Karl Berger Improvisers Orchestra Performance Notes
We just celebrated the 75th performance of our Improvisers Orchestra. It is an amazing journey. I would have never thought that we would get together 75 times in 42 months and grow from month to month.
For those that are new to this experience, as listeners or players, here is a quick synopsis of the processes that the KB Improvisers Orchestra is involved in.
Our aim is to harmonize improvised sound. The way that happens is both very simple and extremely complex. Here are, in a sketch, the major points:
1) All sounds have within them the capacity to harmonize with any other sound.
When we are the ones making the sounds, it is up to us to make it so that it harmonizes with the sounds that occur at the same time.
In the case of this orchestra: what is required is a fine-tuning of our sensitivity to the tuning and to dynamic quality of the sounds that we are playing. Every note that we are playing contains every other note in its harmonic structure. To harmonize means to become ever more sensitive to the fine-tuning and perfect dynamics of each note that we contribute to the total sound that occurs at the moment.
This sounds like impossible to accomplish. But this is not a cerebral feat.
Thinking is much to slow for music on that scale of sensitivity. We need to let go of trying to control this process with our heads. We must rely on our natural ability for spontaneous action and reaction. We “feel” the perfect spots. Once we let go of trying to manipulate this process, a world of feeling clarity and perfection opens up. We just tune in, become one with the sounds occurring, the whole sound, not just our own.
This is the secret: we identify with the whole sound that occurs at any moment, not just our own. We play the orchestra, not just our instrument. Even in the sections, where we don’t play, our silence is our contribution to the sound at that moment.
We realize in a very practical way the knowledge of our time that there are really no separations: we realize the one mind that we are all part of.
2) Amazingly, as we leave our thinking self behind, our personality begins to shine, the absolute uniqueness of our own sound, our own voice. So we make this uniqueness the second anchor of our music: solo statements, duo/trio conversations, chamber groups within the orchestra, set the tone for orchestral responses.
Each player is the orchestra, but is also a unique voice. The orchestra, by over-riding our self-consciousness, brings out this uniqueness, our very personal expression.
No longer having to prove anything or impress anybody, we just express our musical feelings in contributing to the feel of that moment. It might just mean a few notes, a long tone, or a cascade of sounds. Or silences framed by sound
3) My role as conductor is mostly to react and act on the motions of individual voices, structure the sequence of sections, introduce orchestral responses and dance the tightrope of compositional balance. I also occasionally introduce some
pre-conceived parts that we practiced together before the performance. These
written and mostly memorized lines may define beginnings and endings, or they might show up anytime in the process.
Of course, written compositions and arrangements could be introduced to any extend, without losing the intensity of the processes of the KBIO. We just want to
really go to the depth of them here. So far, we purposely by-passed the traditional elements of realizing someone’s ideas of composition and arrangement and executing the routines connected with them. One of the goals is to go beyond all routines and experience music fresh and new in every moment of it. Doing so we
are not only exploring the infinite journey of harmonizing sound, letting our personality flow freely and feeling the intensity of each moment: we also begin to realize that all sense of routine is actually a construct of our conceptual minds.
There are actually no sounds or rhythms that repeat exactly the same way ever.
Everything is new, always. There is only new music, even if the structures may
Once we realize and experienced music in this way, we can take this to any style
or form of music making. We can feel and play new music in every moment that we play in any form of music that we like.
As a listener, by the way, you can go there too: you can listen with a player’s mind.