Winner, 2007 University & College Designers Association Design Award
Nobody says Shakespeare is dead, Antonio Fava tells us, but Commedia, they say, is dead. Why? Because clearly, he goes on, we have Shakespeare's texts, but nobody knows what to do with the improvisation that is the basis of the Commedia dell'Arte, despite massive documentation. This book by Fava, one of the few living master teachers of Commedia dell'Arte, is the first aesthetic and methodological study of the traditional Italian theater form--the first to describe, in a precise and practical way, what Commedia is and what it should be.
The mask--as object, symbol, character, theatrical practice, even spectacle itself--is the central metaphor around which Fava builds his discussion of structure, themes, characters, and methods. Drawing on twenty years of research conducted through his work as performer, director, mask maker, and scholar, he offers extensive practical, philosophical, and technical guidelines to performing the stock characters of Commedia, observing its structure, extracting its poetics, exploring its themes, and using the mask. A densely layered text combining historical fact, personal experience, philosophical speculation, and passionate opinion, and including copious illustrations--period drawings, prints, and color photographs of leather Commedia masks made by Fava himself--The Comic Mask in the Commedia dell'Arte is a rich work of singular insight into one of the world's most venerable forms of theater.
The Culture of Spontaneity is the first comprehensive history of the postwar avant-garde, integrating such diverse moments in American culture as abstract expressionism, bebop jazz, gestalt therapy, Black Mountain College, Jungian psychology, beat poetry, experimental dance, Zen Buddhism, Alfred North Whitehead's cosmology, and the antinuclear movement. Daniel Belgrad shows how a startling variety of artistic movements actually had one unifying theme: spontaneous improvisation.
"A compelling narrative, putting living flesh on shorthand intuitions that connect North Beach to Black Mountain College, Fenollosa to Pollock, Jackson Lears's No Place of Grace to Todd Gitlin's The Sixties."—Joel Smith, Boston Review
"An invaluable introduction to postwar modernism across the arts."—Thomas Augst, Boston Book Review
"Belgrad's extensive probing of the artists and movements with their profound sociological roots is timely as well as comprehensive....A major contribution for serious scholars."—Choice
After an extraordinary career in dance - as a performer, choreographer, and teacher - Daniel Nagrin has now written an extraordinary book. In it he explores the roots of his aesthetic philosophy, influenced by Stanislavski, Helen Tamiris, Joseph Chaikin and the Open Theatre, and his work on and off Broadway as an actor and dancer.
Dance and the Specific Image includes over one hundred improvisational structures that Nagrin created with his new company, the Workgroup, and has taught in dance classes and workshops all over the United States. Designed primarily for dancers, many can be adapted for actors and even musicians.
In the 1960s, at a time when many modern dancers were working with movement as abstraction, Nagrin turned instead toward movement as metaphor. His passionate belief that dance must speak of people led him to found the Workgroup, a small company of dancers who, in the early 1970s, devoted themselves to the practice and performance of improvisation.
Nagrin invites the reader into the mind of a dancer totally absorbed in his art, one who writes with wisdom and authority about what it means to be an artist.
The Fierce Urgency of Now links musical improvisation to struggles for social change, focusing on the connections between the improvisation associated with jazz and the dynamics of human rights struggles and discourses. The authors acknowledge that at first glance improvisation and rights seem to belong to incommensurable areas of human endeavor. Improvisation connotes practices that are spontaneous, personal, local, immediate, expressive, ephemeral, and even accidental, while rights refer to formal standards of acceptable human conduct, rules that are permanent, impersonal, universal, abstract, and inflexible. Yet the authors not only suggest that improvisation and rights can be connected; they insist that they must be connected.
Improvisation is the creation and development of new, unexpected, and productive cocreative relations among people. It cultivates the capacity to discern elements of possibility, potential, hope, and promise where none are readily apparent. Improvisers work with the tools they have in the arenas that are open to them. Proceeding without a written score or script, they collaborate to envision and enact something new, to enrich their experience in the world by acting on it and changing it. By analyzing the dynamics of particular artistic improvisations, mostly by contemporary American jazz musicians, the authors reveal improvisation as a viable and urgently needed model for social change. In the process, they rethink politics, music, and the connections between them.
Addressing a wide range of improvised art and music forms—from jazz and cinema to dance and literature—this volume's contributors locate improvisation as a key site of mediation between the social and the aesthetic. As a catalyst for social experiment and political practice, improvisation aids in the creation, contestation, and codification of social realities and identities. Among other topics, the contributors discuss the social aesthetics of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, the Feminist Improvising Group, and contemporary Malian music, as well as the virtual sociality of interactive computer music, the significance of "uncreative" improvisation, responses to French New Wave cinema, and the work of figures ranging from bell hooks and Billy Strayhorn to Kenneth Goldsmith. Across its diverse chapters, Improvisation and Social Aesthetics argues that ensemble improvisation is not inherently egalitarian or emancipatory, but offers a potential site for the cultivation of new forms of social relations. It sets out a new conceptualization of the aesthetic as immanently social and political, proposing a new paradigm of improvisation studies that will have reverberations throughout the humanities.
Contributors. Lisa Barg, Georgina Born, David Brackett, Nicholas Cook, Marion Froger, Susan Kozel, Eric Lewis, George E. Lewis, Ingrid Monson, Tracey Nicholls, Winfried Siemerling, Will Straw, Zoë Svendsen, Darren Wershler
Insubordinate spaces are places of possibility, products of acts of accompaniment and improvisation that deepen capacities for democratic social change. Barbara Tomlinson and George Lipsitz’s Insubordinate Spaces explores the challenges facing people committed to social justice in an era when social institutions have increasingly been reconfigured to conform to the imperatives of a market society.
In their book, the authors argue that education, the arts, and activism are key terrains of political and ideological conflict. They explore and analyze exemplary projects responding to current social justice issues and crises, from the Idle No More movement launched by Indigenous people in Canada to the performance art of Chingo Bling, Fandango convenings, the installation art of Ramiro Gomez, and the mass protests proclaiming “Black Lives Matter" in Ferguson, MO. Tomlinson and Lipsitz draw on key concepts from struggles to advance ideas about reciprocal recognition and co-creation as components in the construction of new egalitarian and democratic social relations, practices, and institutions.
How do we define improvised music? What is the relationship of highly improvised performances to the work they are performances of? How do we decide what are the important parts of an improvised musical work? In Intents and Purposes, Eric Lewis uses a series of case studies to challenge assumptions about what defines a musical work and musical performance, seeking to go beyond philosophical and aesthetic templates from Western classical music to foreground the distinctive practices and aesthetics of jazz. Pushing aside the assumption that composition and improvisation are different (or even opposed) musical practices, Lewis’s philosophically informed approach revisits key topics in musical ontology, such as how to define the triangle of composer-performer-listener, and the status of live performances in relation to scores and recordings. Drawing on critical race theory, feminist theory, new musicology, sociology, cognitive science, and genre theory, Lewis opens up new questions about agency in performance, as well as new ways of considering the historical relationships between improvisational practices with roots in different cultural frameworks. By showing how jazz can be both art, idea, and action all at the same time, Lewis offers a new way of seeing any improvised musical performance in a new culturally and aesthetically rich context.
Growing out of the collaborative research of an American ethnomusicologist and Zimbabwean musician, Paul F. Berliner and Cosmas Magaya’s Mbira’s Restless Dance documents the repertory for a keyboard instrument known generally as mbira. At the heart of this work lies the analysis of the improvisatory processes that propel mbira music’s magnificent creativity.
Mbira’s Restless Dance is written to be played. This two-volume, spiral-bound set features musical transcriptions of thirty-nine compositions and variations, annotated with the master player’s advice on technique and performance, his notes and observations, and commentary by Berliner. Enhanced with extensive website audiovisuals, Mbira’s Restless Dance is in effect a series of masterclasses with Magaya, suitable for experienced mbira players and those learning the fundamentals.
Together with Berliner's The Art of Mbira, in which he provides an indispensable historical and cultural guide to mbira in a changing world, Mbira's Restless Dance breaks new ground in the depth and specificity of its exploration of an African musical tradition, and in the entwining of the authors’ collaborative voices. It is a testament to the powerful relationship between music and social life—and the rewards of lifelong musical study, performance, and friendship.
The contributors to Negotiated Moments explore how subjectivity is formed and expressed through musical improvisation, tracing the ways the transmission and reception of sound occur within and between bodies in real and virtual time and across memory, history, and space. They place the gendered, sexed, raced, classed, disabled, and technologized body at the center of critical improvisation studies and move beyond the field's tendency toward celebrating improvisation's utopian and democratic ideals by highlighting the improvisation of marginalized subjects. Rejecting a singular theory of improvisational agency, the contributors show how improvisation helps people gain hard-won and highly contingent agency. Essays include analyses of the role of the body and technology in performance, improvisation's ability to disrupt power relations, Pauline Oliveros's ideas about listening, flautist Nicole Mitchell's compositions based on Octavia Butler's science fiction, and an interview with Judith Butler about the relationship between her work and improvisation. The contributors' close attention to improvisation provides a touchstone for examining subjectivities and offers ways to hear the full spectrum of ideas that sound out from and resonate within and across bodies.
Contributors. George Blake, David Borgo, Judith Butler, Rebecca Caines, Louise Campbell, Illa Carrillo Rodríguez, Berenice Corti, Andrew Raffo Dewar, Nina Eidsheim, Tomie Hahn, Jaclyn Heyen, Christine Sun Kim, Catherine Lee, Andra McCartney, Tracy McMullen, Kevin McNeilly, Leaf Miller, Jovana Milovic, François Mouillot, Pauline Oliveros, Jason Robinson, Neil Rolnick, Simon Rose, Gillian Siddall, Julie Dawn Smith, Jesse Stewart, Clara Tomaz, Sherrie Tucker, Lindsay Vogt, Zachary Wallmark, Ellen Waterman, David Whalen, Pete Williams, Deborah Wong, Mandy-Suzanne Wong
Improvisation is usually either lionized as an ecstatic experience of being in the moment or disparaged as the thoughtless recycling of clichés. Eschewing both of these orthodoxies, The Philosophy of Improvisation ranges across the arts—from music to theater, dance to comedy—and considers the improvised dimension of philosophy itself in order to elaborate an innovative concept of improvisation.
Gary Peters turns to many of the major thinkers within continental philosophy—including Heidegger, Nietzsche, Adorno, Kant, Benjamin, and Deleuze—offering readings of their reflections on improvisation and exploring improvisational elements within their thinking. Peters’s wry, humorous style offers an antidote to the frequently overheated celebration of freedom and community that characterizes most writing on the subject. Expanding the field of what counts as improvisation, The Philosophy of Improvisation will be welcomed by anyone striving to comprehend the creative process.
The contributors to Playing for Keeps examine the ways in which musical improvisation can serve as a method for negotiating violence, trauma, systemic inequality, and the aftermaths of war and colonialism. Outlining the relation of improvisatory practices to local and global power structures, they show how in sites as varied as South Africa, Canada, Egypt, the United States, and the Canary Islands, improvisation provides the means for its participants to address the past and imagine the future. In addition to essays, the volume features a poem by saxophonist Matana Roberts, an interview with pianist Vijay Iyer about his work with U.S. veterans of color, and drawings by artist Randy DuBurke that chart Nina Simone's politicization. Throughout, the contributors illustrate how improvisation functions as a model for political, cultural, and ethical dialogue and action that can foster the creation of alternate modes of being and knowing in the world.
Contributors. Randy DuBurke, Rana El Kadi, Kevin Fellezs, Daniel Fischlin, Kate Galloway, Reem Abdul Hadi, Vijay Iyer, Mark Lomanno, Moshe Morad, Eric Porter, Sara Ramshaw, Matana Roberts, Darci Sprengel, Paul Stapleton, Odeh Turjman, Stephanie Vos
It all began in a converted Chinese laundry on Chicago's north side on a cold December night in 1959. No one could have known that by the next century, The Second City would have established itself as the premier comedy institution in the world. Taking its act north, The Second City would build a second permanent home in Toronto where it would create the Emmy-Award winning television series "SCTV." Pioneering the use of improvisation in developing talent and creating satiric revue comedy, The Second City has become - in the words of the New York Times - "A Comedy Empire."
The Second City Almanac of Improvisation - like the theatre itself - is a collection of diverse ideas, viewpoints, and memories, written by a vast array of teachers, actors, and directors who all got their start at the legendary comedy theatre. Fred Willard recalls his introduction to The Second City style in the mid-Sixties; Tim Kazurinsky gives a hilarious visual demonstration on the art of object work; "Saturday Night Live" star Tina Fey talks about re-improvising material as a mode of writing revue comedy; noted director Mick Napier takes on the thorny debate between long-form improvisation and short-form improvisation. Anne Libera guides the reader through each essay by providing a road map for understanding how The Second City method of improv-based comedy has become the industry standard.
Mike Nichols, Elaine May, Alan Arkin, Joan Rivers, Robert Klein, Peter Boyle, Harold Ramis, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, John Candy, Martin Short, Gilda Radner, George Wendt, Jim Belushi, Bonnie Hunt, Mike Myers, Ryan Stiles, Rachel Dratch, Nia Vardalos - no other theatre can boast an alumni list of this magnitude. The Second City Almanac of Improvisation provides practical instruction, personal details, and inspiration to both improvisers and their fans.
From the theatrical stage to the literary salon, the figure of Sappho—the ancient poet and inspiring icon of feminine creativity—played a major role in the intertwining histories of improvisation, text, and performance throughout the nineteenth century. Exploring the connections between operatic and poetic improvisation in Italy and beyond, Singing Sappho combines earwitness accounts of famous female improviser-virtuosi with erudite analysis of musical and literary practices. Melina Esse demonstrates that performance played a much larger role in conceptions of musical authorship than previously recognized, arguing that discourses of spontaneity—specifically those surrounding the improvvisatrice, or female poetic improviser—were paradoxically used to carve out a new authority for opera composers just as improvisation itself was falling into decline. With this novel and nuanced book, Esse persuasively reclaims the agency of performers and their crucial role in constituting Italian opera as a genre in the nineteenth century.
What should it mean today to "teach writing as a process"? In Situating Writing Processes, Hannah J. Rule takes stock of this familiar commonplace in composition studies, arguing for a renewed understanding of process that emphasizes situatedness. To situate processes is to physically locate them: to observe the infinite ways they are shaped by particular bodies and affects, environments and spaces, others near and distant, and various tools or objects. When we call attention to the physical, material, and located dimensions of processes, we foreground the differences, contingencies, and lived experiences of composing. Doing so is critical, Rule argues, to finally letting go of discrete skills and instead teaching writing as experience in seeing and responding to ranging constraints immediate and distant, material and social. Situating processes ultimately emphasizes vulnerability: how all writing involves risk, uncertainty, and the possibility of failure, as processes are susceptible to the participation and control of forces on ranging scales and always in excess of the writer alone. Accounting for context, difference, and improvisation, Situating Writing Processes helps writing teachers and scholars freshly reimagine the histories and potential of an enduring concept.
A landmark in jazz studies, Thinking in Jazz reveals as never before how musicians, both individually and collectively, learn to improvise. Chronicling leading musicians from their first encounters with jazz to the development of a unique improvisatory voice, Paul Berliner documents the lifetime of preparation that lies behind the skilled improviser's every idea.
The product of more than fifteen years of immersion in the jazz world, Thinking in Jazz combines participant observation with detailed musicological analysis, the author's experience as a jazz trumpeter, interpretations of published material by scholars and performers, and, above all, original data from interviews with more than fifty professional musicians: bassists George Duvivier and Rufus Reid; drummers Max Roach, Ronald Shannon Jackson, and Akira Tana; guitarist Emily Remler; pianists Tommy Flanagan and Barry Harris; saxophonists Lou Donaldson, Lee Konitz, and James Moody; trombonist Curtis Fuller; trumpeters Doc Cheatham, Art Farmer, Wynton Marsalis, and Red Rodney; vocalists Carmen Lundy and Vea Williams; and others. Together, the interviews provide insight into the production of jazz by great artists like Betty Carter, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, and Charlie Parker.
Thinking in Jazz overflows with musical examples from the 1920s to the present, including original transcriptions (keyed to commercial recordings) of collective improvisations by Miles Davis's and John Coltrane's groups. These transcriptions provide additional insight into the structure and creativity of jazz improvisation and represent a remarkable resource for jazz musicians as well as students and educators.
Berliner explores the alternative ways—aural, visual, kinetic, verbal, emotional, theoretical, associative—in which these performers conceptualize their music and describes the delicate interplay of soloist and ensemble in collective improvisation. Berliner's skillful integration of data concerning musical development, the rigorous practice and thought artists devote to jazz outside of performance, and the complexities of composing in the moment leads to a new understanding of jazz improvisation as a language, an aesthetic, and a tradition. This unprecedented journey to the heart of the jazz tradition will fascinate and enlighten musicians, musicologists, and jazz fans alike.