Contemporary Improvisation Ensembles


The Contemporary Improvisation department offers a variety of ensembles that are open to all NEC students on a space-available basis and by audition.

Ensemble offerings vary from year to year, depending on the specific makeup of the department.

Ensembles in 2016–2017

Anthony Coleman Survivor's Breakfast Ensemble
The Survivor's Breakfast Ensemble explores the wonderful and terrifying space between Composition and Improvisation. Repertoire includes original compositions by ensemble members and its director along with pieces by diverse masters such as John Zorn, Christian Wolff, and Karlheinz Stockhausen.

Joe Morris Improvisation Ensemble
This ensemble explores the structure and properties of Free Music, including free jazz and free improvisation. In addition to total improvisation, we play works by Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton, Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Eric Dolphy, etc., as well as pieces composed by the leader and student compositions. The goal is to foster individual creativity in the open music setting using methods and material that will increase vocabulary with regard to melodic development, articulation, relation to pulse, timbre, and group interaction.

Ran Blake Film Noir Ensemble
Co-Directed with Arron Hartley, this ensemble takes classic film noir as its inspiration. Students will develop and personalize film composers’ repertoire to create live musical accompaniment for pre-recorded film footage. The group forms the core of the department's spring Jordan Hall Film Noir .

Eden MacAdam-Somer CI Chamber Music Ensemble
This ensemble explores the boundaries between composition, improvisation, and world music, through written works and oral traditions. This year, repertoire will include works by such composers as Ives, Cage, Schuller, Barber, Joplin, Hermann, and many more.

Winifred Horan Irish Music Ensemble
This ensemble offers an overview of the traditional music of Ireland (songs, tunes, and dances). The focus is on traditional techniques, stylistic nuances, and the evolution of traditional Irish music within the folk music community.

Linda Chase Interdisciplinary Connections Ensemble
This ensemble seeks to make connections between, and be influenced by, the relationship of music to other forms of artistic expression including poetry, visual art, and dance. We utilize a diverse repertoire of musical models and experiment with techniques including conduction, incorporation of spoken word, partially composed improvisation, sound painting, and story-telling to serve as springboards for improvisation. We will also explore relationships in music, nature, and transformation.

Tanya Kalmanovitch Composition/Improvisation Ensemble
In this ensemble we will explore myriad possibilities for structuring musical forms for improvisation. We will survey a broad range of models drawn from the past century of American, African-American, and various popular, traditional, and classical music repertoires, using them as points of departure for original composition.

Hankus Netsky Songwriting Workshop
This workshop offers a framework for songwriters to work both on their own compositions and on re-compositions of existing songs, drawing inspiration from all genres.

Nedelka Prescod African-American Experience
As Told through Music
(African-American Roots Ensemble)
This ensemble takes a look at various genres within the vast repertoire born of the African in America experience. Selected repertoire pulls from early African American work songs and spirituals, the blues, jazz, doo-wop, R&B, and various contemporary styles including soul, neo-soul, and hip-hop. All while connecting them to the various musical traditions of Africa and the Caribbean. The Oral Tradition will be the driving force towards developing the students’ individual and collective ear and sense of collaborative music-making while encouraging students to connect with and authentically express the underlying feels and grooves inherent in each genre.

Ted Reichman Ensemble
This ensemble performs music written by composers working today, primarily from the jazz tradition, who have proposed new models for integrating improvisation and composition, and who embrace new ideas about structure, groove, and texture. Repertoire will range from through-composed music to open forms, and from complicated rhythms to ambient soundscapes.

Hankus Netsky Jewish Music Ensemble
The NEC Jewish Music Ensemble offers students an opportunity to perform and arrange repertoire from a variety of Jewish traditions, including Klezmer, Cantorial, Middle Eastern, Hassidic, Yiddish Theatre, and folksong.

Lautaro Mantilla Contemporary Rock Ensemble
This ensemble is an introduction to the diverse repertoire of underground music of the 1970’s and 1980’s. This music was created in opposition to mainstream culture and often contributed as a medium to bring about a radical awareness to any form of discrimination and used as a platform for political and social protest. By arranging and recomposing music from the Dead Kennedys, Frank Zappa, Black Flag, and the Flat Duo Jets, among others, students gain knowledge of different compositional and improvisation approaches and explore what Bertolt Brecht may or may not have been loosely quoted as saying: “Art is not a mirror to reflect the world, but a hammer with which to shape it.”