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Disorganizing Sound: Twentieth-Century Improvised Music and the Beyond

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This class will track the passage of improvised music into, through, and out of the Western avant-garde. Through readings, listening sessions, workshops, and performances, participants will learn how improvisation has functioned as an approach to composing and playing music and, perhaps more importantly, as an appropriation of alien musical cultures in order to radically alter the structures of Western music and the expectations of listeners.

While considering the use of improvisation and new forms of composition that emerged in the early part of the twentieth century in Europe and America, the class will focus on the crucial period of the 1960s and 70s, when black artists—many of them experimenting with traditional forms of African music—developed free jazz, and predominantly white artists began integrating non-Western forms of structured improvisation—occasionally even becoming disciples of the masters of those forms—into classical and avant-garde compositions and performances. The class will go on to consider the eventual diffusion of these artists and the legacy of their work, especially in relation to contemporary experimental music, much of which eschews notation- and composition-based improvisation in favor of sound-based work. I imagine the class consisting of three to five reading and discussion sessions, perhaps bookended by actual improv workshops (no expertise necessary); these could be augmented by in-house performances or trips to shows at local venues.

Some questions to consider along the way: How did these diverse groups of artists use non-Western forms to question and even undermine the dominance of traditional jazz, academic classical music, and anodyne pop? What was the relationship between the racial divide that separated the artists who comprised those emergent movements and the work they made and the audiences they cultivated? How did the use of non-Western music cultures change the way we think about Western music, and the way we think about what exists outside of it? Why have these groups perennially excluded women? Despite formal similarities and political sympathies, why have there been so few musical exchanges between black artists working in the jazz tradition and white artists working in the Western classical tradition? How did they pit the values and concerns of their adopted musical cultures (purported to be mystical, apolitical, invested in timeless truths, etc.) against those of their native culture (cold war America)?

Potential artists to be considered: The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, Anthony Braxton, John Cage, Pandit Pran Nath, Sonny Sharrock, La Monte Young, Alice Coltrane, Tony Conrad, The Velvet Underground, Steve Reich, Sun Ra, AMM, Henry Flynt, John Zorn, Derek Bailey, Aaron Dilloway, Sun City Girls, etc.


Potential readings:

George Lewis, A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music (he's at Columbia and could potentially teach a session)

Alex Ross, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century (he's in New York and could potentially teach a session)

Brandon Joseph, Beyond the Dream Syndicate: Tony Conrad and the Arts after Cage (also at Columbia, could also potentially teach a session)

John Zorn, Ed., Arcana: Musicians on Music (also in New York, could perhaps lead a workshop or host a performance)

Derek Bailey, Improvisation, Its Nature and Practice in Music

John Cage, Silence: Lectures and Writings


SESSION 1: Experimental Music (See attached note for full description and suggested readings): Sunday, June 13, 5:00 pm, at 177 Livingston; taught by Christoph Cox


SESSION 2: Instrumentalists  (See attached note for full description and suggested readings): Sunday, September 19, 5:00 pm, at 177 Livingston; with Connie CrothersMatana Roberts, and Andrea Parkins.


SESSION 3: Minimalisms (See attached note for full description and suggested readings): Monday, October 11, 7:00 pm, at 177 Livingston; taught by Zach Layton + David Weinstein


SESSION 4: Space and Body  (See attached note for full description and suggested readings): Sunday, October 24, 7:00 pm, at 177 Livingston; taught by Kabir Carter


SESSION 5: DIY DJ (See attached note for full description): Saturday, October 30, 10pm, at 177 Livingston




jackson's picture

Session 2 is scheduled! Next Sunday the 19th at 5pm we'll be hosting a panel discussion including some truly amazing musicians with very diverse backgrounds: Matana Roberts, Connie Crothers, and others TBA. The class will collectively moderate the discussion based on preparatory readings - please see the course description for a download link.

If you haven't experienced Matana's or Connie's music yet, you are in for a treat. Here are some links to get you started:

Session 3, on Minimalism, is in the works too.

Stay tuned for more info.

Those of you interested in this class, please help shape its contents through the comments section. We'd really like to incorporate your ideas. We have at least one confirmed upcoming session on minimalist composition, for which I will post a description shortly.

skysky's picture

I would be so excited for a second session of this course, which looks fascinating. I am new to Public School, but feel motivated to help make this happen. Please write to me if you have thoughts on any way I can help facilitate the process of organizing it!

I hope so! I'm no longer a committee member and so am not organizing the class, but I know that a lot of people are interested, and at least two people have expressed interest in leading sessions of the class in September and/or October, and there are films to be screened, listening sessions to be had, etc. etc. So hopefully someone from the committee (hint, hint) will step up and organize the next session...?

Hi - So are we having another session? I hope so!


Hello - Also, if anyone is interested, WKCR is doing a memorial broadcast tomorrow for Bill Dixon. The station is a jazz and new music hub. More info at

As for films, "Space Is the Place" on Sun Ra is excellent. Another good one is Robert Ashley's series, "Music With Roots in the Aether," his interviews with Terry Riley, Pauline Oliveros, and Alvin Lucier, among others.

Has anyone reached out to George Lewis about speaking and/or performing for us?


In case anyone is interested:

Anthony Braxton celebrates his 65th birthday this week with a rare pair of live performances to benefit his Tri-Centric Foundation for new music.

Issue Project Room
Saturday the 19th to showcase his recently recorded opera, Trillium E, and improvise with a slew of young artists whom he has taught and inspired.

He also performs Friday the 18th at Le Poisson Rouge with Richard Teitelbaum, John Zorn and other renowned collaborators

Thanks to those of you who came to our first session of Disorganizing Sound, facilitated by Christoph Cox. And thanks to Christoph for leading such an engaging and thought-provoking discussion.

The turnout was great, as was the conversation, ranging from Cageian concepts on the possibilities of composition to some key moments and themes in the history of recording to seminal figures and works in the evolution of experimental music over the last six decades in both Europe and the United States. Mp3s of recordings we listened to in class will be posted soon.

We'd love to the discussion on the future of this class to continue--please post comments on this session as well as ideas for a film you might like to see touching on/jumping off from topics suggested in the class proposal. (So far, ideas we've discussed include BBC Radio 1's "Art of Noise", Edward Bland's 1958 semi-documentary film essay "Cry of Jazz," as well as the Can documentary.)

Look for the next session of this class to be scheduled in the coming weeks. In the meantime, keep the comments coming!

skysky's picture

will there be more sessions? I want to join!

I really enjoyed the class yesterday. Thank you for leading the group Christoph and I hope the dialogue continues.

This looks great, I regret that I can't attend tomorrow.

But, to join the conversation a little late...

I could show this to Jon Abbey and Brian O. if the interest is really here to have them talk about the emergence of "EAI," the founding of Erstwhile, the work of Keith Rowe, etc.

Hi, just a reminder that the first session of this class will be held tomorrow at 5 at 177 Livingston. Hope to see you all there.

Hey everyone. I'm really looking forward to the class on Sunday, and hope you can all make it. I realized that there are a number of readings (see the most recent note, posted by Jeanne), and thought it might help to focus on a couple of them if you're short on time:

John Cage, "Composition as Process: Indeterminacy."
Michael Nyman, "Towards (a Definition of) Experimental Music."

For those of you who want to go above and beyond, I'd recommend George Lewis's essay "Improvising Tomorrow's Bodies: The Politics of Transduction." I think we'll want to talk about him more when we discuss the process by which an experimental music canon has been formed in relation to (and often excluding) jazz, free jazz especially. This essay takes on some of those ideas, but in relation to the use of computing and improvisation, and the social spaces formed by those interactions.

You can read the essay online here:

And here's an abstract:
The computer has become an indispensable part of the cultural and social histories of the arts, in which improvisation has long served as a site for interdisciplinary exploration, exchanges of personal and cultural narratives, and the blurring of boundaries between art forms. The ever-expanding roles played by interactive digital systems in globalized cultural, social, and economic environments are now being complemented by a similarly wide-ranging re-conceptualization of how improvisation produces knowledge and meaning. Because both improvisation and computing serve as important sites for interdisciplinary exploration in the arts, humanities, and sciences, a twinned theorizing of improvisation and interactivity will help to illuminate the inevitable differences that fragment and rupture even the most fluid and flexible notions of sociality, agency, history, and power. Part memoir, part history and criticism, this essay explores, among other topics, the contention that political debates about the nature and function of music and bodies inevitably become embedded in the structure of software.

Hey, the class isn't full, all are welcome to attend. We've run into some slight scheduling issues, but all should be resolved soon. Right now we're planning a screening and two classes to happen in the next month or two. I'll try to work things out by the end of the week. Thanks for your patience!


Has this class been scheduled? I thought I saw that it was but it's not on the calendar.


hi, was wondering if the class is full... i want to attend.

And this is what is scheduled for this Saturday...


Mattin «Opening Discussion»
Saturday April 17, 6pm

During the last opening at Diapason Gallery, 15 minutes of audio were recorded. This audio recording will be played back this Saturday at 6pm. A number of questions will be ready as a way of starting up a discussion. You are welcome to engage in a conversation exploring the politics of the room through social noise, or exploring the politics of noise in a social situation.


Sonic Imaginaries #4 - A conversation with Nate Harrison, Justin Luke, Ursula Nistrup and Trine Friis Sørensen
Saturday April 17, 8pm

# Nate Harrison is an artist and writer working at the intersection of intellectual property, cultural production and the formation of creative processes in electronic media. Currently Nate is on the faculty at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
# Justin Luke is the owner and director of the Audio Visual Arts gallery in New York.
# Ursula Nistrup is an artist based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Her projects attempt to investigate issues of perception and communication, through the use of acoustics, sound and light. From January to July Ursula is an artist in residence at Platform Garanti in Istanbul, Turkey.
# Trine Friis Sørensen is a PhD candidate in Auditive Culture and a co-founder of the AUX organisation based in Copenhagen, Denmark.


Hello, I wanted to point your attention to the events below that I'm hosting. The show is still up this and next weekend. I signed up for this class here in May, and I'm really looking forward to it!



Untitled (for resonants)
Henrik Andersson, Bill Burns, Ultra-red, Hong-Kai Wang


Kabir Carter, Seth Cluett, Mattin, Angel Nevarez & Valerie Tevere

Curated by Jens Maier-Rothe

April 3 – 24, 2010
Diapason, 882 3rd Avenue, 10th floor, Brooklyn, NY (btw 32nd & 33rd Sts)
Open Saturdays from 2-8pm

The two projects «Untitled (for resonants)» and «Fadings» jointly comprise the third and last act in a series of group shows that investigate the materiality of sound. In this series, each show takes up a different perspective to reflect the social and political dimensions of auditory experience within the context of contemporary art. Following up on two studies of reuse and simultaneity in the previous projects, the third show focuses on acoustic resonance in space. That is, sound resonating in space as opposed to light reflecting space. For that matter, it brings together various positions on echo-political aesthetics and their potentialities within critical discourses. Four installations (resonants) and four events (fadings) will be shown on four days.


Untitled (for resonants) dedicates the space to those objects and bodies that resonate within it, thus to the four artists themselves as much as to their works and the erratic, therefore untitled, form in which they spill over and resonate with one another.

Henrik Andersson transformed the seismic recording of a nuclear explosion (Pakistan 1998) into sound for his installation «If it is not love then it is the bomb that will bring us together».

Bill Burns’ latest book «Two Boiler Suits and a Playlist: A Primate Guide.» describes the chattels given to prisoners and the music that is played to them at the prison camps in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The 52-page guide includes 18 line illustrations and two colour plates.

Ultra-red's «Untitled (for multiple voices)» serves as a preliminary draft for a multiple voice composition. A libretto of demands is assembled from the record of seven performances of SILENT|LISTEN (2005-2006), a series of tactical occupations of major American art institutions to reconnect the art world and AIDS activists with memories of when the arts served as a crucial arena - in some communities, the only public space - for open discussions about the pandemic.

Hong-Kai Wang's multichannel sound piece «Setting Up the Banquet» orchestrates a kaleidoscopic soundscape from recordings of Chinese-operated commercial spaces in Madrid, Spain. Through reinserting this imaginary Chinatown into Sunset Park, an area also known as Brooklyn's Chinatown, Wang reflects on the cultural disinformation and disorientation that Chinese hegemonic politics constantly evoke in her own life as a Taiwanese artist.


Fadings are occasional gaps in the frequency reception, often caused by geographic obstacles and interfering transmitters closeby. These gaps are widely known to occur when a car radio suddenly looses the signal at a traffic light stop and moving the car only a few inches forward brings the music back. The title also blurs the active mixing of multiple sources with the way in which sounds or memories passively fade over time. The four performative events will variantly seek, provoke, frequent and intensify such fadings in the framework of the show.

April 03, 8pm Seth Cluett, The Chorus of Idle Footsteps, performance
April 10, 8pm Kabir Carter, Overexcited Recaptures, performance
April 17, 6pm Mattin gives instructions for a public discussion
April 17, 8pm Followed by a conversation with invited guests
April 24, 6pm Angel Nevarez & Valerie Tevere, Listening Takes Effort.

For program details and updates please refer to our websites.

Yes, The Cry of Jazz is on DVD and it's both widely-available and inexpensive. Also, Bland is around and seemingly excited by the resurgent interest in the film. We might consider inviting him to join us for the screening and a discussion. I am in the process of getting his contact information in case we decide to approach him.

Sarah, that sounds great. Do you know if the film is readily available on DVD? Let's definitely try to get a print, though. Thomas, could you ask your comrades at Anthology about this?

I think we're ready to go ahead and schedule some classes. How about this:

1) "The Cardew Object"
A weekend-long event with a colloquium, film, workshops, and installations "exploring the radical oeuvre of British experimental composer Cornelius Cardew (1936-1981) and the activities of the Scratch Orchestra (co-founded by him in 1969)." Friday, April 9 through Sunday, April 11 at the New School. (More below.)

2) A screening of Derek Bailey's "On the Edge" doc and "The Cry of Jazz" at 177 Livingston sometime b/w the 14th and 21st.

3) A proper first class w/ readings and a discussion in the last week of April (facilitator TBD).

What do you all think?

Info on Cardew event:

The Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School
The Vera List Center for Art and Politics presents "The Cardew Object"

In collaboration with Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts and The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music

The Cardew Object
Colloquium, Film, Workshops, Installations

Friday, April 9 through Sunday, April 11, 2010

The New School
New York City

For more information, visit
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A rare opportunity, this three-day event explores the radical oeuvre of British experimental composerCornelius Cardew (1936-1981) and the activities of the Scratch Orchestra (co-founded by him in 1969), and illuminates their significance today as artistic, pedagogical and political tools. Workshops, sound installations, a film screening, and an exhibition bring together historians, musicians, artists, and New School faculty and students, and are presented at The New School. In tandem with this series, the Tank Space for Performing and Visual Arts in midtown Manhattan is organizing and producing a public sound performance reflecting on Cardew's pedagogy.


Colloquium with Sound Installation and Film Screening: Friday, April 9, 2010 – 6:00 to 9:00 p.m
The New School, Wollman Hall
65 West 11th Street (enter at 66 West 12th Street)
Admission: $8 USD, free for all students as well as New School faculty, staff and alumni with valid ID

Introduction to Cardew:
– Robert Sember, artist and 2009-2010 Vera List Center for Art and Politics Fellow
– John Tilbury (via recording), pianist, member Scratch orchestra, and author of Cornelius Cardew—A Life Unfinished (2008)

Film Screening:
Luke Fowler, Pilgrimage from Scattered Points, 2006, 45 minutes

Followed by discussion with Sember, Fowler and New School faculty members Evan Rapport and Ivan Raykoff.

Workshops: Saturday, April 10, 2010 – 12:00 to 6:00 p.m.
The New School, Theresa Lang Community and Student Center
55 West 13th Street, 2nd floor
Admission: Free, advance reservations recommended at

Hosted by:
– Evan Rapport, experimental musician and faculty member, The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music and Eugene Lang The New School for Liberal Arts
– Ivan Raykoff, saxophonist, composer and faculty member, Eugene Lang The New School for Liberal Arts

– Danielle Goldman, dancer and faculty member, Eugene Lang The New School for Liberal Arts
– Sarah Montague, public radio producer and faculty member, Eugene Lang The New School for Liberal Arts
– Simonetta Moro, artist and faculty member, Eugene Lang The New School for Liberal Arts

Public participation encouraged – sound tools provided.

Sound Installation: Sunday, April 11, 2010 – 12:00 to 6:00 p.m.
The Tank, 354 West 45th St.
Admission: 8 USD

Either/Or, new music ensemble and 2009-2010 Lang College Visiting Artists

Organized and produced by the Tank Space for Performing and Visual Arts

Exhibition Opening Reception: Wednesday, April 14, 2010 – 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.
Exhibition Dates: Wednesday, April 14 to Monday, May 10, 2010
Skybridge Gallery, Eugene Lang College, 65 West 11th Street, 3rd floor
Admission: Free

Simonetta Moro, Sarah Montague and their students in the "Skybridge Curatorial Project"

This doesn't fit into your call for non-Western iterations of improvisation, but what about screening Ed Bland's The Cry of Jazz (1959)? The film was recently preserved by Anthology, so it may even be possible to get a print...

Here is a short review from the NEW YORKER:

Edward O. Bland’s filmmaking skills aren’t much better than Ed Wood’s, but his insights into the art and politics of jazz—as seen in this short work of philosophical agitprop, from 1959—are profound. His film opens with a party at which white jazz enthusiasts ask questions about the music and their black friends answer. This framework gives way to the director’s essay-like narration, in which he defines jazz in terms of African-American experience, relates its form and sound to its political implications, and, remarkably, predicts both the aesthetic of free jazz and the music’s role in the civil-rights movement. Filmed performances of the Chicago-based visionary Sun Ra and his band (notably the great saxophonist John Gilmore) illustrate Bland’s theses and arouse the director’s keenest visual engagement. The ideas are debatable, but they’re also stimulating; the movie, which is as heartfelt as it is analytical, suggests a new dimension in music criticism.—Richard Brody

And, read an interview with Bland, here:

Oh, I know what else: a Sublime Frequencies film. See the catalog here:

"Palace of the Winds," perhaps?
Shot over the course of two years (2006-2008) by Hisham Mayet, Palace Of The Winds is an intimate and dream-like journey exploring the music of Saharawi culture from Guelmim in Southern Morocco to the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott. With spectacular images from inhospitable landscapes, chimerical phenomena that transpire by the sheer remoteness of the land, and haunting indigenous music from a people that have long been shrouded in mystery, this is a genre-defying film of profound beauty. Explore the intoxicating tapestry of sight and sound that this obscure region has to offer through its most awe-inspiring musicians. Featuring live performances by Group Doueh, Group Marwani, Sadoum Oueld Aida and Group Bab Sahara. Color; 52 minutes; digipack; all-region DVD; NTSC format.

I'd like the class to include a screening or two, as a way of immersing ourselves in some of the historical and non-Western iterations of improvisation that we might not otherwise get to see. Anyone have suggestions?

"On the Edge: Improvisation in Music" provides a global view of improvisation; there are high points and lower ones (though perhaps some of you are real enthusiasts of flamenco), but nevertheless it could be a good way to kick off the class.

Description from Ubu: A series of four 55-minute films shown on Channel 4 TV in the UK in early 1992. To say this was the best and most intelligent analysis of improvisation to be screened on UK television is probably unnecessary: it has in all likelihood been the only televised program on this form of music-making. Written and narrated by Derek Bailey, produced and directed by Jeremy Marr, it developed out of the first edition of Bailey's book on improvisation (the broadcast almost coinciding with the publication of the second edition) and attempted to provide a world-view of the subject, not being bound by country, musical genre or preconception.

Episodes 1 and 3:
Episode 2:
(Episode 4 doesn't seem to be available anywhere online.)

Then to coincide with the free-rock class, there's the excellent Can DVD, which includes a documentary on the Can Free Concert, filmed live at the Cologne Sporthalle in 1972. Perhaps this could be augmented by another film showcasing the music of that era? There's always "The Exploding Plastic Inevitable," which documents the Velvet Underground performing. What else?

Just a few other upcoming shows:

3/18, 8:30, Mary Halvorson Quartet
4/17, 8:30, Konkpack + Shelley Hirsch

And two other Stone seminars--a bit expensive. Implies that musicians will want to (deserve to) get paid to talk about this stuff? Anyway...

7PM to 9PM—TWENTY DOLLARS: Open to all.
The remarkable virtuoso trumpeter speaks about his techniques, practice methods and more!

7PM to 11PM—THIRTY DOLLARS: Open to all.
Maestro Evan Parker returns to The Stone for an intimate lecture/demonstration of how he accomplishes the impossible on the saxophone. A two hour Q&A about the saxophone followed by a two hour Q&A about improvisation/music. FOUR HOURS OF MAGIC WITH ONE OF THE GREATEST SAXOPHONE LEGENDS OF OUR TIME!

Hey everyone. Sorry to have been delinquent after proposing this class. It seems like there’s a good amount of interest, though, so I think we’re ready to start organizing class sessions and wrangling teachers. I think the following format would make the most sense: a few reading/discussing/listening sessions punctuated by recommended performances around New York. The performances would not necessarily be the focus of our discussions, but could provide some good context and will hopefully show how people are still renovating and reinventing these musical forms today. Then perhaps by the end we’ll all be inspired to bring some instruments to class and embarrass ourselves.

My sense is that the sessions could entail something along the below lines. (I’m also including a list of teacher suggestions people have made; of course, if people feel comfortable facilitating any of these classes themselves, that would be great.)

1. Free jazz: experimental tribalism, thumb-piano symphonies, and the invention of a black American avant-garde.
– Potential facilitators: George Lewis, William Parker, Ben Ratliff
– Potential readings:
George Lewis, A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music
Ekkehard Jost, Free Jazz (1974): the first examination of the style.
Edwin Prevost, No Sound Is Innocent: AMM and the Practice of Self-Invention—Meta-Musical Narratives Essays (1997)
Ben Ratliff, Coltrane: The Story of a Sound (2008)
William Parker’s writings
Anthony Braxton’s writings

2. Free rock: classical instincts, Eastern gurus, John Cage, and the drone.
– Potential facilitators: Brandon Joseph, Tony Conrad, Christoph Cox (if he’s in town at some point), David Grubbs
– Potential readings:
Brandon Joseph, Beyond the Dream Syndicate: Tony Conrad and the Arts after Cage
Christopher Cox and Daniel Warner, ed., Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music
John Cage, Silence: Lectures and Writings
*Perhaps we should also screen the great film of the 1972 Can Free Concert as a separate session

3. What came later: the New York (and L.A. and European) scene, the meeting of punk, free jazz, noise, and improv; electroacoustic music and the legacy of the sixties (I think this class could be split in two, but it should probably depend on how interested people are—and in what—after the first two classes).
– Potential facilitators: Mary Halvorson, Jon Abbey of Erstwhile Records, Brian Olewnick (writer working on biography of AMM member Keith Rowe, who now does electroacoustic improv work), Michael Schumacher (director of Diapason)
– Potential readings:
Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner, ed., Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music
John Zorn, Ed., Arcana: Musicians on Music
Derek Bailey, Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice in Music

What do you all think? Let’s try to hammer this out and start contacting potential facilitators in the next week, then try to schedule the first class for later this month or early April?

And here are some upcoming shows that may be relevant.

The Stone
3/15: Stone Seminar #11 w/ Erik Friedlander: “Modern American Musicianship”; 7-9pm, $20
Bring your questions about composing or performing to the free-wheeling two hour class given by Downtown improviser and composer Erik Friedlander. Erik will address your questions and will speak about being a working musician/composer in 21st century as well as about pizzicato techniques, improvising strategies, and getting the most out of practice time. Players and non-players are invited to attend and cello players are invited to bring their instruments. If you would have a particular technical issue or question and would like to perform just let Erik know by dropping him an email at
3/16: Aurora Josephson: Numbers, 10 pm
Aurora Josephson (voice) Lisa Mezzacappa, Damon Smith (basses) and Weasel Walter (drums, percussion), performing Ayler, Mingus, Sun Ra and Feldman (so far) and improvising.
3/26: Mary Halvorson, Okkyung Lee, Miya Masaoka (and possible special guest); Miya Masaoka (koto) Okkyung Lee (cello) Mary Halvorson (electric guitar); 8pm

Issue Project Room
03/24 @ 8:00pm - Porter Records Showcase: Matthew Welch, Nate Wooley, Matt Bauder
04/01 @ 8:00pm - Alexander Schubert’s Laplace Tiger + Ignaz Schick with Maria Chavez, Chris Forsyth, Sean Meehan, Aaron Moore, Aki Onda & Nate Wooley

Someone interesting to contact might be Claudia Gould, who runs the ICA in Philadelphia. In the 80s and early 90s she worked on an "audio cassette magazine" called Tellus. The whole run is on ubu and is great survey of avant-garde sound from that time.

Tony Conrad spends a lot of time in the city, as well, so it's quite possible he would be available and willing to teach a segment of the class. If there's further interest in this, I can help you track down his email, at the very least.

I think Ekkehard Jost's Free Jazz belongs on the reading list. it's a classic analysis of the emergence of 'free' forms among black musicians from a music theory perspective, written in '72, and covers Coltrane, Mingus, Ornette, Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp, Ayler, Don Cherry, Art Ensemble, and Sun Ra. (

bassist William Parker lives in NYC and is anchor of the avant-garde scene -- he's written theory and poetry reflecting on his music, and would be an amazing speaker to bring in, or if we're really lucky could run a workshop. likewise for Daniel Carter, who is very approachable.

also, Tony Conrad does teach at SUNY Buffalo, so it's conceivable that he could teach a class...

I like all these suggestions, though there's been a lot of writing out there about "noise" (rather than "improvisation") of late, and this class might be a good chance to push back a little bit.

Perhaps Jon Abbey of Erstwhile Records could speak or recommend someone?

Also, I think Ben Ratliff's book on John Coltrane is excellent and worth adding to the reading list--the subtitle is "The Story of a Sound," and it's very good about discussing all the work that got folded into Coltrane's improvisation over the years. I could potentially approach Ratliff about teaching a class, as well; he writes about jazz, of course, but does a good job of keeping up with everything else.

A few potentially helpful NY-based musicians: Mary Halvorson (former Braxton student I think), Peter Evans, and Weasel Walter. E.g.

An adequately disorganized array of thoughts:

-- I could get in touch with both Cristoph Cox, editor of the Audio Culture volume and Branden Joseph, both of whom contributed to a recent book I worked on about Max Neuhaus.

-- I could also reach out to Marian Zazeela and La Monte Young, responsible for The Dream House ( in Tribeca. Whether or not Marian and La Monte come through as teachers, The Dream House could potentially be a great place to bring a class. There's a suggested donation of $5, but the place is packed with information about Marian and La Monte's careers, including their longstanding collaborations with non-Western artists, namely Pandit Pran Nath (Dia also has some extensive archives on their history). Plus, the Dream House volunteers are always extremely knowledgeable.

-- Diapason Gallery ( in Sunset Park could perhaps be a place to consider seeing a show. They have a few performances a week. Michael J. Schumacher is the director and he positions his own practice as drawing directly from this moment of the 60s and 70s…maybe he’d consider teaching a class there?

-- I'm certainly curious about exploring the idea that these groups (either/both Western avant-garde and non-Western) have oft excluded women. Pauline Oliveros ( is a good example of someone who could definitely fit into the list of artists to be considered and the evolution of her practice is in many ways aligned with this interchange of musical cultures and traditions.

-- Other contemporary artists/performers to think about could include Christian Marclay (, Stephen Vitiello (, and Kabir Carter, who recently participated in a show at apex art ( His work and even this particular project seem to have some thematic intersections with contemporary iterations of improvisation/experimental music.

-- Another academic to consider could be Allen Weiss at NYU (

-- My last suggestion is to look into Phill Niblock's foundation/archive/performance space Experimental Intermedia ( They could be a potential resource for a reading-based discussion session, performance, or workshop as well.

The anthology Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music (ed. Christopher Cox and Daniel Warner) contains several readings of interest, including essays by John Zorn, Anthony Braxton, Derek Bailey, George Lewis, Ornette Coleman, and Frederic Rzewski. Even Umberto Eco weighs in, exploring the poetics of the 'open work' and its alliance to new scientific approaches—specifically, the indeterminate world of quantum physics—and the contemporary world view as one always in the process of development or movement.

Another potential New York resource is David Grubbs, particularly for discussions around contemporary experimental music. Here is his faculty page at Brooklyn College:


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