Free improvisation

From Academic Kids

Free improvisation or free music is improvised music without any rules beyond the taste of the musicians involved, and not in any particular style.

Performers may choose to play in a certain style or key--though free music is far more often atonal--or at a certain tempo, but it is not required. Conventional songs are highly uncommon in free improvisation; There is generally more emphasis placed on mood and texture than on melody, harmony or predictable rhythm. These elements are improvised at will, as the music progresses. Free improvisation is both a genre and a technique.

Guitarist Derek Bailey has proposed non-idiomatic improvisation as a more accurately descriptive term, claiming the form offers musicians more possibilities "per cubic second" than any genre (Guitar Player, January 1997); while guitarist Elliott Sharp (himself occasionally active in one form or another of free improvisation) has argued--partly tongue in cheek--that no improvisation is ever truly free, excepting the unlikelyhood of amnesiac improvising musicians. (ibid)

Perhaps the earliest free recordings are two songs by jazz pianist Lennie Tristano: "Intuition" and "Digression," both recorded in 1949 with a sextet including saxophone players Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh. However, music generally thought of as "Free Improvisation" developed mainly in Europe in the mid and late 1960's, largely as an outgrowth of free jazz and modern classical musics.

Free music is a relatively little known, and somewhat loosely-defined genre, and none of its exponents can be said to be "famous" amongst the general public. However, in experimental circles, a number of free musicians are well known, including the aforementioned Derek Bailey, trombonist Conny Bauer, saxophonists Evan Parker and Peter Brötzmann, and guitarist Keith Rowe.

Free music performers come from a variety of backgrounds, and there is often considerable crossover with other genres. For example, much of Peter Brötzmann's output is also widely considered free jazz, and Tristan Honsinger studied at the prestigious Peabody Conservatory of Music. Elements of noise rock, IDM, minimalism and electroacoustic music are not uncommon in free improvisation.

Many free music performers also record and perform other styles of music: Anthony Braxton has written opera, and John Zorn has written acclaimed orchestral pieces.

The London based independent radio station Resonance 104.4FM, founded by the London Musicians Collective, frequently broadcasts experimental and free improvised performance works. Chicago's Sound Experiment, WNUR 89.3 FM is another source for free improvised music on the radio.

Free music performers often emphasise extended technique.

See also

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