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Poll
Question: Who has been successful or at least tries to improvise in various idioms
Haydn, Mozart - 1 (25%)
Beethoven (more advanced classical harmony) - 0 (0%)
Late baroque (Bach) - 1 (25%)
Bravura (Scarlatti, Bach) - 0 (0%)
Dense textures (Brahms, et al.) - 2 (50%)
Total Voters: 4

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Author Topic: Improvisation in the Style Of  (Read 614 times)
j_tour
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« on: August 20, 2017, 04:59:47 AM »

Yeah, so, obviously any musician who is good is an accomplished improviser -- I just am curious what textures in piano people are fluent in.

No reason why -- I'm not taking names -- just curious.

If you disagree that musicians are good improvisers, please feel free to say so -- obviously, that's a non-standard view, but music is a big tent, so everybody should feel welcome.
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j_tour
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« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2017, 06:29:40 AM »

It has come to my attention that some musicians are not able to perform music ex tempore.

So, I had a new question:

Is it in actual true that, say, someone who can rattle off Schumann's *Papillons* cannot improvise in the same manner?

I find it not surprising, but if it were me, I should be ashamed at not being capable at using triadic voicings and basic functional harmony.
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ted
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« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2017, 10:31:39 AM »

It might well be different wherever you live, but around here very few pianists seem to improvise at all in any idiom. Professional jazz pianists do, of course, but usually in highly specific and directed ways. Can someone who plays a piece well improvise in the style of that piece ? In my experience this ability is very rare. To take a specific case, I improvise my own music in large quantities every day of the week; I am obsessed with doing it. I also play, by way of example, some Chopin studies and rags by Joplin and Scott. However, I cannot produce an improvisation which comes anywhere near a decent imitation of pieces by these people. In addition to my probable straight out lack of musicianship there is, I suspect, a much deeper reason, namely that whatever I try to create, whatever consciously imitative figures I use, everything always ends up sounding like Ted and not like anyone else. For somebody with the ingrained habit of personal improvisation this might be next to impossible to avoid. Indeed, I doubt I would wish to avoid it because I have no interest in sounding like someone else.

...
I find it not surprising, but if it were me, I should be ashamed at not being capable at using triadic voicings and basic functional harmony.

Perhaps, but those things are just musical facts, vocabulary, easily learned options, which do not in themselves govern the improvising personality or guarantee the musical interest of the result.
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ronde_des_sylphes
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« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2017, 11:58:20 AM »

"in the style of" ie pastiche improvisation. Oddly, I don't find this difficult. I'm not saying the end output would fool a connoisseur, but I have templates for impersonating different styles. These have been subconsciously derived from analysis and perceived facets of different styles. My Liszt and Rachmaninov overlap too much on the Lisztian side! Being very simplistic about it, for Mozart I would use lh Alberti basses, rh with some scalic runs, melody ornamented with occasional turns in the passing notes, very "classical" harmonisation. There would be a lot more chromaticism if I was faking Bach, together with a focus on moving and resolving internal parts. Beethoven I would use tremolandi, sforzandi, diminished chords etc. Chopin and Liszt are second nature because I've played so much.
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j_tour
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« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2017, 04:32:48 PM »

Interesting.  Yes, a pastiche is in essence what I'm talking about.  I forgot my lessons from the Goncourt.

I know jazz players improvise, or "improvise," but I've always been shocked that performers of Western art music seem to not be in the mainstream of historical practice, and, indeed, sometimes seem to not be able to play any simple tune by ear.  Sort of gives truth to the cliché that "classical musicians" can't play unless it's written out ahead of time, which, of course, is the same as not being able to play at all.
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j_tour
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« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2017, 05:21:35 PM »

I am obsessed with doing it. I also play, by way of example, some Chopin studies and rags by Joplin and Scott. However, I cannot produce an improvisation which comes anywhere near a decent imitation of pieces by these people

Oh, I wasn't intentionally trying to be dismissive.  As a matter of fact, I have the same issue with doing "in the style of" Joplin and so forth.  

I have no qualms about taking any of Joplin's pieces and just sort of "ragging" it out, messing with the melody, introducing little flourishes, but I suspect a lot of the difference is that Joplin is so specific about voice leading and which chord inversion to use.  "Solace" is a great example that comes to mind -- thats probably one that should be played pretty close to how it's written, even though once you understand the three chords or so, you could (not should, mind you) just fake it.

To contrast with another one I've been just fooling around with (I know it's basic, but I'm not a dixieland player at heart), just "Tiger Rag"-- that's easy (for me) to mess around with, and steal some tricks from various Jelly Roll performances.

The difference is, it seems, that little pieces like "Tiger Rag," and others that, even though they were published by various companies, and sometimes have canonical performances, or at least performance practices, are sort of "up in the air," in a way that things like, I don't know, the Joplin pieces or, .... I remember a Hamelin encore of .... what's it called....the.... "Kitten on the Keys" (fun tune, not too hard, a pregnant dog to remember) are not.
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louispodesta
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« Reply #6 on: August 23, 2017, 11:12:12 PM »

The answer is the late Earl Wild.  And, he published most of these transcriptions, which is how these type of compositions are categorized. (www.ivoryclassics.com)
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hstjkd
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« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2017, 03:40:27 AM »

It's easy to pastiche Haydn/Mozart/early or middle Beethoven for a short time, but getting any sort of structural coherence into on-the-fly sonata form over a longer duration is very much more difficult.
I can improvise second-rate Bachian three or four-part counterpoint practically indefinitely, however.
Brahms' music is full of incredible subtleties of structure, which I doubt Brahms himself could simply improvise, rather than work out beforehand.
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beethovenfan01
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« Reply #8 on: October 22, 2017, 01:31:42 AM »

I actually most frequently improvise in the style of Ravel and Prokofiev ... twisted, I know.
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Auditioning to U of O school of music:
Bach WTC Bk 1 No. 10
Beethoven Op. 81a (I.)
Rachmaninoff Op. 32 No. 10
Future:
Liszt Wilde Jagd, Dante, HR 6
Chopin Ballade 3
Beethoven Op. 57
Prokofiev
chopinlover01
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« Reply #9 on: October 22, 2017, 03:16:50 AM »

Yeah, so, obviously any musician who is good is an accomplished improviser -- I just am curious what textures in piano people are fluent in.

No reason why -- I'm not taking names -- just curious.

If you disagree that musicians are good improvisers, please feel free to say so -- obviously, that's a non-standard view, but music is a big tent, so everybody should feel welcome.

I've worked with a LOT of classical players, and among them, I've met one or two who could improvise decently. But I'd put that at number at < 5%. It's simply not taught; it's not a fault of classical players, it's just not something that's valued by the classical academia.
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j_tour
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« Reply #10 on: October 24, 2017, 05:34:12 AM »

It's simply not taught; it's not a fault of classical players, it's just not something that's valued by the classical academia.

Well, that is true.  I would rather say it's valued by any musician, and put the blame at some kind of cultural deficiency, which could be corrected by the musician who desires to belong to the mainstream of Western art music, instead of being either too busy (understandable, up to a certain age), or too emotionally or intellectually dependent on their teachers, whether at a conservatory or not.

Of course, I'm not claiming to be any better:  I'm not a very imaginative person in music.  I consider the extent of my classical improvising to plunking out some melody over an Alberti bass, or play "Happy Birthday" or "Auld Lang Syne" or whatever in various fake styles.  Even in jazz, I don't consider my lines over Rhythm or whatever good unless they are part of the bebop tradition (NB:  not transcribed solos, which should be done copiously, but never performed, but in the style of...I don't know, pick some bebop pianists and blend it all together), although I certainly am aware and impressed by people who chose another post-bop or third stream kind of path.
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mjames
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« Reply #11 on: October 24, 2017, 05:40:33 AM »

Well my main boy is Chopin and I'm trying to work on his style and it's so hard. I started with mazurkas and...well it's still a work in progress. Right now I've managed to develop a bit of an ear for the Chopinist harmony and melody but crap...composing never mind improvising is so *** hard.
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Pianism is my religion, Bach is my God, and Chopin's my prophet.
Derek
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« Reply #12 on: October 30, 2017, 07:35:36 PM »

You guys should take note of what ted says about improvisation here and elsewhere. As someone who has received mentorship from him in improvisation, and having contrasted his approaches with the subject of this thread, (improvisation in the style of a given composer), it is becoming apparent to me after 16 years that while improvising in a given style can be gratifying, it's nowhere near as interesting or satisfying as improvising in a 100% personal fashion. I highly recommend opening your minds to this possibility and maybe asking ted more about what he does. I'm really grateful to my 18 year old self for having stumbled upon him on this very site in 2002 and asking him about what he does. It forever changed my life (in a good way). Improvisation can be *much* more than regurgitating the surface habits of your favorite composers. I can probably say this 1000 times a day and most people will still consider "improvisation in the style of," at least amongst classical musicians, the only worthwhile approach. Oh well....your loss!  Grin  That said, I'm not denigrating the act of aping a given style. I do it myself and it's definitely fun, it just has limits with respect to the degree to which one enjoys it, I think.
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Derek
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« Reply #13 on: October 30, 2017, 07:52:44 PM »

It's easy to pastiche Haydn/Mozart/early or middle Beethoven for a short time, but getting any sort of structural coherence into on-the-fly sonata form over a longer duration is very much more difficult.
I can improvise second-rate Bachian three or four-part counterpoint practically indefinitely, however.
Brahms' music is full of incredible subtleties of structure, which I doubt Brahms himself could simply improvise, rather than work out beforehand.
I've been obsessively pursuing baroque improvisation for several years now, and "second-rate" is definitely the result I think. Enjoyable though it can be. I mean when you think about it, Bach probably spent 16 hours a day or more doing NOTHING BUT being Bach. I spend maybe an hour a day paying my clavichord, which is a mix of improvisation, and playing pieces. Imagine if I spent 16 hours a day trying to get a specific style, would I really want to spend that much time being Bach, who already was Bach, or being me...?

I agree also that for this type of music, it's difficult to get really good results in pure improvisation.
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j_tour
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« Reply #14 on: November 07, 2017, 04:04:59 AM »

Enjoyable though it can be. I mean when you think about it, Bach probably spent 16 hours a day or more doing NOTHING BUT being Bach.

Right.  But how many hours a day did he spend doing his "maritals" with Mrs. Bach?  He was a busy man.
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Derek
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« Reply #15 on: November 07, 2017, 01:52:35 PM »

Right.  But how many hours a day did he spend doing his "maritals" with Mrs. Bach?  He was a busy man.
Apparently too much as one of the Mrs. Bachs died.
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