I. Why Learn Improvisation?


Does the Study of Improvisation belong in a Music Conservatory?

“Improvisation” is one of those words that has a place in almost any context, from cooking to crafting, sewing to storytelling, poetry to comedy, dance to drama, and mime to music. It also encompasses a wide spectrum: from classical to folk, western to non-western, and amateur to professional. We can think of improvisation as both a skill acquired during many years of study, and as an action that is “just felt” in the moment. In short, improvisation is a big subject and plays a role in almost everyones’ lives.

During most all of the important periods of our music history, from the modal improvisations of medieval chant, to the extensive art of diminutions during the Renaissance, to the virtuosi cadenzas of solo concerti, improvisation was looked upon as an important measure of a musicians ability. In addition, composers throughout history have used improvisation as a tool for developing musical ideas and to help set an atmosphere for inspiration and creativity. (more…)

II. Indian Music and the West

Perspectives of a student, performer and teacher

Table of Contents
A Student and Performer of Western Music discovers Indian Music
Serious Study – A Disciple sets out the Long Path of Learning
Obstacles along the Way
Physical Obstacles
Lack of Repertoire
Listening Experience
Cultural Context
Social Pressures
Advantages of a Western Music Background?
Advantages of being in the West?
A “Western” Performer of “Indian” Music
A Teacher of Indian Music in Europe
A Teacher of Western Music in Search of the Teaching Models

III. Medieval Music Improvisation Models

Recent research has shown that improvisation played an important role in Medieval music. The study of both theoretical treatises and the music sources themselves, indicates an extensive non-written, improvised tradition, existing alongside the composed, written repertoire. In particular, the 14th-century instrumental collections of estampies and istampitas give us a diverse and instructive glimpse into the medieval world of mode and improvisation. In showing a very consistent conception of modal composition and a diverse employment of improvised structures, they invite us to expand our understanding of the medieval art of melody making.

In attempting to recreate the practice and pedagogy of medieval improvisation, it has been necessary to re-evaluate many of the basic conceptions that have become deeply ingrained in the world of Western classical music education and performance. This has not only involved a different look at the basic materials — i.e. notation, compositions, etc. — but also a look to other musical cultures. In particular, the strictly controlled practice of modal improvisation in North India has provided important clues as to how an extensive unwritten repertoire can evolve. (more…)

IV. The Global Impact of Indian Music

Perspectives from a student, performer, teacher and composer

The seminar entitled “Globalization and Indian Music,” which took place in Mumbai in January 2002, under the auspices of the Sangeet Research Academy, provided a forum for musicians, teachers, members of the music industry and representatives from government agencies to discuss the significant impact that Indian music has had around the world.

During the discussions there appeared to be some ambiguity as to the actual meaning of the word ‘globalization’, especially since one of its common uses today is associated with western economic expansion throughout the world at the expense of local economies and cultures. As a result, this article will use the phrase ‘global impact’ to describe the effect of Indian music on the lives and interests of music lovers around the world.

On this subject there is no ambiguity: Indian music has indeed had an extensive impact on music lovers all over the world. Having myself been deeply affected by this impact, I wish to describe the events and experiences during the last thirty years that have helped shape my musical life and career. By citing examples of my own experiences as a student, performer, teacher and composer, I hope to draw attention to several aspects of the global impact of Indian music. (more…)

  • Recordings

  • 2 Worlds Modal

    Ragas d'equinoxe

    Salon de Musique

    Nature of Ragas

    Modal Tapestry


    Live in Basel

    Lute Improvisations
    (soon available)