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.

Offerings for 2012–2013

Interdisciplinary Connections Ensemble

Directed by Linda Chase, this ensemble makes connections between and is influenced by the relationship between music improvisation and other forms of artistic expression including composition, 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-based pieces to serve as springboards for improvisation. We will also explore relationships in music, nature, and transformation.

Anthony Coleman Ensemble

Anthony Coleman Ensemble (offered both semesters) explores the wonderful and terrifying space between Composition and Improvisation. Repertoire includes original compositions by ensemble members and its director along with pieces by such diverse masters as John Zorn, Christian Wolff, and Karlheinz Stockhausen.

World Music Ensemble

Directed by David Harris (fall semester) and Amir Milstein (spring semester), this group takes on a variety of world music traditions, including Greek, Indian, Serbian, Klezmer, Ethiopian, Bulgarian, Morrocan, Turkish, Israeli, Brazilian, and Thai musical repertoire, also using these traditions as a point of departure for creative exploration.

Tanya Kalmanovitch Composition/Improvisation Ensemble

In this ensemble, led by Tanya Kalmanovitch, 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 and African-American music (classical, traditional and jazz) and various popular, traditional, and classical music repertoires, using them as points of departure for original composition.

Non-Majors CI Ensemble (aka The Forge)

This ensemble, led by Tanya Kalmanovitch, offers non-majors an opportunity to explore a broad range of improvisational practices and strategies drawn from contemporary classical music, jazz, and many of the world’s folk, classical, and popular musical traditions.

Joe Morris Improvisation Ensemble

Led by Joe Morris, 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. We also use graphic scores and conducting. 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.

Songwriting Workshop

Directed by Hankus Netsky, this workshop offers a framework for songwriters to work both on their own compositions and on re-compositions of existing songs, and to perform them in departmental concerts.

American Roots Ensemble

This ensemble, led by Eden MacAdam-Somer, will use American musical traditions as a springboard for repertoire and creative explorations.

The African-American Experience
As Told through Music
(African-American Roots Ensemble)

This ensemble, led by Nedelka Prescod, will trace the history of African-American music from its origin in Africa, studying and learning Yoruban (or South African) songs as well as their related rhythms. This path would lead across the seas following the slave trade route specifically stopping in America. Work Songs and early Spirituals will be introduced as well as comprehending their significance for the Underground Railroad and the various efforts towards freedom and the introduction to Western religion into the African spiritual tradition. The ensemble could move in many directions from here or possibly take all paths. A direction from the Work Songs could lead the ensemble to work on The Blues and follow its line into Jazz as well as move into the Doo-Wop a cappella genre, which then continues into Rhythm & Blues. The a cappella style is one that connects many of the African-American music lanes considering that it is also the approach for early Spirituals and the later European-influenced, classical Spirituals as arranged by Hall Johnson, Moses Hogan and Harry Burleigh. Jazz, Rhythm & Blues, Contemporary Gospel and certain current R&B songs can be considered as a final destination as well as a peek into Neo-Soul. All of these genres, of course, are the result of the amalgamation of traditional African music and Western music. This ensemble could also be a study of African rhythms and European melodies and harmonies and the genres that have been born of their union.

Twenty-First Century Ensemble

Directed by Ted Reichman, this ensemble takes a look at contemporary practice in improvisation-oriented composition. We will play pieces written by composers working today, mostly loosely coming out of the jazz tradition, who have proposed new models for integrating improvisation and composition, and who embrace new ideas about structure, groove, and texture. This will range from completely notated music to open forms, and from complicated rhythms to ambient soundscapes.

NEC Jewish Music Ensemble

Directed by Hankus Netsky, 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.

Storyboarding/Noir Ensemble

Directed by Aaron Hartley and Ran Blake. Using classic film noir as an inspiration, students will develop and personalize film composers’ repertoire to create live musical accompaniment for pre-recorded film footage. Participation is by invitation only. The group performs in the department’s fall Jordan Hall concert.