In the working groups each can choose one or more semi-structures, combining them to improvise, experiencing that whatever the scenario, improvisation lets us stay in the present.
Day-2 SO FAR AWAY? Indian Culture
Lecture / Adriano Ercolani (critic/journalist) / Indian culture and Improvisation
There is an old Sanskrit word, Lila (Leela), which means play. Richer than our word, it means divine play, the play of creation and destruction and re-creation, the folding and unfolding of the cosmos. Lila, free and deep, is both delight and enjoyment of this moment, and the play of God. It also means love. Lila may be the simplest thing there is—spontaneous, childish, disarming. But as we grow and experience the complexities of life, it may also be the most difficult and hard won achievement imaginable, and it's coming to fruition is a kind of homecoming to our true selves.”
Here, ’improvisation’ must be distinguished from ‘spontaneity’, and so the terms tatklasphoorta and usphoortarespectively to stand for ‘improvised’ and ‘spontaneous’. Secondly, about diverse approaches to musical materials, on one hand considering improvisation as a form of variation or, on the other hand as a composition previously created which is based on some characteristic patterns. This focus on some kind of improvisation such as niraval (on composed piace) or alapana (slaw improvisation, without a defined rhythmic structure, as a kind of introduction on the raga) or tanam (improvisation, rendered as a rhythmic variation of raga) according to the Carnatic culture, the South of India. As improvisation is a real-time experience the Indian culture has many points of contact with Ancient Greek one, considering that how it approaches ‘time’: Chronos the sequential time and Kairos the opportunity for something to occur.
Another element from which to observe Indian culture in relation to improvisation is that music, dance and word in India (both in the culture of the North and in the South) are always linked and improvisation as 'solo' is conceived only within moments of group improvisation.
An interesting aspect in this context is that in Western culture the concept of artistic research is recent, as until a few decades ago research was always considered separate from the arts; on the contrary, in Indian culture, starting from mythology, the concept of science/knowledge and that of the arts (specially music) proceed together. Think of the deity Saraswati: this Hindu goddess of music, art, speech but also of wisdom and learning. In fact, in the iconography she is holding a book and a pen in one of her four hands, as the book represents knowledge, and in the other hand she holds a vina, a string musical instrument.
Workshop / Manish Madankar tablas, Victor Vertunni sitar, Valeria Vespaziani voice and dance (teachers/performers) Exploring Raga Charukeshi
This workshop is based on the exploration of the raga Charukeshi, which is interesting as a modal structure that can be connected to the Lydian b7 and melodic minor western structure and also because originated into the Carnatic music (South of India tradition) it has been adopted by the Hindustani style of singing (North of India Tradition). As Madankar, Vertunni and Vespaziani used to perform as a trio as well as with other kind of music ensemble too, they articulated their workshop with elementary instructions that participants could explore and re-elaborate with their own voice, instrument, and body themselves.
Day-3 SO CLOSE? Neapolitan Song
Lecture / PhD prof. Raffaele Di Mauro (teacher/researcher) / Popular and urban improvisation
The lecture re-constructed the popular and urban musical context of Naples in the first half of the 19th century, populated by various figures of “itinerant musicians” gravitating particularly around a very specific area of the city: the pier.
This allowed the analysis of the phenomenon of improvisers in Naples during that period with an ethnomusicological approach. In this regard, through both literary and musical sources, Di Mauro talked about a double ‘level’ of improvisers. The first more typically “popular”, with forms of repertoire still present today in the music of the oral tradition of Campania (fronne and canti a figliola) through which real “competition”; were held on the Naples pier or every year in Nola on the way back from the feast of Montevergine. The second level, on the other hand, is more “urban”; (subject to the influences of cultivated music), with real challenges organized in salons and theaters (particularly in the Teatro dei Fiorentini) with a pianist who improvised melodies on which the competitors, mostly more in the world of the arts and professions, they improvised texts starting from a theme extracted from an urn. Through the “cross”; comparison between versions that appeared on nineteenth-century broadsides and printed versions of the score, the genesis of the famous song Io te voglio bene assaje has been reconstructed, erroneously considered, by many historians of the song, the first “author’s” Neapolitan song and often improperly attributed to Gaetano Donizetti. So that it can be shown how the birth of this song is, on the other hand, attributable precisely to the phenomenon of the urban improvisation mentioned above and of which Raffaele Sacco, a renowned optician, was one of the main exponents. The lecture concluded with other subsequent examples in the context to Neapolitan song based on an “improvised” model with a final intercalare - a sort of proto-refrain - also called in Neapolitan riepeto obbrecato: obligatory lament.
Workshop / prof. Nando Citarella (teacher/performer) Voice and traditional drums in Neapolitan improvisational practice.
This workshop conducted by Nando Citarella -musician, actor, singer and scholar of Mediterranean popular, theatrical and choreutic-musical traditions- explored the rhythms and musical-textual improvisations of Tamurrjate, Pizzichi and Tarantelle and to how these elements can be embodied for group improvisations.
An improvisational ‘journey' that also draws on the mystical and devotional tradition of Neapolitan culture.
A sound stream of consciousness without any pretension of formal and philological rigour, but which by combining tradition and improvisation, shows a synthesis of past performative practices and their evolution in current practices.
Poetic, popular and suggestive introspection, in search of a new form of performance (between extemporaneous and creation) that combines a unique research and traditional improvisations.
Day-4 ABOUT Language
Lecture / PhD prof. Duilio D’Alfonso (teacher/researcher) / A journey into the territories of improvisation
The lecture first pointed out that musical improvisation is the process of creating music spontaneously, in real time. It is the art of composing on the spot, where there is no temporal distance between the creative moment and listening to the sound result…Now, the strongly graphocentric Western art music has always looked at improvisation with ambiguity, almost showing a kind of guilty feeling. From a theoretical standpoint, improvisation is a strongly interdisciplinary issue, and it can be approached from different perspectives. This lecture deals with the historical perspective: improvisation in Western Music History. Improvisation in the Renaissance and the 15th century, Johannes Tinctoris’s well-known between res facta and counterpoint….Then from Classicism onwards, there is an evident decline in the art of improvisation…relegated to specific domains, i. e. the technique of diminutio (in Latin) and the extemporaneous realization of the continuo (Bovicelli’s diminutions expemples)….The performance is a particular and unrepeatable“instance” of the piece of music, and not the piece itself. It follows that it is the text that takes on the essential characters of the work, and not the performance –the tyranny of the text…In the Baroque period improvisation is still about embellishing, but it is the basso continuo the principal domain of improvisation (Ludovico Viadana, C.P. E. Bach). Then the lecture reviewed the most significant experiences of the nineteenth up to the twentieth century’s Avant-Garde, Improvisation in 20th century's radical music has several meanings: a) the deconstruction of the classical and romantic conception of the musical work: the open form is no longer a singularity in itself, but a cluster of possibilities; at the same time, the piece is no longer defined by the composer, but is determined by the performers; b) aleatory music implies the crisis of traditional musical notation. Hence the new importance of performance as the decisive moment of musical creation. The art of improvisation, which no longer seems to require lengthy training, is also deeply revised.
Workshop / Marko Miladinovič (poet/performer) / To sing of idleness and happiness
Poet, visual artist, performer, mediator of cultural events Miladinovič shared his audio-video and live creative experiences, around the fact that «poetry is a magical formulation, which moves mountains» and defines it in the Platonic idea of an act of creation from nothing. «Poetic language is the only one that does not give orders», – he adds -, «but consists in the creation and definition of words, in their redefinition. So the poet's role is to recreate the world and redefine it», he adds that «poetry doesn't change society, it remakes its definitions and these can change it. «Sometimes I put off an ‘ethical-aesthetic survival kit’ for grabs, that is a leather case containing a comb and a pen, of which we don't know which are the aesthetics and which are the ethics».
«I have various methods to create my poems, in addition to the classic cut-up. I often jot down lines and then come back to rethink them; this process is quite slow. Many times, however, they come in an instant, they fall right out of the sky, like a stream. While some poems I wrote and rewrote, but not closed. In this case, memory intervenes, because I keep the verses that remain in my memory as good and I close the poem only with those, eliminating the others».
He involved the participants in some 'dynamics' of improvised poetry: the individual and the group, the speaker and the audience.
The workshop ended with a text by Miladinovič himself, which he gave to 4 participants, for a contemporary interpretation, a sort of simultaneous reading of the 'same' text translated into four different languages.
Day-5 OUT/IN Philosophy
Lecture / PhD prof. Fiorella Battaglia (teacher/philosopher) / The Challenge of Improvisation
“Here, I will not primarily consider the domain of arts and aesthetics but speak of improvisation as subject of philosophical inquiry. “A spontaneous action where one acts in an unforeseen way“. Improvisation is a kind of agency that is structured and, at the same time, capable of adapting to changes in its surroundings. Accordingly, it is sometimes conceived of as the model of human action as such”. The lecture has been divided into three parts: 1) I am going to explain what improvisation is. My approach will broadly consider it as a fundamental feature of human intelligence. 2) Improvisation and AI. I am going to raise the issue of improvisation and AI because it has given new impetus to the discussion above. For example, when discussing the potential of ChatGTP, people are again wondering how many combining and recombining elements can be found in both machine and human improvisation. 3) A series of questions to guide us in our final discussion. How to do this? (Methodology) The philosophical quest for clarification is informed by a constellation of various themes, which are closely linked and shape the central topic of improvisation. Clarification - Imagination and perception: the risk of deception; Imagination and emotions: when health and disease begin in the brain; Wandering mind, ‘default mode’, intrinsic activity; Cognitive science and the role of mental imagery; Imagination as a tool for the study of emotional neuroscience; Imagination is not a deceptive form of reality; on the contrary, it is itself a source of experience. It enhances our ability to act in the world and can be seen as a form of 'training'. Its performative quality has been recognised by neuro-rehabilitators and athletes, who base the recovery of performed motor skills and the execution of better performances on the exercise of imagined motor skills. Imagination is also a fundamental element of many cognitive processes, so much so that the theory of pictorialism considers 'mental imagery' to be the basic building block with which thoughts are constructed. To imagine in this sense is ‘to generate from within' an emotional experience that we usually attribute to a response to an external stimulus.
Improvisation and AI: Creativity, considered as the ability to produce idea or artfacts that are new, surprising, and valuable – is the acme of the human intelligence, and necessary for human-level Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). But it’s widely seen as mysterious. - ‘It is not obvious how novel ideas could arise in people, never mind computers’ (Margaret Boden 2016). Three main type of creativity (Combination, Exploratory, Transformational). 3. Some questions: Given that improvisation is, in general, a mode of action where success is not guaranteed, and given the mostly harmless character of failure in the arts – where they are usually not as disastrous as they might be in scientific, social, and political experiments – art remains the ground most conducive to the flourishing of improvisational practices. - This makes improvisation in the arts also the most fertile ground for philosophical reflection and analysis of related ontological, phenomenological, ethical, and aesthetic issues. - Do you agree with this claim by Bertinetto and Ruta?
Workshop / prof. Daniele Roccato (teacher/performer) / Improving in listening
Based on the Roccato’s ‘The Tao of Improvisation’ activity of improviser and teacher, this workshop has experimented an individual experience of listening the surrounding environment to favor and develop the free flow of creativity establishing a deep connection with one’s centre.
In this way participants explored techniques of intuitive improvisation.
Three questionnaires have been provided to participants (stored in the Internal Area of the website) to encourage group discussions on improvisation and non-related to any data collection.
During Lab 6’s working groups/presentations/discussions, participants experienced that improvising and interrelating with other beings-bodies are entangled practices and that ‘traveling’ back and forth among cultures, practice, countries, from the one of their own background and the ones of the lecture/workshop, improvising and reflecting, they developed a positive result of accidental encounters resonating into meaningful artistic relations.
 Stephen Nachmanovitch. Free play. Improvisation in life and art. Los Angeles, Jeremy P. Tarcher Inc.Introduction p.1, 1990