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Improvisation Weekend: Why Do We Improvise?

On the weekend of March 17, the UC Berkeley Department of Music hosted a series of events focused on improvisation, with renowned musicians and scholars convening for a symposium and two special performances. On Friday afternoon, distinguished Bloch Professor George E. Lewis (from Columbia University) delivered his third lecture in a series of five, “Why Do We Want Our Machines to Improvise?” in a composer’s colloquium. An evening concert, “People are Machines Too: A Meeting of Mills College & UC Berkeley improvisers” followed at the Center for New Music in San Francisco. Performers included James Fei, Chris Brown, and Dana Reason.

Workshops, presentations, and a roundtable discussion convened the next day in the Elkus Room, 125 Morrison Hall. Presentations included “Globalist Extensions of the Voice – Vertical/Horizontal Localizations of Sound in the Somatic Framework” by Ken Ueno, “Musicianship and Automation in Computer Music Improvisation” by Kevin Patton, and “Fusions and Oppositions: A personal and Cultural Evolution of Structure in Improvisation” by Matthew Goodheart.

The symposium culminated with a Sunday night concert following two sessions of presentations by faculty, students, alumni, and distinguished guests including Franck Bedrossian, Davitt Moroney, Nick Mathew and James Davies, Lewis Jordan (CIIS) and John-Carlos Perea (SFSU), Jessica Bissett Perea, Ofer Gazit, and Maya Kronfeld.

Saturday evening performances by Edmund Campion (piano & electronics), Midiyanto, Heni Savitri, Ben Brinner, Lisa Gold, Henry Spiller, & Peter Garellick (Javanese Gamelan), Ken Ueno (voice & electronics), Myra Melford (piano), Nicole Mitchell (flute), Miya Masaoka (koto) and Zeena Parkins (harp), Roscoe Mitchell (saxophone), & David Wessel (electronics).
Photo by Jim Carmody.