Improvisation as a creative dialogue

Ben-Tal, Oded and Wilkins, Caroline (2013) Improvisation as a creative dialogue. Perspectives of New Music, 51(1), pp. 21-39. ISSN (print) 0031-6016


Our paper will describe the creative process of Zaum: Beyond Mind an interactive sound theater performance, and examine the role of improvisation in shaping the piece. Zaum is a modular performance for voice, bandoneon, piano and electronics- integrating both live interactive elements and fixed sounds – with lighting, and video projection. While the creative process included traditional modes of composition, a significant aspect in melding the contribution of two composers - each with a different approach to composition - shares important attributes with improvisation. It is to do with creative listening, adjusting our individual contribution in response to changing contexts, and developing a shared sense of musical pacing and narrative. Improvisation also played a significant role in developing the technological, interactive elements of the piece with a co-evolution of the programming and the performance over a lengthy process of exploration and adjustments. This process, therefore, entails multiple dialogues, musical as well as verbal, between us as a duo and between us and our instruments. On the way we discovered that analytical reflection, despite its connotations of cerebral processes popularly portrayed as in opposition to the spontaneity required in improvisation, played a crucial role in the shaping of the piece.

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