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Improv Notes: July 2015
International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation logo.
Improv Notes is a monthly newsletter distributed by the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation.

Remembering Ann E. Ward, 1949-2016

At IICSI we are grieved to hear that our friend and colleague Ann E. Ward passed away at her Chicago home July 18, at the age of 67. Vocalist, music director, pianist, teacher, and administrator of the AACM, Ward was universally praised for her musical talent, tireless energy, and generosity of spirit. She performed alongside such peers as vocalist Dee Alexander, reedist Douglas Ewart, trombonist George Lewis, flutist Nicole Mitchell, reedist Mwata Bowden, and saxophonist Ed Wilkerson. "Mama Ann" was a unifying force among all members of the AACM. Particularly proud of her recognition as a female composer, as she told the Chicago Tribune’s Howard Reich after European performances last December with other women members of the AACM, “we are such a strong sisterhood—as a collective of women, we are being heard.” Ann Ward visited IICSI this spring, when she took part in Douglas R. Ewart’s Crepuscule in Guelph, and spoke on a panel titled “AACM: The Next Fifty Years,” at the International Society for Improvised Music (ISIM) conference in Waterloo. Ann Ward will be missed for her musical talent, for her commitment to the creative arts, and to the love and support she gave to everyone around her.

Female Musicians on the London Improv Scene

Alison Blunt
Reed player and composer Julie Kjaer has curated an online exhibition called Female Musicians on the London Improv Scene. She writes, “this exhibition explores the life and work of 10 female improvising musicians on the London improv scene … The women chosen for this exhibition have all inspired me in some way and have been very important to me and my career as an improvising musician in London.” The exhibition includes photos and profiles of Carolyn Kraabel, Maggie Nicols, Alison Blunt, Rachel Musson, Sylvia Hallett, Hannah Marshall, Sue Lynch, Kay Grant, Sarah Gail Brand, and Cath Roberts. (Thanks to George McKay for bringing this post to our attention.)

New IICSI and DodoLab Publications


Stopgaps, Beasts, & Recipes for Life!


The July 2016 edition of Improv Notes featured City of Guelph Artist in Residence Lisa Hirmer, whose 2015 “Recipe for Life” collaboration between Hirmer’s DodoLab, Immigrant Services Guelph/Wellington, and IICSI brought together newcomers and other Guelph residents to discuss food and improvisation (as well as to eat!). The Recipes for Life Cookbook is now published and available for purchase! In addition, a PDF will soon be posted on the IICSI website.

In autumn 2014, Hirmer collaborated with IICSI researcher Elizabeth Jackson and with IICSI partner Immigrant Services Guelph-Wellington on “Stopgaps & Gems,” using storytelling and sharing workshops, visual art, and collaborative project planning to help newcomer youth share their experiences as newcomers to Guelph and to Canada, and their insights about learning to improvise when faced with unanticipated or unfamiliar situations. Hirmer and Jackson have written about their collaboration, and their respective understandings of art and community in their essay “Stopgaps, Beasts + Other Strategies of Being in Public Space” in the latest issue of the journal Studies in Social Justice.

IICSI Researcher in Groningen

Chris Tonelli has been active with IICSI for a number of years now. After completing his PhD in the Critical Studies and Experimental Practices in Music program at UC San Diego, he was Visiting Lecturer in Contemporary Music and Culture at the New Zealand School of Music at the Victoria University of Wellington, and Visiting Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology and Popular Music Studies at Memorial University of Newfoundland. He is an active vocal improviser who has performed internationally solo and with a diverse range of collaborators, and his tenure as a postdoctoral fellow at IICSI’s Guelph (2013-14) and Memorial (2014-15) campuses was marked by his organization of a number of remarkable reading groups, which often called upon their participants to investigate new areas of performance. His many friends at IICSI congratulate Dr. Tonelli, who is leaving his present position at Memorial University to become an Assistant Professor of History and Theory of Popular Music in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Groningen. We wish Chris and his partner Leslie De Joya our best wishes in this new adventure!

Artist of the Month: Senyawa

Senyawa: Rully Shabara, Wukir Suryardi.
This month, the Indonesian improvising duo Senyawa are making their first appearances in the United States, playing Olympia, Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Brooklyn, and Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Vocalist Rully Shabara and Wukir Suryardi, who plays his self-designed bamboo wukir (a sort of stringed & amplified bamboo stalk) are originally from East Java, but they came together in Jogjakarta, part of a generation who discovered improvised music through their interest in Western heavy metal, fused with the sounds of local musics. Although western music buffs, when they think of Indonesia, think of gamelan music, in David Novak’s recent interview in BOMB magazine, Shabara says, “for Indonesians, gamelan is elite. It's music for royals, music for rich people. It’s very expensive, very refined. We prefer music like kuda lumping [a popular Javanese ritual dance that invokes trance], where it's for the people, accessible for people. Using broken gamelans, iron instead of bronze… it's very raw and brutal. But, at the same time, this is our music.” There are many samples of Senyawa’s music online, including the Vincent Moon documentary Calling the New Gods.


International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation LogoThe International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation (IICSI) is a partnered research institute building from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) project, “Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice” (ICASP).
The Institute’s research team is comprised of 58 scholars from 20 different institutions. IICSI's partners include six academic institutions (University of Guelph; McGill University; Memorial University of Newfoundland; University of British Columbia; University of Regina; University of California, Santa Barbara), a foundation partner (Musagetes), and over 30 community-based organizations. The Institute's mandate is to create positive social change through the confluence of improvisational arts, innovative scholarship, and collaborative action.

AUMI Consortium News

Henry Lowengard

The AUMI Consortium is an international research group dedicated to the Adaptive Use Musical Instrument, a free software download interface that uses camera tracking to facilitate music-making across all abilities. Situated in the Center for Cognition, Communication and Culture (CCC) in conjunction with the Center for Deep Listening (CDL) at Rensselaer (RPI), member institutions include Carleton U., Lakehead U., McGill U., Memorial U., and U. of Kansas. Each consortium site includes at least one IISCI researcher.

New Version of iOS AUMI for iPad, iPhone, and other iThings

The improvisers of the AUMI Tech Team are working on improving the usability of the instrument, at the same time incorporating new operating systems and updates on home computers and tablets. Henry Lowengard, the developer of the new IOS version of AUMI (now available in the iTunes Store) is an experimental composer, musician, and app developer who creates tools for exploring sound.

“I live in Kingston, NY, Pauline Oliveros’ hometown … and had participated in a few of the Dream Festivals, mostly using my software, which was pretty unconventional. After a few years, I started writing iPhone apps, and Pauline used one of them (Srutibox) in her piece Droniphonia (2009). So I was a logical choice when she wanted to bring AUMI, which had been running on desktops for a while, to iOS devices.”

Lowengard had to create what is, in many ways, an entirely different instrument, due to this “radically different infrastructure. AUMI for iOS shares very little with the desktop version.” It has changed how the instrument is used. Music therapist Elizabeth Boresow has used the AUMI iPad App to design a research project on cause-and-effect. Performance possibilities are expanded as well: drummer and composer Jesse Stewart has had great success in using iPads, clamped to mic stands, collaborating with dancers who play the AUMI through choreographed or improvised movement. The “Do You AUMI?” Jam Sessions at the Lawrence Public Library in Kansas also employ mounted iPads, which they use in the library’s recording studio with four community improvisers at a time.

The new version of AUMI (1.1.3) includes some new instruments (Fifth Loops and Waterphones, for example), little pictures next to the instrument names, and the ability to pick up the speed of the video movement to modulate the volume of the sound. AUMI 4.0, the new version for desktops (PC and Macs), is coming soon. Check this space next month for Part II of the AUMI Research Consortium News focus on the AUMI Tech Team.

Teaching Creative Jazz and Improvising Guitar Symposium

University of Guelph jazz and guitar instructor Ken Aldcroft held an August symposium on campus: Teaching Creative Jazz and Improvising Guitar, August 11-14. The event featured daytime presentations by Aldcroft, Sam Shalabi & Janet Feder, and Ava Mendoza & Jared Burrows, culminating in a Round Table by all presenters Sunday afternoon. Each evening featured a concert at Silence, with guest musicians Jonathan Adjemian, William Davison, Emily Denison, Ben Grossman, Kathryn Ladano, Michael Lynn, Karen Ng, and Joe Sorbara.

2016 Guelph Jazz Festival Colloquium

This year’s Colloquium “Improvise Here! Profiles in Practice," takes place Sept. 14-18, 2016. The full schedule is available online:

Wednesday, September 14

9:15 – Panel 1: IICSI Invited Roundtable on Improvisation as Practice-Based Research (Charity Marsh, David Dove, David Feil, Pam Patel, Ellen Waterman)
10:30 – Panel 2: Improvisation and the Practice of Everyday Life (Marcel Swiboda, John Faichney, Alessandro Bertinetto)
12:10 – Performance / Discussion: William Edmondes and Freya Edmondes.
1:30 – IICSI Book Launch
2:30 – Panel 3: Improvisation and Intermediality (Randy Fertel, Navid Navab)
4:00 – Performance / Discussion: Kevin McNeilly / Geoff Mitchell.
4:40 – Artist Talk: David Virelles & Román Diaz
8:00 – Performance: Jonathan Voyer and Shawn Mativetsky

Thursday, September 15

Kid Koala
9:00 – Panel 4: What Community Organizations and Social Movements can Learn from Jazz and Improvisation (Tracey Nicholls, Josslyn Luckett, in2improv with Sandra Paola López R. & Chris Reyman)
10:45 – Interview: Kid Koala interviewed by Mark V. Campbell.
11:30 – Workshop: Atelier Paroles-Musique avec Jean Derome
12:00 – Performance: David Virelles.
2:00 – Panel 5: Practicing Theory, Practicing Performance: Where Improvisation Lives (Rob Wallace, Francis (Cisco) Bradley, Rashida K Braggs, Edgar Landgraf, Tracy McMullen)
5:00/10:00 – Performance: Navid Navab, Practices of Everyday Life: Cooking.

Friday, September 16

9:00-10:00 – Workshop: Marianne Trudel and Ingrid Jensen.
10:15-11:45 – Panel 7: Research, Creation, Process, Practice: Other Ways of Knowing, Other Ways of Being (Kathe Gray, Sara Ramshaw, Jesse Stewart)
12:00-1:00 – Performance: Esmerine
2:00-3:00 – Performance / Discussion: Jesse Stewart GJF Remix Project.
3:15-4:15 – Keynote: Language of Dreams: Voices of the Many (an Experiment in Collective, Mixed Media, Improvisational Storytelling): Myra Melford

Saturday, September 17

7:00 – Interview: Amina Claudine Myers 

Sunday, September 18

Pop-up YEAH YOU concerts.

Quote of the Month

Mr. Swirl E. Bones. Pieced by Victoria Findlay Wolfe, quilted by Shelly Pagliai.

Are you afraid to make choices? Why? If you make a mistake, challenge yourself to make it work, as it may be the start of your new favorite quilt. Inspiration is in everything, and there are always more quilts to be made. If you are afraid of making an ugly quilt, you have your energy tied up in the wrong place. You can always make another quilt. There are no wrong choices in following your instinct when building a quilt. If you don’t try, you won’t make discoveries. Lay pieces out and make decisions swiftly. If you’re only playing for 15 minutes at a time, how many mistakes can you possibly make?

Victoria Findlay Wolfe, 15 Minutes of Play: Improvisational Quilts. Lafayette, CA: C&T Publishing, 2012. 23.

Improv Notes

Improv Notes was initially distributed in 2008 as a quarterly newsletter. From June 2011 until September 2014 Improv Notes was assembled, written, and distributed on a monthly basis by Paul Watkins. As of October 2014, Improv Notes is edited and written by PhD candidate David Lee and assembled by administrative assistant Rachel Collins. If you have anything improvisation related that you would like included in the newsletter, please send an email to

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