Impnotes.jpg (5397 bytes)  




Hot Links

About Us

What's New?























International Society for Improvised Music  


                     Third annual conference  

 "Improvisation and Identity: Discovering Self and Community in a Trans-Cultural Age"



               University of Denver,   Dec 5-7, 2008. Friday-Sunday


When Charlie Parker stated that "if you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn," he conveyed, in his inimitable way, the capacity of improvisation to serve as a vehicle for integrating the totality of influences
that shape personal and social identity.  From class, culture, economics, and ecology to gender, race, sexuality, and spirituality; improvising musicians spontaneously meld these and other aspects of their
being in expressions that serve as both profound personal and collective commentaries.  In an era in which unprecedented levels of superficiality, alienation, and violence often overshadow a growing interest in creative and transpersonal development, and where an ever-escalating morass of data threatens to engulf a genuine cross-fertilization between disciplines and cultures; the importance of a creative vehicle for accessing and expressing one's inner and outer worlds has never been greater.  Improvisation not only excels in this regard, it also—through the very moment-to-moment decision-making sequences that require individuals to penetrate beyond ordinary patterns of behavior—may exemplify the dissolution of provincial and nationalistic tendencies that divide communities and countries in our politically fragile world.  Improvisation, in fact, may be the ultimate lens through which the quest for self and community is revealed to be as much a collective as a personal endeavor. -Ed Sarath, President ISIM

           The 2008 Third Annual Conference Report

Keynote Address: Roscoe Mitchell
Featured Performers and Speakers:  Joelle Leandre and India Cooke

Why join an organization to improvise? There's just something to be said for getting out
of your own backyard, or community, and joining at  the crossroads of  academia vs. practice. Diversity being the main theme of this, and many of the I.S.I.M. conferences,
the conference brings together many artists, listeners, educators, researchers, and  professional practitioners of the art of improvisation. From the grass-roots experimenters of small communities from around the United States, to the academic theorists and philosophers, to well and lesser known jazz greats, student ensembles, laptop orchestra, inventers of home-made musical instruments, ensemble paradigms of contemporary classical forms, forms of musical meditation and minimalism, to multi-ethnic fusion, the broad spectrum of improvisation in both life and musical experience points to the common ground of our encounters.

      This being the annual conference of the Society of Improvised Music, a three-day whirlwind event.  Never a moment of rest, with more presenter choices than one can possibly attend, musicians and scholars meet at the crossroads and witness the practice of improvised music, the discussions surrounding and relating to the process of uncertainty, and unpredictability in society, reflected in the intuitive processes that frequently solve the experiences of the moment not only in our practice of music making, but in life itself. From the development of cohesion and flow, from fragments and beginnings, into shapes and excursions, we investigate the course of this music and the relationships that it encourages.

Many themes were presented from Transcending Boundaries to Enrich the Collective Whole by Andrew Goodrich to Exploring the Unknown: Accepting Uncertainty by panelists Charity Chan, Simon Rose, and Cesar Villavicencio.  Practical methods were presented,
from Integrating Improvisation and Composition with Technology by Christian Pincock
to Improvisation and How People Talk with Each Other by Misha Glouberman.  These are just a few examples of some of the presentations that you might expect to catch at an I.S.I.M. Conference.

Out of the woodwork, this year's conference also had a greater presence of grass-roots presenters, unassociated with academia, but practitioners of improvised music from the base of players and presenters in non-academic communities.  Notably here was the presence of master percussionist and improviser extraordinaire, Tatsuya Nakatani, who gave a practical review of  his everyday life on tour in Europe, Japan and America. Also, special to this year was the presence of the Shaking Ray Levi Society, from Chattanooga Tennessee, who presented "Old-Timey Avant-garde in the New South,"  a rich and inspiring talk on some of the ways that the Society has enriched the community through performances, but also through "hands-on" workshops in improvisation aimed at Senior Citizens, Children with Autism, the deaf and the blind. 

Also in the grass-roots sector, none other than an enormous showing of presence of the Denver and Boulder communities that hosted the conference, diverse groups of artists and venues presenting through lively panel discussions,  sharing of information and performance.  Local groups who performed included Rhythmic Void, The Playground, and the Boulder Improviser's Collective.

In Touch:  Listening to Transparency in Improvisational Music Therapy
presented by a classically educated pianist, Carol Arnason, from Canada, in which she shared reflections on improvisation and identity, through musical excerpts, clinical examples and personal narratives.

Janet Feder and the Naropa Ensemble performed improvisations incorporating elements of Buddhist Contemplative Practice, with a vocal sounding of the room, moving to instrumental dialogs based on games, structures, and exercises.

TAG (Trans-cultural Alliance Group) explores with field recordings, electronics, projection, and structured improvisations, sonic meta cultural experience  in signal and game processes. Computer networks, technological advances in subliminal communication bordering conscious recognition of diverse & distant societies and foreign memetic  constructions.

Sarah Weaver presented on Deep Tones for Peace, .....a co-located performance for peace in the Middle East, taking place April 25, 2009 between Jerusalem and New York, streamed world-wide.  Twenty internationally recognized bassists will perform together in an artistic act for peace, connected live on the internet.  Project co-ordinators include Mark Dresser, Sarah Weaver, Jean-Claude Jones, Barre Phillips and Suzanne Thorpe.  Deep Tones for Peace will be presented by I.S.I.M. in partnership with the World Association of Former United Nations Interns and Fellows, the International Society of Bassists, the Electronic Music Foundation, and affiliated organizations world-wide.

The Diversity Panel, which included panelists Ed Sarath, Karlton Hester, and India Cooke packed the hall, and provided a very lively discussion on the complex issue of diversity as it relates to improvised music.  Including a broad range of "diversity divides" including race, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation and other factors, including the schism that separates African and European improvised musical streams and practices, and that which separates the long-standing marginalization of improvised music in musical academe, and that of "hands on"  jazz and improvisation practitioners at large. I.S.I.M announced it's new diversity initiative as an important theme of the organization.

Roscoe Mitchell was the keynote speaker on the first session. A world-renowned solo performer and founding member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, surprisingly, he did not even open his horn case, a disappointment to many of us. Instead, seated on stage behind a laptop and some papers, he presented a rather dry "informance" of some of the people and projects that he was involved with in the 60's, with power-point slides of some of the visually based experiments of the day.  Although interesting on it's own right, this presentation could have been presented in a classroom, and a more galvanizing presentation of a musical, and inspirational note would have been more appropriate for the gathering present at the I.S.I.M. opening session. It constituted a waste of his presence and talent in my opinion. Furthermore, on a tight schedule, he quickly whisked away from the conference, and was unavailable for any further contact or contribution.

 Many other amazing performances were scattered throughout the day, and Showcase presentations were presented in the evening... Headliners  for this year's I.S.I.M Conference were Joelle Leandre and India Cooke, a long-standing duo, who played a very high energy and engaging set on Friday night.   I was invited to join them for two pieces, creating a  violin-viola-bass trio, three diverse women improvisers from different geographical and cultural backgrounds upping the sonic energy in this first ever meeting of these three on stage.  In the true spirit of improvisation, no rehearsal was necessary!

Other performers of note during the festival aspect of the conference included Vinny Golia-solo woodwinds (a "powerhouse" performance!) an appearance by poet Trudy Morse, honoring Sun Ra in the opening of the first Showcase Concert, the Roman Stoylar and Susan Allen duo, Stringtrek-LaDonna Smith & Misha Feigin.   From Italy, Gianni Mimo-Angelo Contini- Stefano Pastor in "Forgiving July". Trombonist Jen Baker with a slideshow Barns of Music, Afro-Celtic Improvisations for voice and hand percussion by Judith Coe and Salil Sachdev.  Paul Riola and Bottesini- an incredibly interesting jazz based ensemble consisting of Paul Riola, Vinny Golia, Michael Vlatkovich, Glen Taylor, James Hoskins, Doun Anderson and Antwon Owens. There was the  Electro Acoustic Duo of David Borgo and Jeff Kaiser, Mark Harris and the Random Axe Trio. Also of note were improv-compositions for brass and piano by Michael Jeffrey Stephens,  Stephanie Phillips and the Texas State Improvisation Ensemble stood out as a notable classically influenced entity, Norman Lowrey and Singing Masks were as otherworldly as the Avatar Orchestra : Virtually Yours - a mixed reality performance online with members spread across three continents including Tina Pearson, Viv Corringham, Norman Lowrey, Tom Bickley and Pauline Oliveros.  Nebraska based Jay Kreimer presented a "hands on" workshop with home-made musical inspirations. There was the improvisation driven electro acoustic ensemble, Chris Chalfant's Looking through Trees for Multi-media, the EarWorm Improvisation Ensemble, amoung others.  The University of Colorado Jazz Combo, Boulder Laptop Orchestra, the Playground,  Rhythmic Void, and the Boulder Improviser's Collective, all active in the local improv scene were well represented in the conference program.

Included in the agenda was the I.S.I.M annual meeting, and a responsive closing remarks and feedback session.

The International Society for Improvised Music celebrated performances, discussions,
papers, workshops, and other presentations for its third successful conference during December 2008. The theme is compatible across wide-ranging approaches to improvised performance, it invites wide-ranging pedagogical applications, and suggests connections to wide-ranging, cross-disciplinary areas.  I.S.I.M. is committed to diversity in its programming.  In this way, we hope to grow the organization to be a springboard for individuals and organizations to meet, connect, collaborate, and support a vision for the role of improvisation in the future of music and world applications.

 -LaDonna Smith,
ISIM Board of Directors

Members submit conference proposals in performance, pedagogy, papers & workshops.
For more information and instructions for joining I.S.I.M.
please visit .