Tag Archives: Improvisation

Episode #66 – Puffins and Piano: Florian Hoefner’s Kinaesthetic Storytelling

German-born Newfoundlander Florian Hoefner plays the piano like a puffin diving into the Atlantic. Or at least he can. He can also tell a wordless tale about the extinct Great Auk, a drifting iceberg, or even the motion of the surging ocean itself. On this episode, hear Florian Hoefner talk about his experience composing a series of improvisations for solo piano, Coldwater Stories, that imaginatively narrate his experiences of the intimate motilities of Newfoundland’s living and abiding natural beings. This episode is best experienced while dancing expansively in the privacy of one’s own living room.

Sound It Out airs on CFRU in Guelph on Tuesdays at 5pm. New episodes usually appear on a fortnightly basis. Sound It Out is produced and hosted by Rachel Elliott in conjunction with the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation.

This episode of Sound It Out was broadcast on CFRU on September 26, 2017.



Episode #60: David Lee – Improvisation in Toronto 1960 – 1985

Why do so many young people uproot themselves and move to the city, searching for culture? What is it that they are looking for? How does their search shape what they find? These are some of the questions that frame this discussion with improviser and scholar, David Lee. David Lee was part of a community of improvising musicians located in Toronto Ontario during the 70s and 80s; he is now completing a dissertation which takes up that history through the critical lens that academic rigour demands. Enjoy this fascinating chat about the places of renewal in creative communities.

This episode originally aired on CFRU 93.3FM on May 23, 2017 at 5pm.

Episode #59: Improvising Hospitality with Francesco Paradiso

Have you every had someone over to your house, as a guest? Did you spend much time thinking about the ethics of the situation? Of hospitality? In his later work, founding deconstructionist Jacques Derrida turned toward the concept of hospitality as a way to face questions about our ability to engage ethically with alterity, or otherness. In combination with the work of Emmanuel Levinas about our primordial responsibility towards others when confronted with, in particular, their face, Francesco Paradiso brings Derrida’s ideas about hospitality to bear on group improvisation in this talk that cumulates a week’s worth of research as our guest at the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation, here at the University of Guelph.

Dr. Francesco Paradiso is a Research Assistant at the University of Wolverhampton in the UK. He completed his PhD in 2014 at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

This episode originally aired on CFRU 93.3FM in Guelph Ontario on May 2, 2017 at 5pm. Sound It Out is produced, hosted, and edited by Rachel Elliott.

Episode #57 -Being There for the Duration: Sarah Kitz, David Dacks, and Nick Fraser

The philosopher Alfred Schütz points to a ‘mutual tuning-in relationship’ at the foundation of all possible communication. In this episode of Sound It Out we ask you to consider this theme in an audio journey through the Somewhere There creative music festival in Toronto. Explore how relationships of collaborative co-creation occur not only between performers on stage, but also between performers and their audience, as well between musicians considered from a larger angle: what does it take on an arts managerial level to entrench the relationships of inclusivity, exchange, and relationship forged on stage? That is, how do you make these musical relationships last and feed the other points of contact and engagement? Hear discussions with theatre creator Sarah Kitz, drummer and composer Nick Fraser, and a talk by veteran music advocate David Dacks.

This episode originally aired on CFRU 93.3FM in Guelph, Ontario on Tuesday February 28th at 5pm.

Episode #55: Ghanaian Producers as Improvising Composers: Appietus & DJ Breezy

Lyricists and vocalists and often considered to be the ‘real artists’ in contrast with the activities of the producers they work with. In an article published in the journal Critical Studies in Improvisation / Études critiques en improvisationLeila Adu-Gilmore challenges this conception of the producer, arguing that their process amounts to music creation in the form of improvised composition. Today hear an intimate reading performed by me of Adu-Gilmore’s paper entitled “Studio Improv as Compositional Process Through Case Studies of Ghanaian Hiplife and Afrobeats.” The reading of the paper is intellectually stimulating, and the examples of the music discussed in it, by Appietus and DJ Breezy respectively, kinetically irresistible: I dare you not to dance!

This episode originally aired on CFRU 93.3FM, Guelph’s campus and community radio station on Tuesday January 17th, 2016, at 5pm.

comments welcome: twitter @Cs_walk_with_me


Episode #53 – Jenny Mitchell and Iris Fraser: Brother Frank on a Golden Bus

There are stories, songs, even full movies, woven into the places where we live our lives. Jenny Mitchell and Iris Fraser-Gudrunas were coming-of-age sidekicks entering Toronto’s DIY art scene in the mid-2000s. Themselves gifted and perspicacious creators of music and multi-disciplinary art, their respective trajectories found them seeking out the stories and symbolism in the surrounding rural environments. Hear how Iris Fraser-Gudrunas used improvisation to make Brother Frank, a filmic response to an encounter with a monk on the Niagara Peninsula – part of a self-implicating exploration of the tactility of craftmanship. Jenny Mitchell tells the rollicking tale of her Golden Bus, which she uses as a mobile venue and sound production studio offering a place-responsive platform for the expression of locally embedded narrative arts. Tune-in as Iris Fraser-Gudrunas’ film Brother Frank is screened on Jenny Mitchell’s Golden Bus!

This episode originally aired on CFRU 93.3FM in Guelph, Ontario, Tuesday December 6, 2015.

Episode #50 – Great Lakes as Productive Constraint: Composing Improvisation with Sonic Perfume

Four improvising composers, five great lakes: go. Phil Albert (Bass) and Patrick O’Reilly (Guitar) of Ontario meet with Patrick Booth (Saxophone) and Jon Taylor (Percussion) of Michigan for an intensive, week-long string of performances that embrace improvisation as much as composition. Hear the band discuss composition as a long-form improvisation (and the inverse!), staring down the monument (i.e. facing their recorded music as an autonomous object), and the urgency their regional dispersion gives to their playing when they get together, accentuating the vertiginous ‘now’ at the heart of all improvisation.

This episode originally aired on CFRU 93.3FM in Guelph, Ontario at 5pm on Tuesday October 25, 2016.

Episode #48 – Honouring Ken Aldcroft

Spend the next hour bathing in the peaceful guitar sounds of improvising guitarist and musical community builder Ken Aldcroft. Co-founder of the Association of Improvising Musicians Toronto, the Leftover Daylight Series, the NOW Series, and serving on the board of the Somewhere There musicians’ collective, Ken Aldcroft’s sudden passing on September 17th, 2016 put Canada’s creative music world into a cloud of stunned sadness. Read more about this intrepid musician at http://www.kenaldcroft.com/

This episode originally aired on CFRU 93.3FM at 5pm on Tuesday September 27, 2016.

Episode #45 – Jazz Buddhists and Improvisatist Giving with Tracy McMullen

The list of jazz innovators who described Buddhism as central to their music and personal purpose is long – Ernestine Anderson, Herbie Hancock, Buster Williams, Richard Davis, Hamid Drake, and Terri Lyne Carrington are just a few. In this episode, Prof. Tracy McMullen discusses the implications of jazz buddhism on how we think about Black Critical Praxis, which, she contends, has been too caught up in the politics of recognition and the performative vision of the subject, as described by theorists such as Judith Butler with a basis in Hegel’s dialectic of self-consciousness. In this energetic and inspiring discussion, Mullen considers the history of jazz as Black Critical Praxis to recommend an improvisatist account of the subject over the widely accepted performative view. Hear songs from Ernestine Anderson and Herbie Hancock.

This episode originally aired on CFRU 93.3FM at 6pm on Monday September 12, 2016.

Episode #42 – Improvising Electronics with Gambletron

When you look at the mess of equipment in front of electronic musical experimenter Lisa Gamble, your head can start to swim. The mystery of musicianship is always apparent when you observe an instrument not being played. By what sorcery will they coax this object into music? We wonder this about even the most straightforward instruments. The magic in the encounter between the musician and her instruments is the theme of Lisa Gamble’s approach to making wicked glitchy beats out of odd and old adapted electronics. Gamble’s educated-guess, trial-and-error attitude eschews attempts to control or master instruments; she explores and responds, leaving them the autonomy be surprising. The result is fresh, energetic, and often, danceable. This conversation with Lisa Gamble originally aired on CFRU 93.3FM Guelph’s community radio station on July 19, 2016. 

Episode #38 – Music Ontology with Eric Lewis

This conversation with philosopher Eric Lewis of McGill University centres around the question ‘what is music’, or more specifically, ‘what is improvised music?’ Prof. Lewis explains why a consideration of improvised music can re-frame some of the questions traditionally associated with the philosophical study of music, such as how a musical work is related ontologically to a score or composition, and its associated performances. Lewis discusses his proposal to revive intentionalism in aesthetics, making the, I think, highly appetizing suggestion that we ought to think of improvised music according to the vagaries of the representational visual arts, not via the overblown concepts on offer by traditional music ontology. This episode originally aired on CFRU 93.3FM in Guelph Ontario on April 12, 2016, at 5pm.

Episode #37 – Silence and Mindfulness with Gary Diggins

“Sound work as soul work.” This is how Gary Diggins describes what he does in his chamber of wonders located in the back of Guelph’s ‘venue for adventurous sounds’, Silence. A life-long musician and masterful musical healer, Diggins has worked with individuals and groups around the world using sound to elevate consciousness, promote healing, remind us of our in uterine beginnings, and “listen the world into wholeness.” Hear us discussing his role in Mindfulness Without Borders, his Monday morning improvisations with Big Beat, the use of vocables in shamanic therapeutic practices, helping trained singers meet their edge, Alfred Tomatis, Robert Bly, Mind-Up, and more. This episode that aired originally on CFRU 93.3FM on March 29th, 2016.

Episode #36: AACM Origins and Apocrypha – George E. Lewis’s Opera ‘Afterword’

Can you make a libretto out of an academic book? This is the question George E. Lewis asked and answered during his visit to the University of Guelph on March 4th, 2016. Drawing from the audio recordings of early AACM organizational meetings where members discussed their motivations for forming the Association, Lewis responds in the affirmative, transforming a chapter of his 2009 book A Power Stronger than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music into the Opera Afterword. Hear Herald Kisiedu in conversation with Lewis on this episode! Originally aired on CFRU 93.3FM on March 15, 2016.

Episode #35: Solo Improvisation at Somewhere There Festival

If improvising is sometimes understood as a form of dialogue, what are we to say about solo improvising? Perhaps it should be understood as a dialogue with oneself, or between performer and audience, or performer and their own instrument, or even the performer’s own sonic memories, of trucks, birds, voices. Maybe it has another sort of meaning all together, a sensory-motor, embodied sort of meaning. Maybe it has no meaning at all, in which case we might wonder how it got so lucky, so pure, so empty in this world of over-signification. This past weekend I attended the Somewhere There creative music festival in Toronto at the Tranzac. On this episode you will hear a roundtable discussion moderated by Joe Sorbara featuring the thoughts and sounds of: Peter Luteck, Germaine Liu, Paul Newman, Kyle Brenders, Ken Aldcroft, and Nicole Rampersaud. This episode originally aired on CFRU 93.3FM on March 8th, 2016.

Episode #33:The Body and Improvised Electronic Music: Bob Ostertag (IICSI archive)

The discussion that you’ll hear took place in 2011 between the Hamilton-based scholar, filmmaker, and writing instructor Mauricio Martinez, and scholar, journalist, and improvising sound artist Bob Ostertag. This conversation has a gorgeous pace about it, with Ostertag calmly articulating his thoughts about technology and improvisation, especially electronic musical production. His inviting speaking style will hypnotize you into a reflection on Walter Benjamin’s ideas about the reproducibility of art in relation to today’s digital media distribution. Ostertag also talks about playing with acclaimed improviser and saxophonist Anthony Braxton. I give you a taste of Ostertag’s work with his composition All the Rage, played by the Kronos Quartet and Eric Gupton. This episode originally aired on CFRU 93.3FM on January 19th, 2016.

Episode #32: Silent Communication – Interspecies Music with Kimber Sider

This show is about interspecies communication in the context of musical performance. According to today’s guest, Kimber Sider, horses are a sort of barometer for musical connection, since music is not just about sound but is a conduit to a silent embodied layer of meaning that is the basis for empathetic communication, affective connection, and emotional resonance. When Kimber Sider rode her horse Katrina across Canada, from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, on her own, she had a lot of time to pick up on the subtle bodily communication happening between her and her horse in the various landscapes, rural cultures, and navigational SNAFUs that her extremely brave endeavor endangered. Check out the documentary Chasing Canada that she made about her ride: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35lJsBnWPjA). Since then Kimber has been working on her PhD in Theater at the University of Guelph, and as part of her research Kimber has set up the most extraordinary sort of ‘laboratory’: Kimber invites improvising musicians to jam with her horses! Check out improvisers David Lee (http://www.davidneillee.com/), Dong-Won Kim (http://www.silkroadproject.org/ensemble/artists/dong-won-kim), and Jesse Stewart (http://www.jessestewart.ca/). We did the interview over Skype in the very final days of 2015 when I was hiding away in the woods for the holidays, so the internet was cutting in and out. This meant that some of Kimber’s words were glitchy and hard to understand. I decided to just over-dub the distorted words with my own voice: the result is thus a technological/sonic reflection of the collaborative nature of intellectual exchange, and the influence a producer can exert over the presentation of another’s speech! This episode originally aired on Tuesday, January 5th, at 5pm on CFRU 93.3FM.


Episode #31: Social Aesthetics (IICSI archive)

The Social Aesthetics Conference that took place at McGill University in 2010, put on by ICASP (http://improvcommunity.ca), the predecessor for the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation (http://improvisationinstitute.ca/), was a consideration of how social, cultural, economic and political forces condition the aesthetic practices and values of improvised performance. This is an archived discussion between researchers Georgina Born, Elizabeth Jackson, Eric Lewis, Ingrid Monson, and Jason Stanyek about how collaborative social practices at the same time they are artistic practices, and vice versa.

Episode #30: Collective Intention – Gary Lachance & the Decentralized Dance Party

This episode reflects on the exuberance of the Decentralized Dance Party from the point of view of a forest’s quiet clearing. I walk and talk with DDP creator Gary Lachance about the past, present, and future of this unique form of participatory public art. Championing the values of decentralization and inclusivity, the DDP facilitates opportunities for people to meet in public places and interact on a deeper level than mere verbal exchange permits; the DDP highlights a strata of connection often ignored by society: a bodily layer of communication that is accentuated in dancing and gestural expression. Commitment to decentralization, however, can exact personal costs for the organizers of these public celebrations. So here Gary Lachance joins me in tilting an ear toward the mother of all decentralization, the forest floor. This episode originally aired on CFRU 93.3FM on November 24, 2015. 

Episode #28: The Guelph Jazz Festival Colloquium – Improvisation and Personal Transformation

This episode features live recordings of two of the public talks given during the Guelph Jazz Festival Colloquium this year (Sept. 16 – Sept. 18). The first is by Rene Meshake and is entitled “The Gift of the Red-Tailed Hawk Flute”. The second is by Kathe Gray of York University and is called “Don’t Worry That It’s Not Good Enough for Anyone Else to Hear”: Finding Voice through Vocal Improvisation”. Both talks were given on Thursday September 17th, 2015. This episode originally aired on CFRU 93.3FM on October 22, 2015.

Episode #23: Improvisation and Mental Health with Music Therapist Deborah Seabrook

Musical improvisation that takes place within the confidentiality of the therapeutic relationship can be a way of engaging with a specific traumatic past, and also a technique for fostering mental health overall by cultivating listening, respect for self respect for others, and being in the moment. Deborah Seabrook of the Creative Arts Therapies Department at Concordia University discusses the possibility of using clinical improvisation as a tool in community health. This episode originally aired on CFRU 93.3FM on July 16th, 2015.

Episode #22: Summer Sounds with Jah Youssouf and Lewis Melville

Practice your French with this archival conversation from 2007 with Malian musician Jah Youssouf and Guelph multi-instrumentalist Lewis Melville. Hear them discuss music and family dynamics, coming to Canada form Mali, on not being a griot but being an artist, the social identity of the musician, and the inherently improvisatory nature of playing with other musicians.

Episode #20: Legal Improvisation

Dr. Sara Ramshaw of Exeter University and Dr. Paul Stapleton of Queen’s University Belfast consider how the virtues of good improvising – listening, responsiveness, appropriate risk-taking, timely intervention – can be used to improve the quality legal of decision making in Northern Ireland. Their symposium, Just Improvisation: Enriching child protection law through musical techniques, discourses and pedagogies, seeks to further the on-going conversation of the Translating Improvisation Research Group (TIRG) about the fundamentally improvisatory nature of the common law tradition, and how can this understanding of law can in turn heighten our sense musical improvisation’s normative dimension. This episode originally aired on CFRU 93.3FM in Guleph Ontario on June 4, 2015.

Episode #17: The AACM at 50: Muhal Richard Abrams, George Lewis, and Roscoe Mitchell

The Chicago based Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians is celebrating its 50th anniversary this week. This episode features an archival conversation conducted by Lincon T. Beauchamp with AACM members Muhal Richard Abrams, George Lewis, and Roscoe Mitchell at the ICASP Colloquium in Guelph Ontario in 2010. It originally aired on CFRU 93.3Fm on April 23, 2015.

Episode #15: Agential Acceptance and Ariel Swan

Ariel Swan discusses her 2014 album Symphony Plastique, facilitating youth agency through improvisation at Musikaddict, her recently completed Master’s thesis from McGill University. Additionally, hear Kenny Werner talk at the Blue Note on themes from his book Effortless Mastery. This show originally aired on CFRU 93.3 FM on February 26, 2015.

Episode #12: Broken Robots

Poet and Spoken Word artist Jack Daniel reflects on what it means to bring fragmentation and disjuncture into the improvisational situation. How can words interrupt and provoke our habitual ways of being expressive together? Do they help us say what is unsayable, to acknowledge the underbelly of human existence? This episode originally aired on CFRU 93.3FM on January 16th, 2015.

Episode #11: Dan Blake Loosening the Hinges

This episode showcases the performance of composer Dan Blake’s new work, Without Walls at Ibeam in Gowanus Brooklyn. In addition to hearing the performance that features musicians Christina Van Alstine, Erin Wight, Yegor Shevtsov, and Kevin Sims, you’ll hear Dan Blake reflect on his relationship to improvising and composing respectively, storytelling and character, and finding inspiration in the Heart Sutra. I speculate on the Freudian meaning of a certain infantile ball game (da-fort). This episode originally aired on CFRU 93.3FM in Guelph Ontario on December 18th, 2014.

Episode #9: Spiritual Snowdrift

Drift through an hour of life with this diffuse and meditative episode, which originally aired on November 20th at 3pm. Hear the latest updates from the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation, Marcel Swiboda of School of Fine Art, History of Art, and Cultural Studies, University of Leeds, UK talk about “Sun Ra’s Philosophical ‘Spiritual Exercises’ and the Improvisational ‘Permutation’ of the Present”, and the poem Glory, Glory by Canadians Al Neil and Kenneth Patchen.

Episode #7: Writing, Recording and The Ephemeral

Originally airing at 3pm on CFRU 93.3FM on October 23, 2014, this episode considers the relationship between improvisation and composition. I speak with Nick Storring about his tactile composition process on his new album Gardens, musicologist Chris Stover on the value and limits of scores as well as his understanding of Beat Span, and Guleph improviser Ben Grossman reflects on his preference for music that disappears. Hear part of his album Macrophone: Aleatoric Solo Duets for Electro-Acoustic Hurdy Gurdy, as well as Fred Ho’s Sweet Science Suite and Rotary Connection’s Magical World.

Episode #5: Voice! Guelph Jazz Festival

This episode originally aired on CFRU 93.3FM on September 24th at 3pm. It features Chris Tonelli speaking about boundary pushing vocalist Jeanne Lee, Dana Reason on disrupting the body in order to find an improvising voice, and composer Kip Haaheim about how to find the musical underpinnings in speech. All of these conversations took place at the Guelph Jazz Festival earlier in September.