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. Non-majors should sign up to audition during orientation week.
Students can also contact firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an audition if all slots are filled.
Anthony Coleman rehearses with his ensemble Survivor's Breakfast.
WATCH a complete 15 second composition created by Anthony Coleman and Survivor's Breakfast from several short musical motifs, and filmed in December 2012 for a brief television spot celebrating Contemporary Improv's 40th Anniversary.
Amir Milstein coaches the Chorinho Ensemble.
WATCH New England Conservatory "Wildcard" Honors Ensemble Choro Bastardo perform pianist Henrique Eisenmann's "Piangerito." Choro Bastardo combines the traditional Choro style with each of the band members' different musical and cultural backgrounds to create a sonority that is different from the original, yet loyal to the playful spirit of that music.
Members of the American Roots Ensemble perform in the balcony of Jordan Hall.
WATCH "Hands of Time" written by Katie Martucci and performed by The Ladles: Katie Martucci , voice and guitar, Caroline Kuhn, voice and banjo and Lucia Purpura-Pontoniere, voice and fiddle.
Coached by Eden Macadam-Somer, the CI Chamber Ensemble performs in Jordan Hall.
WATCH John Zorn's "All Hallows Eve, i. Matins" performed by Orin Laursen, violin; Alexandra Simpson, viola; Marza Merophi Wilks, cello.
Anthony Coleman leads the NEC Cobra Ensemble through a rehearsal on the stage of Jordan Hall.
WATCH the complete performance (actually TWO very different performances!) of Cobra from later that evening.
Anthony Coleman Ensemble (Survivor’s Breakfast) 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.
American Roots Ensemble
American Roots Ensemble, directed by Eden MacAdam-Somer. This ensemble uses American musical traditions as a springboard for repertoire and creative explorations.
Chorinho Ensemble, directed by Amir Milstein. This ensemble explores Chorinho, an important Brazilian musical tradition.
CI Chamber Music Ensemble
CI Chamber Music Ensemble, directed by Eden MacAdam-Somer. This interdepartmental ensemble explores the boundaries between composition, improvisation, and world music, through written works and oral traditions. The ensemble performs in CI concerts throughout the year and varies in size and instrumentation depending on the repertoire.
“Cobra” Ensemble, directed by Anthony Coleman. This ensemble prepares performance versions of John Zorn’s classic music game piece Cobra.
CI Non-Majors Ensemble
CI Non-Majors Ensemble, directed by Mark Zaleski. This ensemble offers non-majors an opportunity to explore a broad range of compositional and improvisational practices and strategies that draw strongly on aural traditions from many cultures. No previous experience with improvisation is required.
Film Noir/Storyboarding Ensemble
Film Noir/Storyboarding 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 Jordan Hall Film Noir concert.
Interdisciplinary Connections Ensemble
Interdisciplinary Connections Ensemble, directed by Linda Chase, 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.
Irish Music Ensemble
Irish Music Ensemble, directed by Winifred Horan. This ensemble explores Irish instrumental musical traditions.
Jewish Music Ensemble
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.
Joe Morris Improvisation Ensemble
Joe MorrisImprovisation 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 my pieces and student compositions. We also use graphic scores and conduction. 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.
Middle Eastern Music Ensemble
Middle Eastern Music Ensemble directed by Malcolm Barsamian. This ensemble explores a variety of Middle Eastern traditions.
Music of the African American Experience
Nedelka Prescod – Music of the African American Experience. This ensemble takes a look at various genres within the vast repertoire of songs born of the African in America experience. Selected repertoire pulls from early African American work songs and spirituals, the blues, jazz, doowop, rhythm and blues and the various manifestations of contemporary R&B,soul, neo-soul and hip-hop as well as connections with the music of the Caribbean. Oral tradition, a strong approach to learning in the African American community, will be the driving force towards developing the students’ individual and collective ear and sense of collaborative musicmaking while encouraging students to connect with and authentically express the underlying feels and grooves inherent in each genre.
Persian Music Ensemble
Persian Music Ensemble directed by Nima Janmohammadi. This ensemble offers an introduction to Persian Music traditions.
Rhythm and Blues Ensemble
Rhythm and Blues Ensemble, directed by Nedelka Prescod. This ensemble draws its repertoire from classical offers American R&B.
WATCH members of the Songwriters Workshop, directed by Hankus Netsky, perform for Elvis Costello in a masterclass. This clip features Elvis working with freshman songwriter/pianist/singer Damon Smith, and a group of his peers.
Tanya Kalmanovitch leads NEC's Composition/Improvisation Ensemble, shown here in performance in Pierce Hall.
In Contemporary Practice in Improvisation-Oriented Composition, Ted Reichman and his ensemble explore new ideas about structure, groove and texture. Here, he coaches members of the ensemble Alfaia.
NEC's World Music Ensemble is directed by Amir Milstein.
Lautaro Mantilla, shown here on vocals, coaches the Indie, Punk, and Art Rock Ensemble.
WATCH the ensemble perform John Zorn's "Warlock."
Songwriters Workshop, directed by Hankus Netsky. This ensemble offers a framework for songwriters to work both on their own compositions and recompositions of existing songs drawing on all kinds of genres.
Contemporary Practice in Improvisation-Oriented Composition
Ted Reichman Ensemble: Contemporary Practice in Improvisation-Oriented Composition. 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 completely notated music to open forms, and from complicated rhythms to ambient soundscapes.
Indie, Punk, and Art Rock Ensemble
Indie, Punk, and Art Rock Ensemble directed by Lautaro Mantilla. This ensemble is an introduction to the diverse repertoire of underground music of the 1970s and 1980s. This music was created in opposition of 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 Dead Kennedys, Frank Zappa, Black Flag, The flat duo Jets, among many others, students gain knowledge of different compositional and improvisational 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.”