36 Years Ago

36 Years Ago, Vienna 1971—A Student Journal

Day 124: Improvisation


Vienna 1971—A Student Journal
A year of music, study, travel, sightseeing & friends.

Day 124 — Improvisation
04-December-1971 (Sat.)


The whole day was involved in electronic music—a new working project with Dieter Kaufman. Improvisation. In the morning we experimented with different improvisation models. It was quite an enlightening experience because I learned that intelligent improvisation is somewhat of a skill—if you want an intelligent (able to be used for music) result. We used simple sound sources and different taping techniques and ideas. As a group, we began to learn how to improvise together. Practice makes perfect. Results: some pretty good. Also, some “speaking” exercise turned out excellent (theatrical).

Afternoon. Lunch was upset by a stupid old prejudice (long hair). A Wiener frau [woman] really angered me. The world will be better off when people like her are gone.

Afternoon. Spent experimenting with how to make different models (or composing techniques), using the morning’s results. This was also extremely difficult, not only musically, but technically. Many interesting possibilities—tape lag, repeating, etc.


Improvisation. As I discover, improvisation is a skill or art that has to be practiced and learned. In contemporary music, improvising is a skill that might take the form of vocal improvisations such as a type of musical theater or vocalizing, or the form of instrumental improvisations such as creating interesting sounds on traditional instruments, prepared instruments (“prepared” piano), or found-sound instruments (sounds made by common objects, such as metallic or wooden objects). In Vienna, we were experimenting with vocal improvisations, if I remember correctly—the results were good. Remember that contemporary music in the style of avant-garde, musique concrete, or electronic music, often dealt with interesting “soundscapes”—exploring textures, layering, and manipulating sounds into compositions.

Other improvisation. Of course, improvisation exists in other genres of music, most notably that of jazz, where melodies are improvised over harmonic and rhythmic musical beds. You improvise over a harmonic progression, for example. In pop and rock music, instrumental solos inserted into a song are often improvised. Improvisational techniques can be found in Baroque and Classical music (cadenzas, theme and variations). Finally, audiences today are familiar with comedy improvisations often seen on TV shows.

Prejudice. My hair is long now. I’m not a hippie, but I have long hair. Boy, something must have happened at lunch that really upset me, and it’s probably related to my long hair. Certainly, this was an isolated incident. I don't remember having any problems during my entire year in Vienna. Most people were usually wonderful and very friendly. It’s a shame, the world would be a better place without prejudices.


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