Monday, April 25, 2016

Music Education Monday: An online course
in improvisation from MIT, and more

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA is known as one of the top schools in the country for engineering, math, and science, and as such, they've also been a pioneer in online learning, putting material from many courses on the internet for anyone to access for free.

And while MIT may not be known particularly as a mecca for the arts, they do have some music courses among those online offerings, including the one being spotlighted here today for Music Education Monday, a series of 13 videos recorded in Spring 2013 for the course "Musical Improvisation."

Taught by trumpeter Mark Harvey and saxophonist Tom Hall with some help from MIT students and various guests, the course deals with improvisation more on a conceptual level than in a "here's how to navigate the chord changes" sort of way.

This first video in the series is a lab session "about sonic experimentation, improvising free from judgments of right vs. wrong. It begins with structured improvisation exercises incorporating sound and movement, followed by more exercises with graphic notation."

The series continues with concerts and workshops dealing with an eclectic selection of topics including electronics, improvisation in Indian classical music, and "In A Silent Way," plus demonstrations from musicians including trombonist Robin Eubanks and cellist Eugene Friesen.

All 13 videos are collected in a playlist that will show them in order from the embedded video window at the bottom of this post. You can find more course materials, including supplemental readings and a recommended list of recordings for additional listening, here.

If this piques your interest in some more big-brain content on the subject, read "Improvised Music after 1950: Afrological and Eurological Perspectives," an essay by composer, trombonist, electronic musician, Columbia University professor and AACM member George Lewis that appeared originally in the Spring 1996 issue of Black Music Research Journal, a journal published by the Center for Black Music Research - Columbia College Chicago and University of Illinois Press.

For some more conceptual musings on improvisation from an academic perspective, check out some of the articles collected under "Music and the embodied mind: A jam session for theorists on musical improvisation, instrumental self-extension, and the biological and social basis of music and well-being," at the online journal Frontiers.

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