On Sunday January 18, 2009, having just returned from Japan, I was a guest on the Michael Burritt Faculty Artist Series recital at the Eastman School of Music in Kilbourn Hall. Michael, who heads the Percussion faculty at Eastman artfully performed a very challenging program of five major compositions for solo percussion.
The sixth piece on the program was a freeform improvisation titled, COMMON GROUND in which I joined Michael. This is the first year as Percussion Professor at Eastman for Michael Burritt and, of course, it is my first year too as a part time Associate Professor of Percussion. We collaborated for the first time ever in the creation of spontaneous music playing on a frame structure filled with over 40 gongs plus numerous varieties of bells and drums. The large audience in Kilbourn Hall showed its appreciation with an enthusiastic ovation at the end of the piece.
I have been creating improvised music as a member of NEXUS since our first concert in 1971. My book, CREATIVE MUSIC MAKING (Routledge, 2005), explores to the art of freeform improvisation for musicians and music educators . I think freeform improvisation is arguably among the purest forms of musical creation. By listening intensely, by allowing (rather than forcing) your innermost being to be evoked, and by harnessing skills developed over years of experience, the music is born.
Michael and I both certainly want to do more of this in the future.