workshop was presented in the “Primer Seminario Latinoamericano
de Educación Musical” (FLADEM - 1999), in the “IV
Encuentro Latinoamericano de Educación Musical” (Escuela
Superior de Música de la UNAM, México 2003) and in
other cities of México: Saltillo, Hermosillo, Monterrey,
San Luis Potosí, Guadalajara, as a master class in the “III
Encuentro Internacional de Jazz y Música Viva Monterrey 2005”
and as central activity in the “III Festival del Día
Internacional de la Música” (Hermosillo, Sonora, México
This workshops take place without
interruption since 1996 in Hernán Rios’ particular
studio and since September, 2004 in the official program of the
“Conservatorio Provincial Julián Aguirre” (Music
School of the State, Buenos Aires, Argentina), as “Técnicas
de improvisación” (“Improvisations techniques”).
“We can all improvise. In fact,
when we speak we discover that, maybe, improvisation is the most
natural musical form. When we speak we transmit an idea, a message,
and we do it using the words we find most appropriate. Besides the
choice of words, we pay attention to their intonation, attack, volume,
inflection, and silences. It all depends on circumstance: who is
listening to us, where we are, how we feel that day, as well as
many other factors. With musical improvisation something very similar
to this happens.”
¿How must we prepare ourselves to improvise?
How must we prepare for something that is going to happen, and that
we do not know how it will be? We have a message to transmit and
we have to choose the way we will do it.
In this workshop we work with all the formal aspects of music, but
seen from another place. As if we watch a room’s inside from
another window or coming into the room through a new door. We use
notes, figures, measures, intervals, chords, rhythms, dynamics,
melodies, silence, etc. taking them with naturalness, knowing what
we are playing, always from searching our own voice and trying to
join mind and intellectual vision to emotion and heart so as to
make it a single one.
The sessions have two different
sides:: the use of voice, clapping, percussion instruments, and
the use of one’s own instrument. Everyone should both be an
accompanist and have moments as a soloist. We always sing what we
play, that is, everything that we play should be reproduced vocally
in some way at the same time. The activities are designed for any
instrumentation and are adapted depending on the instrumentation.
The activities are structured on
these four principal aspects: rhythm, harmony, melody and expressive
resources. Attention is concentrated in one of these points but
we are using all of them. They are combined, and concentrating in
the principle of the activities the attention is distracted from
reasonable sources (mainly theory and technique) that usually obstruct
the music to flow. In fact, our attitude towards these reasonable
sources is the problem. As we play, we are in action and our position
towards things move and is more flexible.
We embark on the rhythmic play with
percussion instruments, clapping, our voices and our own instruments,
connecting with music in the most natural way. We have to feel the
rhythm in our body in order to be able to project it onto our instrument.
When we play together and are working with the rhythms over we are
going to play with there is no choice: we have to listen to everything
that is happening. The music we play depends on what the others
are playing, and at the same time we influence the rest. This happens
in real time, from the very beginning of the work and we have to
use our theoretical, practical and spiritual preparation. Musicians
play music with different elements: singing, percussion instruments,
clapping palms, with one’s own instrument, in group and as
soloist, singing and accompanying and appear, then, new elements.
In some moments we are sure and in sometimes we have to work hard.
is not enough to know how to make, and where to place, little tricks,”
A hunter should live as hunter to get the most out of his life.
In other wods, changes are difficult and happen slowly;
sometimes a man will take years to convince himself
of the necessity of changing. I took years, but maybe I wasn’t
particularly good at hunting. I think for me the most difficult
thing was really wanting to change”.
Carlos; “Viaje a Ixtlán ”; p. 119; Fondo de Cultura
Económica; Bs. As. 1975 trans. Michael O'Brien).-
The questions are answered after
the workshop sessions and theoretical concepts are In the deeply
commented. We also make reflections over very, very important conceptual
concepts: to silence, to playing around, to emotion, dynamic, training
and technique, patience, discipline and study, limits, entertainment,
time, frustrations, applying oneself, form, love, mistakes, work
and everyday life, coherence, listening, …
The use of percussion instruments,
palms and voice demonstrates the necessity of integration of all
the faces that our message can show. Playing without stopping or
playing the same instrument for a long period of time makes us look
for new material so as not to repeat ourselves. Our attitude and
search make us find the different possibilities we can find. We
have to play with the applying oneself and being humble as much
as we can.
The activities also look for a different
approach to mistakes. Mistakes represent great fear, mainly when
we do not feel them naturally. Special training for this is very
important to solve problems: our mistakes and other musicians’
mistakes. It doesn’t matter which internal or external circumstances
happen, we have to be on behalf of music. What attitude do we take
toward mistakes? Are they music?
Playing is a ritual and improvising
is not just playing whatever comes to your mind: it consists of
playing something that occurs to us and that first we hear in our
head. When improvising, there is only the moment, everything is
happening right now in real time. Our music should represent what
we want to transmit and our music has to have sense, some direction.
I’ve invented something that already existed, but I’ve
invented it, not chosen it.
I’ve brought it to the outside (that is to say, I’ve
invented it) because I’ve lived it.
I’ve lived [seeing] how it was impossible for my intellect
to improve a bad musical idea, and I’ve told myself that this
couldn’t be mere chance, that there had to be an underlying
Here is the law: the musical idea itself.”
ARNOLD, “Tratado de armonía”, p. 488, Ed. Real
Musical, España, 1974). trans. Michael O'Brien
From the theoretical point of view, we work with the four aspects
mentioned before: rhythm, harmony, melody and the other musical
resources (silence, accentuation and articulation, volume, attack,
heights, density, etc.). The activities are the result of the combination
of these elements. We study the relationship TENSION AND RELEASE
that naturally appears in music with integrity.
The rhythmic aspect is essential.
Feeling the rhythm in the body, feeling its dynamic, strengthen
conscious of rhythm so as to be able to “float” over
it. We also work with different Latin American rhythms and musical
As harmony is concerned, from the
harmonic knowledge of the musicians that are attending the workshop
(types of chords and scales, their classification and functionality,
chords extensions, harmonic substitutions) we work in the applications
in tonal harmony, modal harmony and atonality as well as the connection
with the other musical resources. Harmony is sometime considered
the most important element in improvisation, while managing the
tension – release relationship depends on other elements too,
as we explained before (such as silence, dynamics and expressive
resources, for example).
These are only some of the aspects that connect with art and life.
“Our music” and “our instrument” are absolutely
real and form part of us.
From melody the work goes to set
up the musical speech in musical motives (short phrases or ideas)
and their development. Connecting melody with harmony we can not
play “chord by chord”, we have to understand and listen
how harmony goes, realizing tension and release periods choosing
the notes depending on how we want to sound.
The other musical resources are
ESSENTIAL in music as our music will be profound depending on “how-to”
express ourselves with what we want to play.
Finally, making a reflection on
the necessity of being conscious of how important is “our
playing” towards the world around us, as our music is our
real demonstration - in form and content – of our position
of the people feel that a hard fist is the strength symbol. “I
because I have a strong fist. I can hit you.
I can break a board in two pieces, I can break a brick”.
But there is a great difference between energy and strength. Energy
is not that external expression of a heavy, hard and forced fist.
It is not also a weak and useless fist. The tai-chi fist is just
in the middle, neither totally forced nor completely gentle.
Is an empty, quiet fist ready to act.”
Chung-liang Huang (“The essence of T’ai chi”)