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ensemble workshops (all instruments)

constructive improvisation – using prepared ingredients in improvised music

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Music is a dynamic art – it exists in time, during the course of performance. But no music exists without preparation – we practice, we learn licks, melodies, grooves, entire pieces. Just how freely we work with our prepared material depends on the genre we work in, and on our skills, imaginations, the audience’s knowledge and expecations, and so on.

I’m very interested in developing a way to improvise a piece of music while guiding its development and coordinating moments in which the musicians meet. In this workshop we’ll do exactly that: freely improvise a continuous set of music using various parameters to shape and inform the music. In the band hutspot, currently touring in India, we create music using this very approach.

To begin we’ll play with instructions like Butch Morris’ conduction and John Zorn’s game piece Cobra – systems devised to shape and structure freely improvised music. Moving on, we’ll start replacing the hand gestures and other clues from these systems with more concrete musical elements – short melodies and grooves, but also dynamic instructions, textural ideas, developmental techniques. Robbert will provide a number of these, and participants are encouraged to bring their own – simple ideas, a song you learnt in your village, a rhythm you can’t get out of your head, a cue that indicates a transition to something else… Anything can be used, as long as it’s easy to teach to others and has a clear character, an identity.
Eventually, we’ll all know all the ingredients and practice playing longer continuous sets using them, putting everything together in performance, combining short ideas into full sets of music.

minimal music

In minimal music, development is slow and gradual. In this workshop, we will look at some techniques that composers like Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and LaMonte Young used in many different ways, and then run with those techniques.
We’ll use Reich’s amazing Clapping Music as an introduction: one simple pattern repeated twelve times, shifting against the pulse until it is back in its original position. Next, we’ll use minimal techniques to enrich the music we create: addition and subtraction of notes in a motif (e.g. Reich’s Drumming), repeating a practiced cell until you want to move to the next one (Riley’s In C), and using shifting layers of different lengths (Reich’s Piano Phase). We’ll play with all this, and come up with our own ways to create slow and gradual musical developments and try to use them in different styles, including jazz and rock. This way, we’ll be able to create longer pieces of music, and extend our ideas about form and development in a piece of music.

masterclasses drums

time & groove

very slow tempos – inner metronome – subdivisions & groupings – displacement – using unusual sounds

sound & timbre

types of sound – orchestration – dynamics – unusual sounds – form awareness


regular groupings – shifting time – speed changes – subdivision replacement – contraction & expansion

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