Other Conducted Improvisation Techniques

In the 60’s Sun Ra, visionary keyboard player and creator/conductor of “The Arkestra”, was using an undefined mixture of written scores and collective improvisation, “cosmic-jazz”. His interstellar inspirations led him very naturally to start using very personal hands or body gestures in order to influence the evolution of these collective improvisations.

These conducting gestures provoked a great impression on young composer Butch Morris, who would later develop these concepts to create Conduction® in the 1970′s, his own way of conducting improvisers through a set of hand gestures. Lawrence Butch Morris uses the baton. http://www.conduction.us/

In the late 1960’s, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention moved to New York where they signed a contract for regular performances at the Garrick theatre. Guitarist Steve Vai would remember it in these words :

“He would give audiences noises to make, in various sections of the audience. So then he would create this piece of music by having everybody watch him, and he would point, or give a cue, then he would point to the audience, and he would just, you know, wield his baton around, and next thing you know you’ve got this very unique interesting kind of a composition that involves the entire audience and the band and everything. It was nice and it was different every night.”(on Greer Germaine’s BBC radio 4 radio show, 7 October 2006). 

“He also used many gestures involving eyebrows or hand-based amplitude variations, all of which were meant to trigger pre-established (or not…) parameters.”

” [If I twirl] my fingers as if I’m piddling with a Rasta braid on the right side of my head – that means: “Play Reggae.” If I pretend to twirl braids on both sides of my head, it means: “Play ska” (…) If I want something played “heavy metal,” I put both hands near my crotch and do “Big Balls” (Zappa, 1989).

 

 

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