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Making Music and Defining Improvisation: Materials and Personal Work
And Nils Ostendorf routinely took anything up to 10 days away from playing,48
describing how he generally preferred to do an hour of yoga or spend the time exchanging
with colleagues. Showing again, that practise was focussed specifically towards what
improvising musicians wanted to do, Ostendorf feared that too much conventional
practise made it more difficult to work in the way he wanted to (with noise, air,
multiphonics and extended techniques), and he explained how:
If I practise actually a lot... it’s much harder.... because it’s really about
playing inbetween the notes, also inbetween the harmonic series. [...] If you
practise a lot... every [pitched] note really locks in.... so it’s harder for me
to really play between the notes.
I also got sloppy on this whole attack and very clear trumpet [sound], like
all these articulation things, because I never now want to practise any more
these stupid Arban things.49 [...] The music I play I don’t need it so much I don’t play any 8th note lines, any 16th note lines.
And for Ostendorf, as for many older musicians, periods of long intense personal practise
lay firmly in the past, the purpose of this private work having changed significantly over
time, and Tristan Honsinger suggesting that:
I think there’s a lot of people that... to develop, they go through a time of
exploding... of playing as much as possible. [...] I can’t imagine it any more,
though I’d done it for maybe 10 years before I became really tired of it. [...]
I don’t practise that much any more. I only practise when I’m in the process
of writing... until I find something I can start writing, which is a total[ly]
different process. [...] I used to practice to find, to extend my thing, whereas
now it’s the opposite... now it’s more to define it, to take away things rather
than to add on to.
Controlled-Discontrol and Materials Developed During Performance
This chapter has presented a picture of musicians who were generally extremely clear in
their intentions whilst improvising, drawing on a repertoire of ‘known’, pre-prepared,
yet still-flexible materials in order to create new and unpredictable collective musical
outcomes during the course of performance.
However, just as Tobias Delius said, for “everything you say, you can think of an example
of the opposite which is just as nice, or as true”,50 and as Beins and Tricoli’s reluctance
Also owing to a busy family life and working full-time as a composer for theatre - “10 years ago I
could practice for 4 hours a day”, but now “I get pretty bored practising trumpet - [after] more than 45
minutes I just don’t know what to practice any more!”
Ostendorf refers to the Arban ‘Cornet Method’, a book of exercises and études used extensively by
classical trumpeters.
See p. 164.