Friday, March 23, 2007

FriPod: Improvisation

To celebrate the fact that I have finished* my first sabbatical article, this week's list is of Improvisations:

1. Duet Improvisation, by Miroslav Vitous and Chick Corea on Works. A very moody work, full of dialogue but not much happiness.

2. Impromptus 1-3, D. 946, by Franz Schubert, performed by Alfred Brendel. Not strictly improvisations, these composed works are meant to sound spontaneous. It doesn't work for me. These pieces sound polished, prepared. What makes music sound improvised? A roughness, little errors that marr the surface to reveal the craft underneath?

3. Impromptu for Trumpet and Piano, by Jacques Ibert, performed by Thierry Caens and Yves Henry. Now this one sounds more improvised. The long French lines meander at points, the piano sets up a groove, etc.

4. Improvisation, by Bill Russo, performed by the Stan Kenton Orchestra on New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm. Bill provides space for several improvised solos, one of the better tracks on this album.

5. Improvisations sur les chants paysans hongrois, op. 20, by Béla Bartók, performed by Claude Helffer. These pieces are based on Hungarian peasant songs that BB transcribed in the field. But why "Improvisations?" There is a certain hesitancy to them, as if we can hear him working out the implications of the melodies while sitting at the piano.

6. Quatre Pièces Caractéristiques Op. 5: I. Impromptu. Le Sabbat, by Clara Schumann, performed by Jozef De Beenhouwer. Like the Schubert, this is not spontaneous.

Clearly I have more improvisations in my iTunes, on most of my jazz tracks for starters. But this is enough for today, as I mourn the death of my second iPod. The click wheel has stopped working, and all efforts to fix it have failed. So it is getting shipped back, hopefully without any mail problems this time.

*Finished with this stage anyway. Now to hear from the editor and reviewers.

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