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Making Music and Defining Improvisation: Materials and Personal Work
try and concentrate not to repeat yourself. And then directly a different
one! [laughs]. And then to figure out that “OK, that doesn’t work”, like,
perfect, but you get ideas... just to get out of 2-5-1s in a way.29 How to
come to a different concept. [...] [Other people] write down numbers, and
practise that up and down... and yeah, I also did that... but I kind of try to
make myself flexible to improvise those lines, let’s put it like this.30
And Els Vandeweyer, told me that whilst performing:
Then you always feel like “Oh this isn’t nice... how I can go different ways
from it?”, and then [in practice sessions] I really forced myself to go in five
different directions with one pattern, or sound-wise... you have a beater
on the left hand... two notes [or] three notes, that you say “OK, I’ll stick
myself in that kind of thing”, and then [with the] right hand, I make one
decision: “Okay, I want only... 7s, like dominant...”, and then [work on that]
to be able to be kind of free... and see where you come out with. Or... I
want to use [a] one hand roll and then keeping this, or I want to play it in
different ways...[to] do two voices, or one voicing in the middle, and then...
three, four hours later again... you found it out... you just take a motif and
you turn it around... in every way.
Developing rhythmic flexibility was also important, drummer Christian Lillinger
explaining that:
What I practise... is to be able to think much more freely, with different
ways of doing. For example, 6-over-7 things,31 so that I can create different
layers - that you stay in a clear thing, but you can go everywhere, freely, in
relation to this centre. [...] It’s also a training, of course, but so everything
is possible, and so you can stay in these energetic situations, so that it flows.
Not so that it becomes concrete, but that it’s a living thing.
And flexibility was physical and mental - Lillinger emphasising the need for physical
suppleness in addition to ‘free thinking’, and Andrea Neumann describing that her
aim, in practise, was to become “fluid not only with your hands, but also in your
Many musicians looked to practices outside of music in order to realise these goals - Olaf
Rupp and Nils Ostendorf practicing meditation and yoga, and Burkhard Beins going
Roder refers to the mastery of improvising over ii-V-I cadences that remains central to the mainstream
jazz tradition.
Klaus Kürvers added, “I have choices to work with certain sounds, or with certain sets of pitches everything which is used in composition. [...] To work with a small selection of pitches, which... are
fully permutated. All these techniques for creating variation which we know from classical composition forwards, backwards, higher and lower. [laughs] [...] There is one element that is being rotated, that
you’re looking at from various sides.”
Playing a six beat phrase in the time of a seven beat phrase.