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  1. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop
    Classical musicians - and I suppose I am in part that - largely see improv in the classical context as an historical thing.
    Yes. There's a huge tension between the tightness of the idiom and the elements of chance and freedom.

    I actually experienced some of this (much self imposed) when playing swing. I spent some time learning to improvise in the idiom of a late 1930s jazz guitarist. For most jazz improvisers this is probably never an issue, but I found it very interesting to dig into the history in this way. Obviously learning bop from a historical style perspective (as I later did) is similar.

    After years of denying myself quite consciously to play certain things when improvising on gigs, I finally decided I didn't actually care any more and wanted to subvert the whole buttoned up thing. Imagine my surprise (and annoyance) when I listened back to my recordings and if anything they sounded more in the style haha. Turns out the ears and the intuitive mind are in charge after all.

    Anyway, I do find the differences in the classical mindset with regard to improvisation absolutely fascinating. For instance I transcribed a keyboard improvisation on a Fenaroli bass for guitar (in both jazz and classical senses) and posted it up on a classical improv forum.

    Right away, one of the musicians on the forum (a very accomplished HIP performer and classical improviser) started to critique it as an actual composition. There were some mistakes in the counterpoint; consecutives etc. That's fair as I think for most is to try to improvise good counterpoint. But, to this forum member it seemed almost like he felt I should have corrected it before posting, and that it was down to me to do that even though I wasn't the improvisor.

    So, when listening to improvisations few forum members, if anyone, take exception at counterpoint mistakes (obviously it's harder to catch them, but even so) but the transformation into musical text suddenly makes the piece into a composition that has to follow the rules.

    I thought this was interesting because I would regard a transcription of an improvisation as a fundamentally different animal to a composition. It would not occur to me to present a transcription of a jazz solo as anything other than as true to what was played as possible, and I'd taken that jazz viewpoint into the study of classical improvisation. The idea of critiquing the result as a composition would be quite alien to me. To me documenting the improv, warts and all was an important part of the process; otherwise we are left with another composition and there's quite a few of those in the style, some of them really quite good. :-)

    Later the improvisor posted a 'corrected' version of their improvisational realisation, which to me demonstrates how improv and composition build on each other very naturally.

    What's good about Jonathan's videos is that he is also doing it with Elliott Carter's "Changes", one of the most difficult contemporary pieces in the repertoire. I recall an essay Jonathan wrote for the European Guitar Teachers Association some years ago, about learning interpretation through composition, imitative composition that is. You want to play Bach? Then write like him. Or at least try to. Same with Carter. It seems that he, Jonathan, has moved more towards improv these days than composition, though obviously the two are connected.
    Yeah, it's great, and I think more and more are becoming interested in it. I would hate to see it become a realm only for the professional specialists, the Robert Levins. That would defeat the whole point for me; everyone should have a go, and its the process of it which is as important as the result. But I'm also aware that many who are classical improvisors view it through that professional HIP lens.

    Aside from the fact that I enjoy it and I feel that learning more about this might teach me about playing jazz, I think my main interest in classical improv is to encourage what I call Musical Citizenship. This is something we take for granted in the jazz and rock/pop world. As I teach my students a wide cross section of music including classical, I don't want classical music to seem like some ivory tower thing that can't be used as the basis for musical play like the other areas. Encouraging students to improvise and compose their own music is an important part of this.

    Yes, Bach often starts his preludes stating the principal chords of the key, I, IV and V, before modulating to their relatives. Tonic and dominant pedals often get included. So, he starts small, close, then spreads out. Only late on in the piece will he wander into "foreign" territory, and then only in some pieces. It's enjoyable to just listen to a performance of a Bach prelude, especially one you are unfamiliar with, and try to hear this unfolding and exploration, and then figure out how he might get home again.
    That's a great way of putting it.
    Last edited by christianm77; 03-14-2021 at 07:16 AM.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #27

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    Back when I was in music school, the uni did a Monteverdi opera, with me on guitar (lute continuo.) I had no idea what I was doing, and at the first rehearsal I played it straight off the page. The conductor stopped the whole orchestra and yelled at me, YOU, WE NEED MORE NOTES THERE! EVERYWHERE!

    So I started rolling the chords, enlarging them, adding notes, throwing in trills etc, all over the place. He yelled back, YES THAT'S IT, YES! It turned out to be a real education and an incredibly fun experience.

  4. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Sound
    Back when I was in music school, the uni did a Monteverdi opera, with me on guitar (lute continuo.) I had no idea what I was doing, and at the first rehearsal I played it straight off the page. The conductor stopped the whole orchestra and yelled at me, YOU, WE NEED MORE NOTES THERE! EVERYWHERE!

    So I started rolling the chords, enlarging them, adding notes, throwing in trills etc, all over the place. He yelled back, YES THAT'S IT, YES! It turned out to be a real education and an incredibly fun experience.
    Haha a dangerous thing to tell a guitarist. Sounds like fun. I played opera continuo (Purcell) one time and really enjoyed it.

    apparently back then they’d have a whole bunch of lutenists (several), harps, harpsichord, organ. The works. You rarely see early operas performed that way because of the expense! You get a lute if you’re lucky...

  5. #29

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    A few thoughts about this, in the spirit of late WH Auden—e.g., “No poet or novelist wishes he was the only one who ever lived, but most of them wish they were the only one alive, and quite a number believe their wish has been granted.”

    *

    Composition is self-composure practiced with instrument in hand. Improvisation is the mental and emotional stretching in whatever direction relieves the cramps induced by compositional postures.

    *

    You can hurt yourself overstretching. You can hurt yourself sitting too long over a sheet of paper. In either case, a moderate application of the opposite may be beneficial, even prescriptive.

    *

    A well composed piece of music can be hurt by a few improvised cadenzas no more than a cake can be spoiled by variations in hand-applied swirls of icing.

    *

    Pedagogues—always at risk of becoming little holier-than-thou demagogues of what is and is not allowed, whether the subject is what constitutes spiritual practice or an acceptable tonal interval.

    *

    The staves on which one composes music are like staves of wood one fashions to build a fence or a house or a boat. Nobody criticizes a fence for lacking a roof and floors, let alone its seaworthiness.

    *

    The composer who leaves space for improvisation is like a fence builder who enjoys seeing the forest through the open rails and posts.

    *

    A builder must be concerned with structural integrity, and may have strong feelings about form and function in rooms, windows, and roofs, but has no business telling the resident how arrange furnishings, decorate walls, or what to do in any room.

    *

    Speaking of staves as the material for constructing vessels for composition: a boat may be flat, round, rectangular, oblong, as long as it gets you onto the water and does not fall apart . Free jazz and aleatory music, in some sense, are based on the pretext that a boat can be built from waves in the middle of the ocean.

    *

    No matter the era, those who like enforcing rules will find a place in instruction. Rule enforcement tends to be a variant on “You can’t do that here,” whether the that is parallel fifths, or tritones, or (as I heard solemnly intoned in one of the video lectures above) octave duplication in an all interval tetrachord.

    *

    When a person tells me what can and cannot be done with twelve tones or seven modes, I leave the room to find shade under a tree with a mockingbird singing its inexhaustible variations on top.

    *

    —-Thanks to Christian for starting the conversation and Rob pitching in. I always learn from you both.

  6. #30

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    Early on in my continuo career I discovered that there is no point in practising a realisation of a bass line before the rehearsal, as no matter what you come up with the leader/conductor will want something else. So I would just read the bass, penciling in here and there possible figures, and then react to what was going on around me at the rehearsal. At first I made some errors, but as with most things you get better if you put in the time.

    I knew I had got good at it when during a performance I was half way through an aria before realising I wasn't meant to be playing, and had never actually looked at the score before. Of course I then panicked! I bowed out of the third verse, and noticed a sidelong glance from the harpsichord player. I was a little embarrassed, but secretly pleased that I had held my own in sight reading a continuo part during a concert.

    I'm far less good at it now as I haven't played continuo for fifteen years or so. But I know what needs to be done, and if the occasion arose, I'd be reasonably confident after a month of study. I do think it was the best musical education I ever had.

  7. #31

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    Memories come flooding back.

    With one baroque chamber orchestra and small choir we were playing a Monteverdi opera, and decided to use 1/4 comma meantone temperament. It sounded superb as we played in Gm - the equivalent of playing in Em on a guitar. But there was a dominant 7th chord to change to another key (I forget which) and it sounded hideously out of tune, really awful. So the director decided we should try something closer to equal temperament. But I noticed that the singer was singing at that very moment the word 'death'. Surely this was Monteverdi word painting? So we decided to keep it.

    Now, that gives us some insight into V7 chords and the jazz musician's apparent inner compulsion to add dissonances to it. Once we historically moved from wilder temperaments to equal, the dissonance value of the basic V7 chord was...erm...diminished. We'd lost the emotional impact of a V7 chord, so we add dissonances to it. Well, it's my theory today...

  8. #32

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop
    Memories come flooding back.

    With one baroque chamber orchestra and small choir we were playing a Monteverdi opera, and decided to use 1/4 comma meantone temperament. It sounded superb as we played in Gm - the equivalent of playing in Em on a guitar. But there was a dominant 7th chord to change to another key (I forget which) and it sounded hideously out of tune, really awful. So the director decided we should try something closer to equal temperament. But I noticed that the singer was singing at that very moment the word 'death'. Surely this was Monteverdi word painting? So we decided to keep it.
    wow, great observation rob! monteverdi wasn't accidental! bravo

    never think you can out think those type masters...everything was in their head..at all times!!

    modernity is confident but lacking


    cheers

  9. #33

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    My 'lead sheet' reduction for the well known piece Prelude in D Minor BWV999 which is pretty popular with guitarists

    I have the bass here (which I wrote in treble clef because guitarists) and also wrote the top voice. The figuring might be a bit hit and miss, would welcome any suggestions. There's a lot of stuff where Bach is writing commonplace chord progressions on pedals so everything ends up looking a bit more complicated than it would in chord symbols lol (in contradiction to my earlier statement haha)

    Classical & Baroque Improvisation-prelude_in_d_minor-classical_guitar_2-1-jpg

  10. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by neatomic
    wow, great observation rob! monteverdi wasn't accidental! bravo

    never think you can out think those type masters...everything was in their head..at all times!!

    modernity is confident but lacking


    cheers
    Exactly, my friend. Monty was a genius, and knew EXACTLY what he was doing!

  11. #35

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    Christian, where's my red pen...? Seriously I do not have the time right now, but remember doing just this many years ago. 6/4 surely for the second chord, Gm? Love your comments!

  12. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop
    Christian, where's my red pen...? Seriously I do not have the time right now, but remember doing just this many years ago. 6/4 surely for the second chord, Gm? Love your comments!
    Ah yeah.

    I can send you a pdf if you're serious lol :-)

  13. #37

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    Ha, I'll pass. You know what you're doing. It's odd that it ends on the V chord, but useful if the following movement begins on the tonic. BTW, it's in Cm on the lute, iirc, which is not the best key on an instrument tuned to Dm!

  14. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop
    Ha, I'll pass. You know what you're doing. It's odd that it ends on the V chord, but useful if the following movement begins on the tonic. BTW, it's in Cm on the lute, iirc, which is not the best key on an instrument tuned to Dm!
    Fair enough! ;-) Hopefully that book you recommended will help me.

  15. #39

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    "Closing gesture in A cor blimey...."


  16. #40

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    Here’s a realisation of a partimento bass I did a couple of weeks back:



    here’s the bass

    Classical & Baroque Improvisation-0c96e523-7d68-41ef-9f85-09663f8bdee9-pngClassical & Baroque Improvisation-0c96e523-7d68-41ef-9f85-09663f8bdee9-png

  17. #41

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    My rationale for the chaconne improv above
    how to start improvising baroque music: the chaconne

  18. #42

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    My friend improvising... not from bass (but he can do it either of course).
    Actually he wrote out to me some figuered basses exxcercises which I played on lute...
    the thing is he never learnt from any systematic method and goes directly from he vast knowledge of music and when he makes an excercise it is a sort of very musical meaningful idea behind it...

    Mostly it is about speech, what you try to say or express rather than rules.

    To be honset i usually solved these escercise also by ear only

    He does not like partimenti conception ( as well as me tbh but he has more right to do it)))) as he considers it is all tehre in music and partimenti distract from the most the form...
    And I actually noticed that there are musicians today who can play partimenti but cannpot play the form... they think in segments, in pieces... this is negative effect of this method.
    (I also do not think that Bach, Handel or Mozart ever really studied from partimenti, they just did not need it... you do not have to teach syllables to the one who can speak in verses)



  19. #43

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    Well Partimento is the new trendy thing.

    Quite honestly, it's a useful set of exercises. Many of them resemble (at least at the early stages) modulatory versions of common ground basses and cadences; lamento and so on. They encourage you to think about common basses and contrapuntal combinations, but of course stylistically that's up to the musician doing the realisation.

    I do get the vibe from some Parti enthusiasts that they haven't really considered other forms of classical improvisation (it seems to me a no brainer that you would start with variations on a short ground bass before attempting Partimenti, Schemata based improvisation and so on.)

    I've felt the vibe from Partimento community is very welcoming, encouraging and fun - even from some of its more prominent academics, which makes me want to do more of it. I think they are keen to make it a living community, a place for praxis, to use a little jargon (sorry).

    BTW here is an interesting interview with a guitarist who is doing some very tasty HIP realisations after the Italian school of Guiliani, Carcassi etc. (See above for one.)


    But ultimately my interest in classical improvisation is basically ahistorical as far as the instrument is concerned. I'm not personally interested in how people played the guitar in the early 19th century for instance. I suppose I am quite used to looking beyond the guitar for inspiration. I'm also not that interested in the specifics of historical idiom, although this may change as I learn more.

    As a jazz guitarist, what I am mostly interested in is improving my knowledge of counterpoint and harmony. So, obviously I want to be able to play things in G minor etc. Also pedagogy for regular music/guitar students (Nicola touches on this actually.)

  20. #44

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    I've been enjoying this guy's playing a lot


    interesting what he says in the description. I think I have a similar mindset. The realisation does not always sound 'authentic' to me, perhaps even a little 'jazz', and I like that, as much as I also like the 'authentic' thing at the harpsichord and the 19th century guitar etc. Shows a different path.


  21. #45

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    I see your point...
    actually I like playing from partimenti occasionally, I also separate those that have full realizations from just a figuered (or non-figuered) bass sequences.


    Do you know by chance know Guida Armonica... it is all in D minor but it is made quite in the spirit of baroque epoch, it is a sort of labyrinth where you can chose differen directions.

    Guida Armonica, Op.10 (Geminiani, Francesco) - IMSLP: Free Sheet Music PDF Download

    My problem is probably in the fact that I grew up (and my teachers especially) in earlier tradition where musical knowledge was cosidered more fundamental.... it was considered that one should play and listen to a lot of music and study it.
    This is why the excitement regarding oartimenti today in HIP community I find rather as an example of loss of this fundamental hearing of music as cultural enviroment.
    This was very logical development of HIP music conception. I grew up with an idea that 'I trust my ears and I know how it should sound', I never felt myself separated from that tradition.
    HIP is fundamentally built on notion that 'we do not know how it should sound, we should not trust our ears but first should study all and then probably force ourselves into proper hearing'.
    It is very post-modernistic conception...

    And it seems that authority of treatesies and historical sources become more influencial that direct artistic experience.

    All the things one can find in partimenti are ther in music of Corelli or Vivaldi or Bach or Handel in much more artistically interesting context and it would teach us much much more.
    To me if one loves early music all he has to do is to play it..

    It is actually the same as with traditional jazz... if you want to learn swing or be-bop you do not need Barry Harris or Swing guitar method. You need to listen and play this music.
    BH method can be great for those who want to study bop but actually it already means that either tradition is totally lost or the major part of students is just not capable to study it from playing music live as it was those days.

    I think if adult HIP player cannot handle it without partimenti maybe he chose the wrong occupation?)))

    It actually proves to me that partimenti were first of all designed for amateur players. The fact they were even pulished confirms that.
    Students were taught from teachers in more synthetic system. Pros did not need that stuff.
    Amateurs (patrons, nobelmen with basic musical skills) are those who might need it and who could afford buying it.

  22. #46

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    I is also that I hear music more like a strong artistic and semantical system...

    as I said for it is like trying to teach writing poetry from fixed turnarounds and pieces.

    It existed in some cultures (like konnungs poetry) but in general it is just learnt with the language.

    All those rhymes and meters and cadences - they are nothing without contents.
    I think it is important to begin with contents and this is only what rea, music can teach us... not 'partimenti'.

    the biggest (and saddest) problem with musical education that too many people involved in it on all leveles (including the top) think that music is just sounds.

  23. #47

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonah
    I see your point...
    actually I like playing from partimenti occasionally, I also separate those that have full realizations from just a figuered (or non-figuered) bass sequences.


    Do you know by chance know Guida Armonica... it is all in D minor but it is made quite in the spirit of baroque epoch, it is a sort of labyrinth where you can chose differen directions.

    Guida Armonica, Op.10 (Geminiani, Francesco) - IMSLP: Free Sheet Music PDF Download

    My problem is probably in the fact that I grew up (and my teachers especially) in earlier tradition where musical knowledge was cosidered more fundamental.... it was considered that one should play and listen to a lot of music and study it.
    This is why the excitement regarding oartimenti today in HIP community I find rather as an example of loss of this fundamental hearing of music as cultural enviroment.
    This was very logical development of HIP music conception. I grew up with an idea that 'I trust my ears and I know how it should sound', I never felt myself separated from that tradition.
    HIP is fundamentally built on notion that 'we do not know how it should sound, we should not trust our ears but first should study all and then probably force ourselves into proper hearing'.
    It is very post-modernistic conception...

    And it seems that authority of treatesies and historical sources become more influencial that direct artistic experience.

    All the things one can find in partimenti are ther in music of Corelli or Vivaldi or Bach or Handel in much more artistically interesting context and it would teach us much much more.
    To me if one loves early music all he has to do is to play it..

    It is actually the same as with traditional jazz... if you want to learn swing or be-bop you do not need Barry Harris or Swing guitar method. You need to listen and play this music.
    BH method can be great for those who want to study bop but actually it already means that either tradition is totally lost or the major part of students is just not capable to study it from playing music live as it was those days.

    I think if adult HIP player cannot handle it without partimenti maybe he chose the wrong occupation?)))

    It actually proves to me that partimenti were first of all designed for amateur players. The fact they were even pulished confirms that.
    Students were taught from teachers in more synthetic system. Pros did not need that stuff.
    Amateurs (patrons, nobelmen with basic musical skills) are those who might need it and who could afford buying it.
    I basically agree with you. But I’m not a natural camp follower, I take what I want and leave the rest. Some like to join a club. I can’t change human nature, just practice a certain skepticism.

    i don’t care about how Bach or Mozart learned in a way. I am obviously not them. Bit long in the tooth lol.

    But given Partimento has its roots in the organ, and the church in the late 17th century... Anyway that’s one for the academic flame wars. I’d rather get on with it and make music.

    I can’t see why anyone with a good working knowledge of figured bass and counterpoint should find Partimento strange...
    Last edited by christianm77; 03-30-2021 at 08:43 AM.

  24. #48

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    don’t care about how Bach or Mozart learned in a way.
    Neither do I)) I care more about their music)

    In general I see your point and your approach is much more sympathetic to me bas you do not make any pretensions from it.

  25. #49

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonah
    the biggest (and saddest) problem with musical education that too many people involved in it on all leveles (including the top) think that music is just sounds.
    This has always bothered me in a way I can’t always articulate. One reason I am not a free improviser... and also not a huge fan of Debussy, strange for a jazzer...

  26. #50

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    Not sure if many are following this thread, but here’s a new Partimento realisation