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Classical improvisers

Classical improvisers
November 08, 2009, 03:22:10 PM
A thousand years before rock, blues and jazz, on mainland Europe, improvisation was common. However, it was "structured" improvisation meaning that each song had a structure and the improv needed to follow that, so wasn't free-form like modern improv.

Quote
By 1793, Beethoven established a reputation in Vienna as a piano virtuoso and improviser in the salons of the nobility, often playing the preludes and fugues of J. S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier.

http://beethovensonatas.wordpress.com/about/

I think it's interesting that although this art is still alive, it rarely gets mentioned. The prole favorites take the press instead.

Re: Classical improvisers
November 09, 2009, 04:16:43 PM
Improvisation is definitely a part of classical music.

Music written with figured bass (a very common classical technique) gives the performer a root note and a suggestion for the type of chord to use but leaves the actual chord construction entirely up to the performer.

Many classical pieces also have extended cadenzas that are written into the score but left blank, such that the rest of the band/orchestra stops playing and a lone instrument performs an improvised solo with or without accompaniment.

Composers also would sometimes dictate places were embellishments (additional notes) could be added to a phrase but would let the performer decide how to embellish them.

The difference between classical and jazz is that the improvisation is never what "makes" the piece, but instead, simply a small part of it; as you say, it is more of a "structured" improvisation.

That said, some Baroque and Classical composers like Mozart were simply so brilliant that they'd compose and play pieces entirely on the spot then write down what had just been played when the piece was over.

Re: Classical improvisers
November 10, 2009, 12:12:29 PM
The difference between jazz and classical music can sometimes be simply a matter of emphasis. Jazz is a very broad genre that ranges in styles to a truly great degree. I have heard Chopin played in a jazz style and it was no longer classical music, it was jazz and it still kept all the complexity of Chopin's music. I have heard pieces by Bach played in jazz styles that were indeed jazz pieces that kept all of the complexities of his music. Rather than thinking of them as classical pieces played in a jazz style they could be better thought of as jazz pieces that imitate classical music but are jazz through and through. This can also apply to improvisation. Jazz improvisation need not be simple or unstructured; it all depends on the style of jazz and the performer.

People hear talk about Jazz in terms of absolutes. It is not possible for jazz to ever be as complex as classical music. It is impossible for jazz improvisation to be as complex as that of classical music. Many Jazz pieces are not as complex as many classical pieces and vice versa but we are talking about the possibilities of jazz as a genre and it is indeed possible if the composer is willing and able to write jazz as complicated as any classical piece ever written and this goes also for improvisation. 

Just a note on the opening post, improvisation has not existed in classical music for a thousand years.


Re: Classical improvisers
November 12, 2009, 03:24:31 AM
Just a note on the opening post, improvisation has not existed in classical music for a thousand years.

Umm, yes it has.  Anyone who can play a classical instrument and understands classical theory can improvise in a classical style, how do you think most composers write music?

Re: Classical improvisers
November 12, 2009, 06:49:12 AM
Umm, yes it has.  Anyone who can play a classical instrument and understands classical theory can improvise in a classical style, how do you think most composers write music?

I have seen classical improvisation and known people who do it, some as part of their performance.

However, it's not like "improvisation" in rock, jazz blues:

(a) It's structured. The song has a pattern, and the improv must fit that, like not just rhyming but staying in meter (no rap artist does this).
(b) In addition to harmonic correspondence, there needs to be melodic correspondence.

This is far more complex than what popular musicians do, and more challenging. It is however harder to perceive the subtlety of, because nothing's going to hit you over the head with HAY THIS IZ IMPROVIZED like a totally random solo.

Re: Classical improvisers
November 12, 2009, 02:49:04 PM
Umm, yes it has.  Anyone who can play a classical instrument and understands classical theory can improvise in a classical style, how do you think most composers write music?

How do you think a metal or rock artist writes music? If you are implying that the act of writing classical music is a form of improvisation than that would also go for the creation of any kind of music.

Re: Classical improvisers
November 13, 2009, 01:44:05 AM
Umm, yes it has.  Anyone who can play a classical instrument and understands classical theory can improvise in a classical style, how do you think most composers write music?

How do you think a metal or rock artist writes music? If you are implying that the act of writing classical music is a form of improvisation than that would also go for the creation of any kind of music.

Bach, Mozart and Beethoven were all renowned improvisers in performance.  This is common knowledge, please elaborate on your previous statement otherwise you're just talking crap.

Re: Classical improvisers
November 15, 2009, 12:37:09 AM
If you are implying that the act of writing classical music is a form of improvisation than that would also go for the creation of any kind of music.

That's what may be implied; the author of the original statement doesn't speak much about other kinds of music.

It seems to me, however, this tendency is enhanced with classical and metal because of the need to fit riffs/phrases together in a melodically, phrase-shape sensible order.

Rock, jazz, blues, etc. have different demands.

Re: Classical improvisers
November 16, 2009, 12:19:35 AM
Bach, Mozart and Beethoven were all renowned improvisers in performance.  This is common knowledge, please elaborate on your previous statement otherwise you're just talking crap.

...how do you think most composers write music?

Most classical composers write music the same way an artist of any other genre does, one step at a time. Only those of truly great mental capacity have the ability to improvise a piece, write it down afterwards and publish it. These composers are the exception to the rule. Most classical composers do not improvise or at least do not improvise pieces that they then consider complete enough to publish without change.

Writing classical music is not inherently an improvised affair. What I meant by my previous statement was that if the writing of classical music under any circumstances is an act of improvisation than it would be true for any form of music.

Re: Classical improvisers
November 16, 2009, 02:58:05 PM
Bach, Mozart and Beethoven were all renowned improvisers in performance.  This is common knowledge, please elaborate on your previous statement otherwise you're just talking crap.

...how do you think most composers write music?

Most classical composers write music the same way an artist of any other genre does, one step at a time. Only those of truly great mental capacity have the ability to improvise a piece, write it down afterwards and publish it. These composers are the exception to the rule. Most classical composers do not improvise or at least do not improvise pieces that they then consider complete enough to publish without change.

Writing classical music is not inherently an improvised affair. What I meant by my previous statement was that if the writing of classical music under any circumstances is an act of improvisation than it would be true for any form of music.

Strawman.  The argument was whether or not improvisation existed in classical music over the past 1000 years, which it did.

Re: Classical improvisers
December 31, 2009, 02:26:03 AM


I have seen classical improvisation and known people who do it, some as part of their performance.

However, it's not like "improvisation" in rock, jazz blues:

(a) It's structured. The song has a pattern, and the improv must fit that, like not just rhyming but staying in meter (no rap artist does this).
(b) In addition to harmonic correspondence, there needs to be melodic correspondence.

This is far more complex than what popular musicians do, and more challenging. It is however harder to perceive the subtlety of, because nothing's going to hit you over the head with HAY THIS IZ IMPROVIZED like a totally random solo.

I have to ask you a question. I don't mean to sound  patronizing, but have you ever 'improvised'  any music?  I'am asking you an honest question.

I ask you this because,  You're making it sound like improvisation in Rock and Jazz is just playing some random notes or regurgitating the same licks over and over again. It would never work that way . If that was the case, the players would invariably sound like idiots. The improvised  'melody' that comes out has be a product of the harmonic (progressions, basslines) and rhythmic context. Yes, even in blues, the improvised melody does reflect the context in which the improvisation is going on. The improvised music is an outcome of what you hear (in your inner ear, head.. whatever) in the context of what is there to be improvised over. If you can't 'hear' what you want to play in the context, you can't improvise. Period. Improvisation is not about organization. By definition it is spontaneous,  but it has to fit the context in which it is being improvised.


Re: Classical improvisers
January 09, 2010, 12:11:14 PM
I don't mean to sound  patronizing, but have you ever 'improvised'  any music? 

You failed. That is a patronizing statement, and a bad way to argue, and it's not conducive to quality discussion.

Please take it elsewhere.

Re: Classical improvisers
January 09, 2010, 08:23:31 PM
in comes the crusader.  I just wanted know whether he knows what he's talking about. have a good day.

Re: Classical improvisers
January 09, 2010, 10:50:33 PM
in comes the crusader.

Actually, not so fast. It's my job to keep this forum from becoming a "no gurlz" club for antisocial faux elitists. That means I'm supposed to enforce quality of discussion and discourage nastiness. Unless you have another suggestion?