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Playing Together: Four Levels of Improvisation and Two Axes of Appreciation
stay within the confines of each ‘field’), and these expectations enabled the collective
generation of form, coherence and narrative over the course of each piece, and each
‘Field’ was a term used extensively by Burkhard Beins, Michael Thieke and Andrea
Neumann,11 and each ‘field’ (specific to each group) was defined by the tastes, materials
and shared interests of its members, as well as by the group’s history and experience.
This knowledge made it possible to focus, limit and predict musical outcomes, as well
as to identify common ground for exploration and development, and, as a result, as
listener David Diaz pointed out:
If it’s a concert where the ingredients... are going to be Andrea Neumann
and Burkhard Beins, you know what to expect.
For long-term groups and collaborations, knowledge of the Field allowed musicians to
develop ever-deeper into specific areas, Andrea Neumann describing how:
When you play with somebody you don’t know, then... while you’re playing
you find out what is the field, and when you know somebody before, then
you know the elements better, what they are into.12
And, for Matthias Müller, the trust created in such long-term musical relationships was
comparable to a strong friendship:
A good example, I think, is if you have a good conversation with friends.
Then it’s like you can argue with them [and] we can fight about something,
but... I’m sure that I can count on you, that you would help me get up
again after you’ve knocked me out!
For this reason, many experienced improvisers preferred working in long-running
groups,13 Olaf Rupp noting that, in this case, “many misunderstandings are already
done”. And Jan Roder described how:
Then you come to something. And it doesn’t matter if in the end it sounds
like [Die] Enttäuschung, or SoKo [Steidle] or... Phosphor. [...] If they play,
The German term Konsequent (lit. ‘consistent’) was often used to applaud a ‘good’ performance specifically that the musicians took one idea and stuck to it. See pp. 155 and 119 for other references
to the ‘field’.
The term ‘Field’ was used mainly in English, and is distinct from the English translation of
Bourdieu’s champ, or (sociological) Field (see footnote, p. 265).
Tobias Delius added that even in the case of first-time collaborations, “Genuine, completely first
meetings are seldom. [...] Either you’ve either heard the person before, or... somehow, by association,
you can imagine a little bit what you’re [getting] into, what’s going to come.”
Although some listeners preferred the excitement of ‘first meeting’ concerts, more experienced
improvisers mostly saw local first meetings (as opposed to ‘all-star’ meetings at festivals) as social
meeting-points, open rehearsals, opportunities to experiment with new projects, and to test whether or
not they could still be ‘strong’ (see p. 190) in less secure situations (as Antonio Borghini put it, “To
keep this kind of intensity, even when my fellow players are not there”). Such concerts were also held to
be important for younger musicians looking to gain playing experience and social connections.