Playing with a non-flutist was inspiring as far as the different types of sounds that were produced, and I felt pushed to explore how the flute could imitate the bass sounds. Ken also suggested improvising with spoken word artists, like poets, if possible. Relatedly, the book Sing Your Story by Jay Clayton was mentioned as a great resource on improvisation.
In our improvisations, we talked about the ideas of foreground, middle ground, and background; clearly establishing which “ground” you are playing as can help group improvisation. Eye contact with other people in your same ground can also be important to facilitate communication between players.
One exercise for practicing improv is to set up a limitation before you begin. This could mean choosing to play only one or two notes, or using only breath sounds, etc. Doing this will better encourage the exploration of the capabilities of you and your instrument. In other words, limitation can lead to expansion. While we were talking about this idea, either Ken or Robert said, “We don’t know what it is, but it is.”
Ken also presented two different kinds of hearing: 1) hearing music and 2) hearing musical facts. Typically we are strong in one and need to develop the other to be better balanced, and practicing improvisation can help with that.
Some other artists to listen to for funzies:
Gheorghe Zamfir on the Romanian pan flute
Donald Martino (specifically Notturno, for which he won the Pulitzer in 1974)
Until next time!