four centuries into a system which is staggering today and which survives partly because of its excessive amount of details which have solely a stylistic, historic justification".

Chilean composer Gustavo Becerra quoted by Brouwer, Leo : "L'improvisation aléatoire", in: Les cahiers du CIREM (Centre international de recherches en esthetique musicale), special issue: "Musique et aleatoire(s), numero 18-19, 1990(dec.)-1991(mars).

December 2002: "...the difference compared to composition lies in the fact that it is not something being shown, but it takes actually place in the moment..." [DANSK original: "...forskellen til komposition er, at det ikke er noget fremvist, men at det rent faktisk finder sted i øjeblikket..."]

From an interview with composer and guitarist Christian Billian. Simon Steen-Andersen: "Improvisation. Uddrag af en samtale mellem komponisten og guitaristen Christian Billian og Simon Steen-Andersen", Autograf XI, 2, november 2002, [First page of article, no page numbers]

November 2002: "Opinions about free music are plentiful and differ widely. They range from the view that free playing is the simplest thing in the world requiring no explanation, to the view that is is complicated beyond discussion. There are those for whom it is an activity requiring no instrumental skill, no musical ability and no musical knowledge or experience of any kind, and others who believe it can only be reached by employing a highly sophisticated, personal technique of virtuosic dimensions. Some are attrracted to it by its possibilities for musical togetherness, others by its possibilities for individual expression. There is, as far as I know, no general view to be given"

Derek Bailey, Improvisation. Its nature and practise in music, Dorchester (The British Library Natural Sound Archive), 1992, p. 8.

This variety can be studied in Experimental Improvisation Practise and Notation 1945-1999. An annotated Bibliography, just out on this site!

October 2002: "Johnny Rotten went into the annals of pop mythology when he said of his group, The Sex Pistols, 'We're into chaos, not music', but punk rock's attempt to play directly without rules the naive reproduction of...rock'n roll - primary chords and bass lines, basic backbeats...Once again, the search for unfettered musical freedom lead to the repetition of that which the artist has not noticed they have learnt"

Charles E. Ford: "Free collective improvisation in higher education", British Journal of Music Education 1995, vol. 12, 103-112, p.105. Read the whole article here!

September 2002: Dear Carl,
I enjoyed the dimc cd very much.
I recognized the difference between improvisation and intuitive music this time.
These music are not improvisation but intuitive music.
I mean improvisation makes music but intuitive music are born.

Kumi Wakao, japanese musician, on ERMATELL JCD 042: SOUND SCAPES with music from Denmark's Intuitive Music Conference 2001. See also the discussion here.

August 2002: "A musician's background, for Brown, was part of the performative event, as Feldman observed: "Brown's notation, in fact, is geared to counteract the discrepancy between the written page and the performance."

From David Ryan's obituary on composer Earle Brown, who died on the 2. of July. See the whole text here. See also quotations by Brown in "Previous quotations", August 1998, June 2001, January 2002.

July 2002: "Jazz musicians always got inspired by classical music, but instead of going into the structures of the music, jazz musicians have improvised something that sounded like that which they heard. For instance, the melodic lines in bebop often sound like the lines of Bach, but they are not, with respect to form, bound together by the same inner logic found with Bach. In return, they rather reflect something one could call the intuitive logic, that logic which the music demands while being played.".

From Hasse Poulsen: "Den intuitive logik", Dansk Musiktidsskrift 1993/1994, p. 202-204 (article in Danish). DANSK: klik her for at gå til et opslag i, hvorfra artiklen kan læses i fuldtekst på dansk. Man kan her frit slå op i hele tidsskriftets tekst siden 1925.

June 2002: "Objection has been raised that a sound recording cannot contain many of the factors that influence improvised music, such as the acoustics, the audience (if any), the relationships (if any) between the performers, the weather, the economic climate, the contents of breakfast (if any), etc., etc. This is entirely true; but it is doubly true of pre-composed music, since similar sets of factors influence both the composition and the performance of the music. Then again, members of an audience at a concert normally do not know all the factors influencing the music being performed, so they are not much better off in that respect than listeners to recordings".
Martin Davidson at his and Emanem's homepage

May 2002: "After all, fireworks may be designed but they explode with joy".

Philipp Wachsmann on his piece "Fire - in the air" included in Emanem CD 4203 with London Improvisors Orchestra, featuring conducted improvisation.
A short discussion of this phenomenon can be found at:

April 2002: "Some musicians, musicologists, and publishers seem to have too rapidly relegated these experimental notations and open forms to the panoply of sixties' accessories. After the effects of fashion and their excesses have passed, much remains to be discovered in scores and notational principles that permit the overcoming of divides between different types and levels of musical education, and thus encourage all sorts of currents of exchange. For this, however, the channels of information must keep up with the plurality of movements in current thinking...".

From Jean-Yves Bosseur: "Sound and the Visual Arts. Intersections between Music and Plastic Arts today", Paris (Dis Voir) 1993, p.22.

March 2002: "I'd like to assert two categories of structuring, to be located on the spectrum we discussed earlier; non-invasive and invasive. My definition of non-invasive would be those methods which seek to define very general principles, such as who might play when, a very general description of the type of material to be explored (either verbal or notated) or an indication of the mood/atmosphere which the piece might seek to generate (without specific musical instructions). The essential point of non-invasive structures is that the musicians should feel sufficiently unencumbered that they can improvise sensitively, creatively and effectively, using their musical sensitivities alone to guide them. ... the invasive category, and by this I mean a scheme or structure which requires the musicians to divide their attention between improvising and some other activity (watching the conductor, reading music, throwing sponges around(!) etc). These invasive techniques seem to be the ones which prove most problematic for improvisers, and much care is required if they are to be used with any degree of success. One of the most frequently experienced invasive techniques is the use of conventional music notation to assist in the process of structuring. It's worth remembering that Western European music notation has developed from a simple aide-memoire for spontaneous elaboration and flexible realisation into an all-pervasive restraining straightjacket which has become an object of worship in its own right. When I use notation with improvising musicians, I try and encourage them to return to this original 'aide-memoire' state; a more familiar parallel may be my instruction to play the notation "as if it were a jazz standard that one already knew"".

Simon H. Fell: Report On The Composition Of Improvised Music No. 4: some problems of and strategies for working with large improvising ensembles. Quoted from Simon H. Fell's homepage, subpage
First published in Rubberneck: , no. 28 (1999?)

February 2002: In comparison between set and improvised performances, what do you think the audience gets from a set performance?

"In set work the audience knows that the composition they see has gone through a process of decisions which have been rehearsed and reappraised. This rehearsal gives it a history which can give it a certain calm which can lend it an authority; this in turn might make it mere easily receivable.

With improvised work the audience is watching the discovery, the decisions and their execution all a the same time. This brings about much energy and aliveliness to the situation which can be very stimulating. (...)

The fact of realising that an event will occur and can never happen again is sometimes intimidating for a public. On the other hand there are many people who actually enjoy, with or without knowing it, the improvised moment."

Dancer Julyen Hamilton in: Agnes Benoit, "Conversation with Julyen Hamilton", Nouvelles de dance 32/33 p. 197, quoted from: Efterår 2001. Improvisation og dans v/ Karen Vedel, p. 108. Institut for Kunsthistorie, Dans og Teatervidenskab, Kbhs Universitet Kompendieudsalg - Humaniora (tel. 3532 9161). - At , there is a section with writings consisting of various thoughts and observations in progress. 

January 2002: "It is not possible, given any degree of optimism and generosity in regard to people in general, to set a time limit on creative reflection or a limitation on the number of people involved in the creation...".

American composer Earle Brown, in his classic article about Form in New Music, Darmstädter Beiträge zur neuen Musik X, Mainz 1966, p.61.

December 2001: Freely improvised music is - at its best - saturated with vitality, spontaneity and fury - and sometimes also with a surprising gentleness. Composed music, on the contrary, has a tightness thanks to its inner discipline and form, and it is this inner coherence which often embraces the listener and gives a feeling that the music has a direction and motivation which is inscribed within an intelligent discourse.

This evening's concert has been created from the conviction that this does not always need to be an either-or.

It can also be both-and.

A co-existence of different forms of expression in which BOTH the improvisational and the compositional aspects are artistically equal variables.

From concert invitation, "Structured improvisations", 16th November 2001 in Copenhagen. Music by Dan Marmorstein, Niels Winther, Vagn Olsson, Jørgen Teller Morten Carlsen and Per Buhl Acs. Members of concert organisation Skraep - see

November 2001: "free musik - free mind - free world"

Motto of New York musician Blaise Siwula. Read his contributions to the discussion at Denmark's Intuitive Music Conference 2001 here (and follow further links on to an excerpt of a score of him and to his homepage). 

October 2001: Ge-Suk: what do you think of calling graphic notations "half-improvisations" ?

Carl: maybe it could suit your pieces, except for the rather exact direction you gave us about "long slightly sliding tones".

Roman: I think of a Russian study of kinds of improvisation in World Music. Freedom is relative: it means to follow yourself, not a system. So there can be no half-improvisation, only 100%.

Ge-Suk: maybe 99%.

From the Conference discussion at Denmark's Intuitive Music Conference 2001.

September 2001:

Dansk udgave

"At my American final concert I performed a set of solo piano and a mass in the catholic tradition for seven singers. I could not have done that here - nor at the Royal Conservatory of Music, for that sake - since there were also improvising elements and alternative forms of notation..."

Jonas Müller, Danish musician, "Konserves" May 2001, quoted by perm. and transl. by CBN, about his experience with the Rhythmic Music Conservatory in Copenhagen.

This critisicm of 'improvising elements and alternative forms of notation' not being allowed surprised me. Should not a very new Music Conservatory (founded 1986) specialising in non-classical music be open to new forms of playing and ways of conceiving of musical composition? So I interviewed the headmaster, Peter Danstrup about this - here follows some excerpts from our talk:

Does your institution have a definite attitude to improvising elements and alternative forms of notation?

"Regulations state on the contrary that there must be improvisation, so that sounds like a criticism of the Royal Conservatory - he is also welcome to use alternative notation. There is nothing in those things being against our regulations, certainly not."

Does Rhythmic Music Conservatory have a general attitude to which parts of music life students are educated to serve?

"We educate people to be a part of rhythmic music life in the world..."

So there is an aim to be many-sided?

"Yes, there is no demand for any specific kind of music, but we demand that one plays a main instrument, that one improvises on it and does that in interaction with others, that's described in the regulations. One can mention in the assessment that the student played his own composition or arrangement, we often do that, but we do not demand that. The final concert is an examination of playing on the main instrument."

There is also an examination in the subject of arrangement?


And can one also have improvising elements and alternative notation forms there ?

"I certainly think, yes."

(Note: "rhythmic music" is a Danish label for non-classical musics such as jazz and rock)


Reader's comments

August 2001: "As an improvising musician, one should first of all be so self-conscious as to discard criteria which have little or no validity concerning improvised music and instead point to that which is specific improvisational qualities. No, nobody can improvise an Ockeghem-like four-part diminution canon, and it is an open question whether an improvised fugue can be as good as a written one. But which kind of composition can make the moment present, go into specialities offered only by this moment, this situation? Which kind of composition can make the tension processes between players graspable for the musical experience? Which kind of composition can deal with a differentiation of the timbral possibilities of one instrument like improvised music can?"

From Matthias Schwabe, "Qualität in der Improvisation", ringgespräch über gruppenimprovisation LXVII, June 2001, transl. from German by cbn. (German: mehr über diese zeitschrift über


July 2001: Frank Hiesler: "Graphic notations have the aim not to play the piece but to live with the piece" 

From the Conference discussion at Denmark's Intuitive Music Conference 2001. See the DIMC homepage.

June 2001: "what is a good performance? It lies in the hands and head of a ... performer...the shortest way between two people is not a straight line".

Composer Earle Brown, article "Notation und Ausführung neuer Musik" (Notation and Performance of New Music) in Notation neuer Musik. Darmstädter Beiträge IX, Mainz (Schott) 1965 p.78, transl. by CBN. 

May 2001: "One of the things that puzzled me was just how little the musicians, all men at that time, seemed to talk to each other. Often they would meet and with barely a word prepare to play together. There appeared to be very little communication in any recognisable sense. Then somehow out of this apparent absence of communication would come the most wonderful sounds."

From Annabel Nicolson: "The Lambs are Deafening", in Resonance vol.8 No.2/Vol.9 No.1 double issue: "lmc...the first 25 years", autumn 2000, p.17. See London Musicians' Collective's website:

April 2001: "Composition could be said to be a process which stores and categorises information having cumulated in past times, so as to make it posible to get forward without having to re-invent the wheel all the time.

By contrast, improvisation is similar to removal of refuse: it takes away the cumulated perceptions of the past again and again, so as to make it possible to get forward at all.

The basic technique of composition consists in moving of information from short-time memory into long-term memory: to retain an idea for sufficiently long time in order to write it down. (...)

The basic technique of improvisation consists in short-cutting this storage process: to forget everything - at least, temporarily - which is not important for the goal of expressing an immediate idea in sound.  

From Frederic Rzewski: "Autonomie des Augenblicks. Theorie der Improvisation", MusikTexte 86/87, November 2000, p.42 (Transl. back into English by CBN). Lecture held by Rzewski at Fünftes Nachwuchsforum der Gesellschaft für neue Musik zum Thema "Komponieren, Improvisieren, Interpretieren", 28. March 2000 at Frankfurt am Main.

March 2001: "Improvisation is its preparation".

Austrian improvisor Burkhard Stangl, quoted from Peter Niklas Wilson: "Rekonfigurationen. Komposition und Improvisation", MusikTexte 86/87, November 2000. (Transl. by CBN). Lecture held by Wilson at Symposium improvisierte Musik, Arbeitsgemeinschaft Improvisierte Musik (AIM) in Köln, Januar 2000.

February 2001: "One aspect of Alterations that was so interesting was its 'cooperative confrontation'. Almost any musical statement was possible at any given time, no matter what else was happening at that time. Aggression, destructiveness, stupidity, wilfulness and perversity were as much a part of the organisational process of the music as the more treasured improvisation virtues of listening, reflection, intelligence and cooperation."

David Toop, note to Alterations CD IR 001. More on this new Alterations release as well as on two Danish ones at

January 2001: "...out of a free moment which is under the influence of nothing, a purely intuitive music can emerge".

From a programme note by musician and composer Ivan Vincze. More to be seen - in Danish and Hungarian! - at

December 2000: "A source of continuing inspiration to the younger musicians was John Stevens' work in concerts and workshops. Maggie Nicols was another improviser who excelled at leading workshops. Within one hour, a roomful of assorted and embarrassed individuals could be led to build a communal musical experience of enormous power."

From Clive Bell: "A Brief History of the LMC", in Resonance vol.8 No.2/Vol.9 No.1 double issue: "lmc...the first 25 years", autumn 2000, p.5. See London Musicians' Collective's website:

November 2000: "yuou can improvise or you can compromise."

By "pcl", (page 1). This site contains amazingly many and long discussions on free music and how to approach it, with students, teachers and musicians as participants.

October 2000: "The first commandment of anarchy: You must feel responsible for the whole.
One more commandment of anarchy is that one must master the balancing between uncompromising individuality and diffuse opportunism.
You cannot trust that people and states remain as they are. Instead, you must train yourself all the time to perceive their changes better and better."

From Doris Kösterke: "New music. Commandments of anarchy. Ways of playing in freely improvised music". Radio lecture, 1997. Transl. by CBN. DEUTSCH: noch ein Zitat von ihr.

September 2000: "It's the same thing with abstract paintings - I can control what's on the canvas, NOT what you see. Else I should make a horse or a house. It is a silly idea to control something which is not absolute."

Tytte Buus, visual artist, in the discussion during Denmark's Intuitive Music Conference 2000.

August 2000: "Free collective improvisation sanctions styles, not because of their rigidity but because of their exclusivity - the fact that they inevitably alienate: 'Leave your past outside the door; listen as if your life depended on it'. One student with considerable experience of playing in pop groups described adapting to free improvisation as being 'like learning to ride a bike having just had the stabilizers removed'"

From Charles E. Ford: "Free collective improvisation in higher education", British Journal of Music Education 1995, vol. 12, 103-112, p. 108.

July 2000: " seems to me that unless form and content are compatible they are likely to cancel each other out. Can anarchy music be directed by a conductor?"

Eddie Prèvost, "Commentary on the Proceedings", in: Improvisation. History, Directions, Practise. The Proceedings held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London on March 31st 1984. London (Association of Improvising Musicians), 1984.

June 2000: "Thank you for the CD. It is difficult!

Like passing by a thousand half-open doors in a fast tempo."

Friend of mine in a letter about the DIMC 001 CD. Comments...

May 2000: "...what is heard is indistinguishable from its process. In fact, process itself might be called the Zeitgeist <time spirit> of our age"

From Michael Nyman: Experimental music. Cage and beyond, p.2. This important book from 1974 on the anglo-saxon tradition of indeterminate music has now been re-printed (with a preface by Brian Eno).

April 2000:  "Exposure to the indeterminacy of collective interactions is deliberately chosen by musicians engaging in free collective improvisation. There is no score, no set of written instructions. This doesn't just mean there is no predetermined form to be unfolded: it also means there is nothing to co-ordinate or to synchronize the intentions of the musicians as the music unfolds. In other words, I can make a sound that I intend to mark the end of a musical phrase, and there is nothing that stops you hearing it as a sound initiating a new phrase, or, simply, continuing the current phrase. And what you play (or don't play) next will reflect your interpretation of the opportunities. Our different intentions in each moment are generated by our different constitutive listenings to what is happening in the previous moment. To speak of intention is to emphasise not a kind of consciousness, but a tendency or projection towards a particular result in the immediate future. In each moment what is played is 'as if' some particular outcome is going to follow from it. In free collective improvisation, this outcome will generally either not happen, or turn into something else. I believe that the unfulfilled implications of each musical act are a vital kind of information that forms an integral part of the overall impression. In other words, the totality of what is happening is precisely the generation of a rich field of possibilities, containg not only what was actually played, but also what might have been played.

It would'nt be too strong to say this is the defining aspect of the aesthetic project of improvisation"

Tim Hodginson, from "A rich field of possibilities. Strategies and indeterminacy in free improvisation", in Resonance 8,1 - March 2000. Published by London Musician's Collective.

March 2000: "Form can only be invented; material can only be discovered"

Roman Haubenstock-Ramati: Notation - Material and Form. Perspectives of New Music, Fall-Winter 1965 p. 39-44.

February 2000: In 1968 I ran into Steve Lacy on the street in Rome. I took out my pocket tape recorder and asked him to describe in fifteen seconds the difference between composition and improvisation. He answered: "In fifteen seconds the difference between composition and improvisation is that in composition you have all the time you want to decide what to say in fifteen seconds, while in improvisation you have fifteen seconds." His answer lasted exactly fifteen seconds. --Frederic Rzewski

One of many quotations in Music Quotes compiled by Gregory Acker at The Improvisor's website.

January 2000: "Tradition is something distinctly different from habits, even from very good habits, since, according to its nature, habit is acquired unconsciously, whereas tradition is the result of a conscious and well-considered approval.

...Far from causing a repetition of that which has been, tradition presupposes the reality of that which is permanent. It is like a family farm, a legacy one receives on the condition that it is fertilized and handed on to one's descendants"

Igor F. Strawinsky in "Poétique Musicale" (1946), transl. from a Danish ed. (Copenhagen 1961, p.56) by CBN. Click here to see why this quotation appears on a website for improvised music!

December 1999: Gerhard: "Intuitive art is getting exciting exactly when it begins to be boring. When you get stuck, you have to create.

John: so intuitive music comes from boredom?

Carl: maybe John is literally right. Since the art world is boring, we have to invent intuitive art.

... Tytte: I do not agree that normal art is boring - all art is creative, it always starts so. Since we do not have to fight for survival in our culture, there is a greater demand for creativity".

From the discussion during Denmark's Intuitive Music Conference 1999. Click here to see more!

November 1999: "To be a free improvisor, you have a certain attitude to rules, to throwing them away, to accepting elements of chance".

Christian Munthe in a lecture at the recent SOUNDS 99 festival in Stockholm 7-10 October. You can read an article by him on the same subject at - "What is free improvisation". DANSK: Se en rapport ved CBN.

October 1999: "There is a kind of tension to be maintained between total heterogeneity (where there is no cheese and pickle sandwich) and total homogenization where all identity markers are flattened out and we arrive at a kind of filtered 'new age-world music' pap. (Like a cheese and pickle sandwich in the blender!) The aim as I see it is to initiate and to respond to the initiatives of others in proportion to a sense of demands made by the particular piece of music as it unfolds."

Improvisor Evan Parker on the intercultural aspect of improvising. Quoted from "Articulating Intercultural Free Improvisation: Evan Parker's Synergetics Project" by Jason Stanyek, in Resonance 7, 2, 1999, ed. by London Musician's Collective.

September 1999: "What is art? Action in front of existence. What is a work of art? An attempt to cope with existence once for all".

Gunner Colding-Jørgensen (Danish composer and musician) in bladet 2, June 1973. bladet was edited by Group for Alternative Music. Read more about the group in an article on this site on Experimental Music in Denmark - click here.

August 1999: "The music is difficult in a way comparable to the way Adorno finds the music of Schoenberg difficult - not out of being pretentious or obscure, but because it demands active and concentrated listening from the very demands not only contemplation but also action."

Dror Feiler on improvised music in Swedish magazine gränslöst 2, June 1999.

July 1999: "When the water is clear, you can see the fishes. When the air is clear, you can hear the sounds".

From "Sound Fishes" by Pauline Oliveros, quoted from an article by Erik Ulman reprinted in German in MusikTexte 79, Juni 1999, p.68 (transl. back from German). The article deals with the symposium Improvising Across Borders (April 9-11, 1999, Mandeville Center, University of California, San Diego). Inspired by the symposium, a permanent website Improvising Across Borders has now been set up.

June 1999: "These important differences to traditional music-making, these fundamentally different human relations within such an ensemble are not the least important characteristics which give group improvisation the timbre of that which is really new (if some of that could be transferred to the common living together on our planet, we would take a step ahead)."

From Erhard Karkoshka: "Aspects of Group Improvisation" (1971). Transl. from German 1999 and published for the first time in English at this site. Homage to Erhard Karkoshka and his thoughts which inspired and encouraged me a lot as a student in the seventies. Click here to see the article in full text!

May 1999: "How can the organizing powers in improvisation be indeterminate? How can improvisation serve as a democratizing means within a social space? Improvisation is often ripe with uncertainty, how can this uncertainty function to democratize these spaces?"

"Momentary Power Constitution and Socio-Political Structures Within Collaborative Improvisation", Abstract by Andrew J. Bucksberg from Improvising Across Borders. An interdisciplinary symposium on improvised music. April 9-11, 1999, Mandeville Center, University of California, San Diego. From one of many interesting abstracts published at Improvising Across Borders.

April 1999: "The analogy with speech can help us. If the classically trained musician finds thinking and performing music simultaneously a well-nigh impossible feat, he can find comfort in the fact that all of us practise the art of thinking and performing speech simultaneously every day without giving it a moment's thought."

Christopher Small in his article "No Meanings without Rules", Improvisation. History, Directions, Practise. AIM (Ass. of Improvising musicians), London 1984.

March 1999: "Contrary to other extreme art forms there is often room for humour, at times even to hilarious merriment and still there is no degeneration into flipped-out nonsense (...)

And since this is about new interaction prospects between human beings, about new possibilities in life, the music always appears relevant regardless how strange it appears at first sight"

Ole Jall in Dansk Musiktidsskrift 4, dec. 1998/99 about his encounter with improvised music at 1st Symposium for Contemporary Music (SCM), 19-22 Nov. 1998 in Copenhagen.

Febrary 1999: "I would like to play for you... no pieces, just music"

American Violinist Malcom Goldstein introducing an improvised solo concert. At Stichting Logos, Gent, Beligum, probably somewhere in the eighties. Amused laughter is heard from the public at the recording in the Logos Archive.

January 1999: "Nowadays one notices everywhere a wish to "humanize" music. To achieve this, we must take a risk and first "humanize" the tasks of the performer."

Improvisor and composer Vinko Globokar in his article "On reacting" first printed in French in musique en jeu 1, 1970 ("Réagir"), subsequently in German in Melos 2, 1971 ("Vom Reagieren").

December 1998: "Creation is not the replacing of nothing with something or chaos with pattern. There is no chaos; there is a vast, living world in which the rules for specifying the pattern are so complicated that after you look at a few of them you become tired. The creative act pulls out some more inclusive shape or progression that gathers an immense amount of complexity into a simple, satisfying notion.

Jokes takes us through this whole cycle in a matter of seconds."

Improvising violinist Stephen Nachmanovitch in his book Free Play. Improvisation in Life and Art, 1990, p. 106. You can read more at

November 1998: "...I worked in an improvisation group called Symfrones. We became very inspired by Stockhausen when he came to Oslo in 1969 with his group and improvised freely...We thought that we could also do something like that and began to play together. There we acquired a kind of understanding for what music was without looking at specific stylistic criteria...Thoresen and I found out that there is a hidden world underlying all styles..."

Norwegian composer Olav-Anthon Thommesen in an interview in Dansk Musiktidsskrift (Danish Music Review), Oct. 1998/99, p.42. Transl. by cbn.

October 1998: "During the 1950-ties and 60-ties, graphic and verbal notations operating with aspects of indeterminacy came to hold a central position (cf. LaMonte Young 1963, Chr. Wolff, Prose Collection, 1968; C.Cardew, Nature Study Notes, 1969)..."

Rudolf Frisius in his article "Improvisation" in Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (Finscher, Ludwig ed.), Zweite, neubearbeitete Ausgabe. Kassel etc. 1996 (Bärenreiter + Metzler), row 592. This is a major German musicological encyclopedia of music now been re-issued. Translated by cbn.

September 1998: "The priorities of notation do not merely reflect musical priorities. They create them".

English composer Trevor Wishart, quoted from the score of "mutatis mutandis 7" (1987) by Lesley Olsson. 

August 1998: "Considering the developments which have taken place in extending the physical parameters of sound within recent years it seems reasonable to consider the potential of the human mind ... to consciously extend it further into the actual generation of the work seems to me to be an inevitable and important step; a step which not only expands the potential of the "environment" of relationships (the work) but also the communicative potential, its inherent multiplicity of "meaning". Rather than diminish the responsibility of the composer or anyone else, it expands and intensifies all of the dimensions of creating and perceiving ."

American composer Earle Brown, in his classic article about Form in New Music, Darmstädter Beiträge zur neuen Musik X, Mainz 1966, p.58.

July 1998: "It can seem a paradox to allow for open form - not to speak of improvisation - in works that are constructivistic to the degree found in my works. It only works in a close collaboration with musicians. Apart from that, it is a paradox the qualities of which attract me."

Danish composer Ejnar Kanding, Dansk Musik Tidsskrift 7, May 1997/98, p.217.

June 1998: "We do not need anyone to tell us what we are to dream. Why should we then have anyone to tell us what to play?"

Davey Williams, pioneer of improvised music, Alabama. "The Improvisor. The international journal of free improvisation" is one of his initiatives. (In 1998 it became a purely electronic journal centered around improvised music reviews. Click
here to see it!)

Quoted from the homepage of Johannes Bergmark, article in Swedish "Vad är improvisation och varför improvisera".

May 1998: "Many so-called new music-musicians argue that we have now understood modernism, and therefore we can now (whew, what a relief!) allow ourselves to write tonal music again within the old stereotypes. To me, this is certainly a spineless point of view. The modernist way of thinking has not at all become a living language. It has been an area reserved for some exclusive experts. To go back to the working methods of the past is to refuse the challenge of making the demanding thoughts of our time come to life. As all other seriously working artists, improvisational musicians are taking up this challenge."

Danish musician and organizer Hasse Poulsen, in Dansk Musiktidsskrift (Danish Music Journal), april 1997/98, p.190). Hasse has also taken the initiative to build up
Av-Art Records of which he was the first chairman.

April 1998: "To me, intuitive music is to cut the time - it shows what I am, what people are"

Kumi Wakao, pianist, composer and improvising musician, Hiroshima, Japan. Stated during the discussion at DIMC 1997.

Carl Bergstrøm-Nielsen's Favourite Litterature and own Writings (Også på DANSK)

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