Interfaces: Meeting Points for Improvisation and Composition

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Rudnick, P., 2001. Interfaces: Meeting Points for Improvisation and Composition. Body, Space & Technology, 1(2). DOI:


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On December 2nd 2000, the Music section of the Department of Performing Arts at Brunel University convened a one-day conference which explored the relationships between composition and improvisation within the context of Jazz and contemporary ‘classical’ musics. It attracted a number of delegates from UK universities, music conservatories and the music professions comprising a body of composers, performers, educators and critics (not mutually exclusive categories!). The papers appearing in this edition of BST are representative of the main proceedings which involved formal papers, demonstrations, interviews, live premieres of new works and an exhibition of scores. These papers raise issues such as: problems in the definition of composition and improvisation; misconceptions about the nature of improvisation; whether, and in what way, fusions can be effected between Jazz and classical styles; the relationship between ‘realworld’ Jazz and Jazz in education. As Ian Carr states: ‘Improvisation at its best, is composition in motion...and composition at its best has something of the immediacy and dynamism of improvisation’. Frank Griffiths explains how he has explored the possibility of achieving a new balance and a new relationship between fully notated and improvised music and similarly, Colin Riley explores in collaboration with Jazz saxophonist Tim Whitehead a way of fusing the two to achieve a ‘third stream’, ‘a language which can enable creativity to take place’. On the pedagogical side, Daryl Runswick offers useful practical strategies for musicians who want to acquire improvising skills in conjunction with notation. Echoing Carr, he indicates that improvising is a disciplined and sophisticated art rather than ‘fee-association ranting’. Charlie Beale offers perspectives on composition and improvisation as conceptual categories and their relationship to classical music, Jazz and Jazz education.

The interfaces project teams are currently planning the next conference (to be held in 2002) in collaboration with members of the Trinity College of Music and the Royal College of Music, London. The number of themes are to be expanded to include not only the interface between composition and improvisation but also those between (a) human performers and music technology, (b) music and sound, (c) text and music. If you would like to be involved please contact a member of the team – email addresses below.

Peter Rudnick, Brunel University
Project Co-Ordinator



Peter Rudnick





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