All-Star Line-Up Melds Sound and Prose

Saturday, December 2, 2017 8:00 p.m.

Greenwich House Music School, NYC

On Saturday December 2, the Creative Music Studio will present Billy Martin’s Omnispheric Orchestra, an improvising ensemble that weaves prose and sound into a dynamic musical and literary experience. The all-star ensemble includes Billy Martin (percussion), Marty Ehrlich, Ned Rothenberg and Daniel Carter (reeds), Adam Lane (bass), and the poets Ashley August, Mohamad Hodeib, Bob Holman and Nkosi Nkululeko. The performance is at the Greenwich House Music School, 46 Barrow Street in Greenwich Village.  Tickets are $20 ($15 students) and are available online and at the door.

Musicians

 Billy Martin

Billy Martin was born in NYC in 1963 to a Radio City Rockette and a concert violinist. At age 17, he devoted himself to music and dove into Manhattan’s thriving, eclectic musical landscape.In the years to follow, he honed his craft everywhere from Broadway orchestra pits to Brazilian nightclubs and burgeoning underground performance spaces.

 Adam Lane
By combining a disparate set of influences into a unique improvisational voice, Adam Lane has become recognized as one of the most original creative voices in contemporary jazz. His 2006 recording New Magical Kingdom, was recently featured in the Penguin Jazz Guide 1001 Best Records Ever Made, and his most recent recording, Ashcan Ranting received a myriad of critical praise including four stars in Downbeat.
 Daniel Carter

Daniel Carter is an American free jazz saxophone, flute, clarinet and trumpet player active mainly in New York City since the early 1970s. Over the past three decades-plus, Daniel Carter has performed with: Sun Ra, Billy Bang, Roger Baird, William Parker, Roy Campbell, Sabir Mateen, Simone Forti, Joan Miller, Thurston Moore, Nayo Takasaki, Earl Freeman, Dewey Johnson, Nami Yamamoto, Matthew Shipp, Wilber Morris, Denis Charles, MMW (Medeski, Martin and Wood), Vernon Reid, Raphé Malik, Sam Rivers, Sunny Murray, Hamiet Bluiett, Cecil Taylor, David S. Ware, Karl Berger, Don Pate, Gunter Hampel, Alan Silva, Susie Ibarra, D.J. Logic, Margaret Beals, Douglas Elliot and Butch Morris.

 Marty Ehrlich
Marty Ehrlich is celebrating 30 years in the nexus of creative music centered in New York City. He began his musical career in St. Louis, Mo. while in high school, performing and recording with the Human Arts Ensemble. He graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music with honors in 1977, where his teachers included George Russell, Jaki Byard, Joseph Allard and Gunther Schuller.

 Ned Rothenberg
Ned Rothenberg has been internationally acclaimed for both his solo and ensemble music, presented for the past 33 years on five continents. He performs primarily on alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet and the shakuhachi – an endblown Japanese bamboo flute. His solo work utilizes an expanded palette of sonic language, creating a kind of personal idiom all its own. In an ensemble setting, he leads the trio Sync, with Jerome Harris, guitars and Samir Chatterjee, tabla, works with the Mivos string quartet playing his Quintet for Clarinet and Strings and collaborates around the world with fellow improvisers. Recent recordings include this Quintet,The World of Odd Harmonics, Ryu Nashi(new music for shakuhachi),andInner Diaspora, all on John Zorn’s Tzadik label, as well as Live at Roulette with Evan Parker and The Fell Clutch, on Rothenberg’s Animullabel.

Poets

 Ashley August
Ashley August is an actress, playwright, touring spoken word artist, multipletime Grand Slam Champ, hip­hop junkie, professional shower krumper and NYC’s 2013 Youth Poet Laureate. As an actress, she got her start at 14 in the off­Broadway production of “Love: A Circus in Three Acts” and has since been featured on such great stages as the Apollo, The Great Hall at Cooper Union and The Triad Broadway House. She began her poetic journey in the summer of 2009 at Urban Word NYC where she quickly established herself as a rising star when shebecame a Youth Leadership Board Member, participating in several highly acclaimed competitions, including the Urban Word Grand Slam Finals and the New York Knicks Poetry Slam. In 2012, August landed a spot on the Urban Word Youth Slam team winning a ticket to California to perform at the Brave New Voices national poetry competition. In December of the same year, she was cast in the spirited off­broadway festival Black Ink, where she wrote and starred in her own one woman production, collaborating with award­winning choreographer and director, Nicco Annan.

 Bob Holman
The author of 16 poetry collections, most recently Sing This One Back to Me (Coffee House Press), Bob Holman has taught at Columbia, NYU, Bard and The New School. As the original Slam Master and a director at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, creator of the world’s first spoken word poetry record label, Mouth Almighty/Mercury,and the founder/proprietor of Bowery of the Bowery Poetry Club, Holman has played a central role in the spoken word and slam poetry movements ofthe last several decades. A co­founder and co­director of the Endangered LanguageAlliance, Holman’s study of hip­hop and West African oral traditions led to his currentwork with endangered languages. Holman is the producer and host of various films, including “The United States of Poetry,” and “On the Road with Bob Holman.” His most recent film, “Language Matters with Bob Holman,” winner of the Berkeley Film Festival’s 2015 Documentary of the Year award, was produced by David Grubin andaired on PBS in January. “Language Matters” takes viewers around the world: to a remote island off the coast of Australia where 400 Aboriginal people speak 10 different languages, all at risk; to Wales, where Welsh, once in danger, is today making a comeback; and to Hawaii, where Hawaiians are fighting to save their native tongue. Holman worked with language revitalization centers across Alaska and Hawaii 2015, sponsored by the Ford Foundation. He lives in New York City, where he was most recently Creative Consultant at LINES Ballet in San Francisco and teaches at Princeton University.

 Mohamad Hodeib
Hodeib is a recent graduate from the Lebanese American Universitywhere he studied political science, international studies, andeconomics. Since graduating from university in the spring of 2012 hehas dedicated his time to cultural activism.

 Nkoski Nkululeko
Nkosi Nkululeko has received fellowships from Callaloo, The Watering Hole and Poets House. He has performed for TEDxNewYork and the Aspen Ideas Festival. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee and finalist for both the 2016 Winter Tangerine Awards for Poetry and the 2016 Best of the Net anthology. His work is currently published inThe Collagist, Third Coast, Pank,  Apogee, VINYL and more. Nkosi lives in Harlem, New York.

The Creative Music Studio engages musicians and listeners from all backgrounds to deepen and broaden their musical sensitivity, expression and understanding through workshops, recordings and concerts worldwide.  The Creative Music Studio™ and CMS™ are trademarks of the Creative Music Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation founded in 1971 that receives funding from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), among others.  

 

CMS Improvisers Orchestra Receives Project Support Grant For Second Straight Year

For the second straight year, the Creative Music Studio™  has received a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.  The $10,000 NYSCA grant will support 2018 repertoire development and performances by the CMS™ Improvisers Orchestra (CIO) conducted by Karl Berger.

 This grant supports the years-long collaboration between CMS and El Taller, the East Harlem Latino community center where the CIO regularly performs. CMS and El Taller will collaborate on performances that highlight Hispanic performers and poets from the community that El Taller serves.

“We’re humbled to receive NYSCA’s support for the second year in a row,” says CMS Executive Director Rob Saffer. “Financial support is crucial for large ensembles such as the CMS Improvisers Orchestra; it provides working New York musicians with both creative and financial opportunities and audiences in this underserved community with access to music not typically heard there.”

The CMS™ Improvisers Orchestra is comprised of 20 – 30 string, horn, reed and percussionists.  It has performed 100 times and has featured special guests from John Zorn and Min Xiao Fen to David Soldier and Valerie Naranjo. Berger’s deft conducting, developed over decades at CMS, blends and harmonizes improvised sounds and rhythms in constantly shifting instrumentations and dynamics.

Min-Xiao-Fen

CMS™ Improvisers Orchestra takes the principles of CMS™ Workshops to a professional level with extraordinary results. Through an open rehearsal that precedes each performance, Berger transmits the “Music Mind” concepts he developed at CMS so audiences can see how they shape the sound and feel of the CIO and how musicians harmonize and blend orchestral sounds in an improvisational setting.

The CMS™ Improvisers Orchestra has received widespread critical praise. The Wall Street Journal said the orchestra’s sound “draws on lush harmonies and a well-defined relationship between foreground soloists and background.”  Lucid Culture has remarked that “the camaraderie and warmth of the repartee between the orchestra and conductor – and among the orchestra itself – was visceral,” and noted jazz critic Howard Mandel wrote that the orchestra “can expand on simple themes paying utmost attention to dynamics and each other through ‘intuited communication.’”

The Creative Music Studio engages musicians and listeners from all backgrounds to deepen and broaden their musical sensitivity, expression and understanding through workshops, recordings and concerts worldwide.  The Creative Music Studio™ and CMS ™ are trademarks of the Creative Music Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation founded in 1971 that receives funding from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), among others.  

 

 

 

 

Featuring Min Xiao Fen on Chinese Pipa and Vocals

Saturday, October 28 at the El Taller Cultural Community Center, NYC

The Creative Music Studio™ Improvisers Orchestra, conducted by Karl Berger, continues its Fall season on Saturday, October 28 at the El Taller Cultural Community Center at 215, East 99th Street in Manhattan. This performance features Chinese pipa player and vocalist Min Xiao Fen along with percussion wizard Warren Smith and vocalist/poet Ingrid Sertso. The performance begins at 8:30 with a rehearsal open to ticket holders at 7:00 when listeners gain insights into the unique process that guides the CIO.  Tickets are $20 ($15 students).

Min-Xiao-Fen

In this performance, the CMS Improvisers Orchestra will feature the stunning musicianship of Min Xiao Fen, playing themes from the Peking Opera and other Chinese musical influences. Min recently taught at the CMS Spring 2017 Workshop. The New York State Council on the Arts and the Robert D. Bielecki Foundation are generously underwriting this performance.

 

Since its inception in 2011, the CMS Improvisers Orchestra, comprised of 20 or more string, horn, reed, and percussion soloists, has performed nearly 100 times. In fact this is the 99th performance.   Conducted in Karl’s inimitable style developed over decades at the legendary Creative Music Studio™, the CMS™ Improvisers Orchestra explores Berger’s original compositions as well as melodies from the world’s folk traditions and themes by visionary composers such as Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman, creating a platform for musical ideas to arise spontaneously among the orchestra’s musicians. Karl’s conducting blends and harmonizes improvised sounds and rhythms in constantly shifting instrumentations and dynamics.  One of the orchestra’s trademarks is Ingrid Sertso’s unique vocalizations and poetry.

In addition to Karl Berger (conductor, arranger), Sertso (vocals), Smith (percussion) and Xio Fen (pipa, vocals), the CIO includes: Sana Nagana, Leonor Falcon, Richard Carr and Annemarie Weisner (violins); Bill Horberg, Sylvain Leroux, Haruna Fukazawa , Bill Ylitalo, Gene Coleman (flutes); Don Payne, Blaise Siwula (clarinets); Christof Knoche (bass clarinet); Jason Candler, Welf Dorr, Patrick Brennan, Ras Moshe, Will Epstein (saxes); Aaron Shragge (trumpet); Westbrook Johnson (trombone); Ted Orr (guitar); John Ehlis (mandolin); and Nicolas Letman (bass).

CIO will also perform at El Taller on Saturday, November 25th with the Soldier/Kane Duo on November 25.

The CMS Improvisers Orchestra has received numerous critical reviews. In a glowing review, the Wall Street Journal said the orchestra’s sound “draws on lush harmonies and a well-defined relationship between foreground soloists and background.”  The arts blog Lucid Culture remarked that “the camaraderie and warmth of the repartee between the orchestra and conductor – and among the orchestra itself – was visceral,” and acclaimed jazz critic Howard Mandel wrote that the orchestra “can expand on simple themes paying utmost attention to dynamics and each other through ‘intuited communication.”

The Creative Music Studio engages musicians and listeners from all backgrounds to deepen and broaden their musical sensitivity, expression and understanding through workshops, recordings and concerts worldwide.   The Creative Music Studio™ and CMS ™ are trademarks of the Creative Music Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation founded in 1971 that receives funding from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), among others.  

CMS WORKSHOP FALL 2017

Monday, Oct. 2

October 2nd was a perfect fall day in this secluded valley in the Catskills. Surrounded by only hills and sky, there is nothing to distract one from the business at hand. Attendees came from around the Hudson Valley, NYC, L.A., and from Argentina, Italy, and Denmark. The music began almost immediately; as you walked around the grounds you could hear fragments of melodies coming out of windows and from behind stands of trees, which gave the impression of an orchestra warming up and added to the feeling of anticipation.

Cocktails and Orientation

It quickly became clear that for many attendees this was not their first rodeo. Many had come to workshops since they restarted in 2013 and/or to the original workshops in the 70s and 80s.  The enthusiasm of these return musicians was matched by the first-timers, and there much talk of the benefits that this kind of total-immersion workshop provides.

After the attendees introduced themselves, Karl and Ingrid told the short version of their story and of CMS’s founding. They went on to set the mood for the week, something they're probably naturals at but also have perfected through years of teaching. They emphasized the importance of listening and of thinking as a group. Karl told an anecdote about a Tibetan musician being asked to come perform in the U.S. and responding by saying they'd have to get at least one other musician because to these Tibetan musicians, the "music" was not what one person played but the interplay between multiple people. They also reminded the attendees of some of the things that students need to hear from the Master's mouth at the outset of musical journeys like this: "Believe in your mistakes," "Doubt comes and goes in waves," and "Study never ends."

Dinner

Just a quick note about the food at Full Moon- it's really good. It's hard to quantify the benefits of eating a good meal in the company of friends, but for both mind and body, and especially for strengthening interpersonal and musical connections, it does wonders. The food feeds and fuels the body and the conversation feeds and fuels the mind. It's a detail that if overlooked could do more to slow the momentum of the day than to build it, but luckily that's not the case here.

Monday Night Concert

The performance the first night was held in the Roadhouse, Full Moon's small club venue. It is an intimate setting where attendees have the opportunity to see and hear the guest musicians up close, and then later in the week perform themselves. The opening night lineup featured Karl on vibraphone, Ingrid on vocals,

photo by Rick Warren

Omar Farouk Teklibek on vocals and different-sized Turkish ney (ancient open-ended flutes), Tani Tabbal on drums and Ken Filiano on double bass. This introductory concert showcased both the players’ skills and unique voices on their instruments, and also demonstrated what everyone here came to work on: listening to each other and playing together as a group. They played three improvised pieces that achieved both of these goals.

The first piece started with a theme played by Omar on the ney, which was restated throughout the almost 30-minute piece. This theme was developed and explored by Omar and Karl in a conversational style and was punctuated and embellished by Ingrid's "Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire-scat," which can really only be described as sounding like Ingrid Sertso. She has a remarkable ability to vocalize and convey feelings and ideas that are suggested by the other instruments, by both her use of pure sound and through her word choice. Ken played a contrasting solo section using the bow and effects pedals which gave the impression of a large string ensemble. Both Ken's and Tani's playing, while often taking on traditional supporting roles, were much more involved in the conversation the others were having than is often the case with bass and drums, in part because of the equal distribution of responsibility for the harmonies and timekeeping. The conversation continued until Karl brought the music to a climax that showed both his skill as a vibraphone player and as a masterful crafter of melodic lines.

The second piece began with an improvised melody on the vibraphone that Ingrid, and then Omar, decorated with vocals, over a repeated bass figure and drums played with soft mallets. Omar and Karl together sang variations of the melody, which was then taken up by Ingrid. Next Karl again demonstrated his virtuosity on the vibes, which was followed by an equally exciting arco solo by Ken that included sul pont passages (bowing near the bridge to get high, nasal harmonics) and microtones that were answered by Omar. The piece ended with a restatement of the main theme and Ingrid singing "The end ... the end … ."

The third and final piece began with an ornate, trill-filled melody in 7/8 played by Omar, with Karl punctuating the rhythm on vibes, Tani playing a rolling drum part with mallets, and Ken sustaining a low pedal. Omar and Tani each took solos (Tani switching to sticks) and then Ingrid sang as Karl and Omar clapped the rhythm and counter-rhythms . Karl then took another blazing solo which outdid his previous two in terms of intensity, before finally ending with a wash of sound created by gentle glissandos on the vibes.

The concert illustrated how a group of musicians can collectively and spontaneously build compositions. It's obvious that Karl and Ingrid have a near-telepathic connection and often seemed to finish each other’s musical sentences, but the other musicians, through good listening skills and a deep knowledge of the rules of the game, all played together with a feeling of cohesion that gave this completely improvised music direction, form, balance, and that magical something that can be achieved when a group of sympathetic musicians are all on the same page.

Tuesday, Oct. 3

Body Awareness

After breakfast each morning, attendees gather in the barn for a 30-minute body awareness session led by Karl and Ingrid's daughter Savia Berger, a professional dancer and Pilates instructor. Everyone was first instructed to stand with their feet pointed forward, instead of their natural stance with the toes pointed slightly out, which relaxes muscles in the legs and hips that are usually contracted. The main stretch, which was repeated throughout the session, involved imagining a string going down from the tailbone and another from the top of the skull, and then gently stretching as if the strings were being pulled in opposite directions.

As this is "body awareness" and not just "stretching for musicians," Savia had everyone concentrate on their feet, ankles, legs, and on upward, to bring the attention to all parts of the body. She pointed out that since people generally have a dominant hand and foot, you might be able to raise one arm or leg higher than the other, and that this initial step of self-evaluation is important to see what needs work. The importance of focused, deep breathing and core strength was also taught. Core strength plays a major part in control of the limbs, balance, and breathing, and focusing on breathing is essential for proper stretching as well as for singing and playing wind instruments. Working from the top down, everyone slowly and deliberately rolled their necks, shoulders, and hips. Then after first balancing on each foot she had everyone rotate their ankles, knees, wrists, elbows and shoulders. Next was a motion similar to using ski poles, then side stretches, torso twists, and toe touches. Finally everybody shook out their limbs while vocalizing in a final push to awaken any spots they might have missed.

Basic Practice (Rhythm/Vocal)

This morning’s basic practice session did not require any instruments, aside from the voice. Ingrid began by talking about how the voice is everyone’s first instrument and had everyone exhale while making the most comfortable sound in their speaking voice, without any intention of "singing." Next she had everyone sing through the vowels starting with “Ah,” arguably the easiest vowel to sing. Once the vocal chords were warmed up, she told everyone to tune to the person next to them, and then for about five minutes she conducted the group as it sustained a continuous sound which at times gave the impression of an orchestra or a church organ as much as a choir. After this she connected the voice with the movement of the body by having everybody walk in place and then crowd-sourcing a word, "Yes," which she had everyone sing in time with the left foot. Soon "Yes" was transformed to "Yeah-Yeah-Yeah" which was then layered to sound like a kind of free-form round. Ingrid ended the vocal part of the lesson with a beautiful song from South Africa.

Karl took over for the rhythm portion, first expressing the desire to approach rhythm without any considerations of musical style, then defining three different levels of rhythm: pulse, the most basic; language rhythm - "Melody is language translated into tone"; and finally formal rhythm, as in, "This piece or this concert is too long."

The rest of the lesson was spent working on what Karl calls “GaMaLa TaKi.” It is a way of counting musical time using the syllables Ga-Ma-La (for three-beat rhythms) and Ta-Ki (for metrical multiples of two) instead of numbers, which use a different part of the brain. "Don't count to seven ever again, it's just two TaKis and a GaMaLa," he told the group. First he had everyone sing GaMaLa TaKi while taping it out on their legs, but, after reminding them to always project music outwards, he had everyone raise their hands off their legs to count, as a way of liberating the arms from their usual muscle memory. Then he cycled through different possible combinations of accents and finally repeated the process in 7/8, which can be counted as 2-2-3, 3-2-2, or 2-3-2. Karl said that if you lose track of the time "the best way to get back into the flow is not to play. Another train will come by soon, and you can jump on that one."

Master Class with Omar Farouk Tekbilek

As it turns out Karl's rhythmic practice was ideally timed before the extensive study of Turkish rhythms that began Omar's master class. After a brief biographical sketch and overview of Turkish folk and classical music, and discussing Turkey's unique position as a geographical and cultural bridge between the East and the West, Omar laid the foundation for his rhythmic studies by stressing the importance of the paradiddle. He showed that through practicing paradiddles one can attain greater equilibrium between the right and left sides of the body, particularly by feeling the fourth beat as a sort of turnaround; as you bring your hand down on 4, the other hand rises in anticipation and the pattern is reversed. Then, as Karl had done earlier, he had everyone raise their hands up instead of tapping them on their legs, and then went on to have everyone "tap the air" with their arms stretched out in front of them, down at their sides, and by moving individual fingers to further liberate the body from the usual clapping motion used to count time.

Next Omar systematically discussed the many different time signatures used in Turkish music. 3/4 and 4/4 were touched on briefly, but the main focus was on 5/8, counted as 2+3 with the accent on the second beat of the 3 section; 7/8, counted as 4+3 in Turkey and 3+2+2 in Greece; 9/8, counted as 6+3 as opposed the western perception of 3+3+3; 10/8, counted as 3+2+2+3; 11/8, counted as 4+3+4; and finally 15/8, counted as 8+7. Omar demonstrated each rhythm using his voice and a hand drum, and by the end he had done a good job at undermining the feeling of 4/4 as the "default."

He next turned his attention to the harmonic and melodic structures of Turkish music, which had an equally undermining effect on the attendees’ perception of consonance and dissonance. Using a baglama (a three-stringed Turkish lute also known as the saz), he demonstrated the different sounds produced by the use of quarter tones and showed how the perceived tonality of a scale (called “makams” in Turkey) can be changed by simply emphasizing different notes. He then taught the group an old traditional folk song called “Dere Geliyor,” which gave everyone the chance to practice playing in an odd time signature and using quarter tones. He concluded by discussing and demonstrating three different variations of the Turkish ney.

Improvisers Orchestra and Listening Meditation

Karl began the Improvisors Orchestra session by saying, "Don't think of notes as notes, but as sounds. Because of the overtones, you never play the same note twice." The orchestra consisted of five vocalists, eight guitars, three double basses, two keyboards, two flutes, two trumpets, one tenor sax, one baritone sax, one cello, two drumsets, three percussionists, and Karl on melodica. As Ingrid had done earlier, Karl first had everyone "harmonize" (in quotes) but using their instruments instead of their voices. The goal here was not to all tune to one another, but to hear and feel the sound of the group. He then introduced some simple gestures he would use to conduct, and taught them the theme that would be the foundation for the day’s improv - a 16-bar riff in four sections.

The piece began with everyone playing the theme in unison, and then one by one Karl directed individuals to take a solo. Each player generally played over the theme for a few passes, then Karl had everyone except the soloist lay out for the first three of the four sections, and then

photo by Rick Warren

everyone came back in and played the four section together. After everyone took their solos, Karl began layering the soloists until about half were improvising and the other half were playing the riff. He then brought the music back down and took the final solo himself on the melodica.

After this, Karl led the group in a 10-minute listening meditation session, where he directed everyone to "listen to the sounds disappearing" as a struck a Tibetan singing bowl.

Tuesday Night Concert

Tuesday Night's concert began with two songs by a student ensemble featuring Mary Enid Haines on guitar and vocals, Bill Wright on guitar, Phil Pottier on vocals and Omar on percussion.  Mary sang the classic jazz standard "Skylark," and then the group was joined by Susan Larkin on violin for a humorous and sonically beautiful ballad featuring Phil's spoken word.

The guest musicians then took the stage - Karl on piano and vibes, Mary Halvorson on guitar, Maria Grand on tenor sax, Ken on bass, Billy Martin on drums, and Omar on percussion and ney. Compared with the more free-form music of the previous evening, tonight's concert more closely resembled a traditional jazz session, but one with incredibly sympathetic and creative musicians who were never in any danger of just going through the changes. Propelled by Billy's constantly changing drumming and decorated by Omar's equally intricate percussion, the group first played an unreleased composition of Karl's called "Lines and Spaces" which featured solos by all the members, and after the restatement of the head ended with an expansive, free soundscape.

The second piece was an improvisation that centered around a gently falling and rising theme played by Karl on the piano and Ingrid’s reading of the poem "True Love" by Chogyam Trungpa. Ken's use of arco and sul pont, Billy's use of the brushes, and embellishments by Mary, Maria, and Omar all contributed to the ethereal feeling of the piece. The music built to an ecstatic climax then returned to its initial calm, meditative quality.

photo by Rick Warren

The final piece of the night was a blistering version of Monk's "Bemsha Swing." Karl and Ingrid shared the first solo, followed by Maria, who displayed great creativity in her ability to play with the melody, then a scat solo by Omar which turned into a percussion duet between him and Billy, who had only first met a few hours earlier but who sounded like they had played together for years. Next Mary took a solo that easily lived up to her weighty accolade of being "NYC's least predictable improviser," even in this more straight-ahead setting. Finally Ken took a solo which turned into another duet with Billy, and the song ended with a restatement of the head. Afterwards even some non-smokers in the audience were overheard expressing their need for a cigarette.

- By LUKE AUGUSTA

Tuesday, Oct. 3

10 p.m. - Roadhouse Performances (Continued)

photo by Rick Warren

By the time I drove up the gravel drive of Full Moon Resort, the performances had already been going for over an hour. I rushed to the Roadhouse, walked in to hear Ingrid Sertso finishing a duet with Ken Filiano on string bass. She whispered softly into the microphone, her hand cupped around it as if she were telling it a secret.

photo by Rick Warren

Next Chuck Ver Straeten danced and swayed, elated as he scatted and bubbled his infectious voice out into the room. A guitar player, Rick Warren, mirrored him, sometimes following and sometimes leading. A few performances later, Ken Filiano again took the stage, joined by Billy Martin on drums, Maria Kim Grand on tenor saxophone, and Mary Halvorson on guitar. I moved closer, sat as close as I could, because I had a sense I was about to see something that I wouldn’t want to forget. Mary tuned as Billy caressed the edge of his ride cymbal with a bow, and ghostly overtones filled the air. Then Maria closed her eyes and played, as Ken laid a firmer foundation. Soon the sound went liquid and loud, Maria weaving her throaty saxophone wail in among Mary’s intricate intervalic latticework. Then Billy began beating his drums with straw broom-heads, and they settled into a deep pulsing drive. They soared. They returned to earth. They cooked on a sound that thrummed with anxiety, almost panicked, until suddenly: an explosion. Apocalyptic. A fever dream, a bomb, a forest fire - and then the aftermath, the post-disaster meltdown, and a slow decrescendo all the way down to a perfectly timed ending.

photo by Rick Warren

Then Ken, Ingrid, Omar Tekbilek on ney, and Karl Berger on piano took their places. As the others played, Ingrid repeated “Lonely moon / sad and happy / coming together,” sometimes lingering on one phrase, sometimes another. I heard the lonely moon and the sad moon, but not the happy one until finally, at the very last moment, Karl hit an almost-major chord, proving that if you wait long enough, the happy will arrive after all.

Then Karl and Omar alone, the dénouement, milky ney vibrato over assured, simple phrases on the keys. When it was done, I walked out to stand by the fire a while, then came back to my room, still smelling wood smoke, my face aching from smiling.

Wednesday, Oct. 4

I woke up to silence so thick I could hear the pulse of blood in my ears. Full Moon is as great a place for silence as it is for noise, something that would come back to me in the days to come, as Karl stressed the importance of silence, of waiting, of space. After breakfast and some excellent body awareness work courtesy of Savia Berger, we settled in for basic practice.

10:15 a.m., Basic Practice - Ingrid Sertso

We began with meditation. Ingrid described it as a “simple help for our daily survival,” and lamented that even though simply breathing and being aware should be simplest thing to do, it gets ever harder every day. “If we don’t breathe, we die,” she said, “So we better do it.” It sounds so obvious, but when Ingrid said it, it had the flavor of a deep truth, something brand new and sparkling.

She also described meditation as a way of accessing our true selves, the child joy we all have inside of us, the joy of a three- or four-year-old. I thought of my own four-year-old, how he walks from room to room whispering to himself, how I catch him cupping his hands over his ears, opening them, closing them, just to experience the difference in sound.

After meditation, we began voice work. First open sounds, and then a song, a variation on Osibisa’s Woyaya: “We will get there. Heaven knows when we will get there, and so do we …” The harmonies were as reassuring as the lyrics. Next we formed a tight circle and held hands as five students at a time took turns standing in the center. Ingrid told us to blast the center with our chosen sound and good intentions. The result was a temple of sound, a force strong enough to feel in your chest and belly and toes. It’s the oldest song, I think, that collection of human moaning. It reminded me of my wife during labor. Of church organs and bagpipes and monks. Of war and sex. When it was my turn to stand in the center, I closed my eyes and walked around. I cupped my hands over my ears, opened them, closed them again, just like my child taught me to do. Karl speaks about how every sound is different from every other sound ever made, but hearing those voices, hearing how they changed depending on how I situated my body, it occurred to me that every sound is different from even itself. Its many aspects are revealed by the listener, and position, and time.

10:45 a.m., Basic practice - Karl Berger

We began with a refresher on GaMaLa TaKi, the directive to experience each beat individually, to hear every beat even if we don’t play it, to subdivide. Then we talked about listening, and Karl told us how he was recently travelling over the Manhattan Bridge on the subway when he heard music in the screeching and clacking that was exactly the same music he’d heard decades before from Karlheinz Stockhausen’s massive machinery, in the very early days of synthesized sound. He encouraged us to approach all listening this way, to just notice sound, to hear it as music. The rest of my notes on this session require no additional context. Karl’s voice speaks more eloquently about these things than I ever could:

"Switch from scheming to listening. Don't comment, just listen, and suddenly you feel you're a part of the whole process."

"Don't play the beat in. Play it out. It's a giving. I see some of you still playing the beat on your leg. Don't play the beat down,” he said, emphasizing the outward motion of his hand. “Gravity pulls you down; you want to be up. You need to grow an inch while you play.”

On practice, he said, “Record yourself, and then listen. It's painful, I know, but it's painful because you have your own way of playing and you've never heard anything just like it before, so you think: how could it be right?" It was a reassuring thought.

11:30 a.m., Master Class - Mary Halvorson

We got out our instruments. Mary introduced herself, guitar nestled in her lap atop legs crossed so comfortably it looked like she was born that way. She began by telling us that she creates her own practice exercises. “It lets you develop things that come naturally to you.”

Her exercises? Intervallic work. Mary told us about how she came to work so heavily on intervals, explaining that she saw it as a way of breaking habits her fingers had developed over years of playing. She focused for a whole week on just doing minor seconds, up and down the guitar. Then she spent another week on seconds, another on minor thirds, another on thirds, all the way up. Each interval has its own character, so playing only in a certain interval can lead you to compositions or solos that make use of that character. The key, she said, was to practice until each interval became ingrained.

We began with a minor third. Despite the familiarity of the interval, it took some time for us to all to play the interval all the way up and down without hesitation. Then Mary created groups of three or four musicians at a time, who would play the intervals and take turns soloing with the interval in mind. When we moved from minor thirds to tri-tones and minor sixths, it grew much more difficult, but the difficulty was, I think, precisely the point. It didn’t come naturally to most of us to hear a minor sixth, but this is why the work is so important. Learning wide intervals opens you up to new sounds, and, as Mary explained, practicing them is a great way to train your ear.

Mary ended the morning session telling us about Yusef Lateef’s Repository of Scales and Melodic Patterns, and then suggesting a few other practice techniques. Choose a melody you know well, and play it in every key. Play a steady stream of eighth notes, sixteenth notes, or triplets, without stopping. Don’t consider anything a mistake, because hitting a “wrong” note might reveal something you couldn’t have heard any other way.

2:30 p.m., Master Class - Mary Halvorson (Continued)

After another warm-up from Savia, we sat again with Mary. She told us a little about her path to being a working musician, said that when she first came to New York she took an office job. After a while, she asked herself if she was OK having an administrative office job for the rest of her life. The answer was yes, which meant that every chance to play was a bonus, one that she understands could one day go away.

Mary said that at one point when she was recording herself, she sounded like a “nervous talker,” playing too much. So she made it extra sparse, with gaps and silences that felt awkwardly long while she was performing, but on playback it sounded right.

We worked hard, then, on learning a couple of pieces she brought with her, P#2 and Trio No. 15. Her unpredictable melodies, over pedal tones, gave us a good but challenging foundation upon which to improvise. Everything we spoke about in the morning was put into practice, and the power of her methods was made abundantly clear.

5:15 p.m., Improvisers Orchestra - Karl Berger

I wasn’t here for the first session last night, so I missed the tutorial on hand signals, but that didn’t matter. Karl’s movements are intuitive, his encouragement palpable, so as we began an open improvisation I had little trouble finding my place. The tuning was impeccable from the start, the ensemble sounding as though it had played together several times before.

photo by Rick Warren

Then it was time to learn a song. Our task for the evening was a piece based on the phrase “Time is in this if,” an additive rhythm that, in its full form, is heard as the following (using “•” as a rest):

Time • • is • time is in • time is in this • time is in this if • time is in this • time is in • time is • (repeat)

Sound simple? At first, it was, but then Karl laid the sequence over a steady 4/4, and we all had to adjust to the challenge of thinking of the phrase beyond words, and making music out of it. In time, we did, by adding dynamic change and relying on another drummer to accent the beginnings of each phrase. Then solos arced out over the ever-expanding and contracting rhythm.

8:30 p.m., Roadhouse Performances

The performances began with a double bass duet, chopsticks bouncing off the strings of both instruments, played by Leigh Daniels and Jeff Schwartz. Then Chuck joined them, adding his distinctive scat to the mix. Next came a trio of Marty Gottlieb-Hollis on trumpet (he was a popular addition to many ensembles over the course of the workshop, with his beautiful tone and spot-on instincts), Lee again on bass, and Phillip Pottier switching between hilarious spoken word about the day we’d all just shared and the squeaking of a trumpet mouthpiece. Then Marty stayed on, Chuck returned to scat, and Enrico Pulcinelli shared in the fun with a percussion style I can only describe as intensely passionate and remarkably physical. Enrico works his collection of bells, shakers, and blocks like he’s running a marathon, and by the time he was done he was soaked through his shirt. Soon after, Bill Horberg got help performing a composition in honor of the childhood friend who first introduced him to Thelonious Monk when he was in the eighth grade and, therefore, set him on his path to CMS.

photo by Rick Warren

Soon we were all treated to a performance by Ingrid, Karl, Omar, Billy, Ken, and Mary. A powerhouse combination, such incredible force in each of them, but they made room for each other just as Karl has been encouraging us all to do. Ingrid intoned her trademark poetry, Billy drove a hard swing - cymbals crashing, snare thwacking - while Ken climbed the walls on bass. Karl, on vibraphone, moved like a man half my age (and I’m only in my thirties), one foot routinely rising from the ground to swing in the air as he hopped on the other foot. Mary moved blindingly fast on her fretboard, and yet she was always controlled, always perfectly composed.

Then, a second tune, of Omar’s choosing. His beautiful voice brought the whole room back a century or two, and the piece ended with Ingrid saying, “And there is always a singer … and a song.”

Billy, Mary, and Maria improved on their collective work of the night before, if such a thing is possible, with a piece that was more raw, less tentative, and more joyful and furious than the magic they’d worked with Ken on their first collaboration together. Then more incredible student work, and an unforgettable composition by Maria, entitled Sing Unborn. With Mary on guitar, Maria’s impeccably formed phrases on tenor sax built to violence before giving way to a vocal performance, with original lyrics addressing an unseen child living in the sky. Her voice was so clear, almost reed-like, that it hushed the room down to the floorboards. “I love you,” sang Maria, “no matter where you came from. No matter who you came from.”

Thursday, Oct. 5

10:15 a.m., Vocal Practice - Ingrid Sertso

Today’s meditation tip: count up with each intake of breath. If a thought enters, go back to one, and don’t cheat. Once we completed our meditation, we again sang the “We will get there,” beauty from the day before, and learned another African song that Ingrid loved for how it’s melancholic, falling melody is reversed at the end, with an uplifting major rise.

10:45 a.m., Rhythm Practice - Karl Berger

The theme of the session was flow - Karl’s sense of the word, and Don Cherry’s too. He spoke of our natural ability to react faster than we can think (you swerve to avoid an accident, shoot out a hand to stop a child from falling of a jungle jim), and how important this is to performance, and in every area of life. What’s more, flow isn’t just for improvisation. “Preconceived music should always sound like you’re making it up,” he said, and then he laughed as he continued, “And improvisations should sound more like you know what you’re doing!”

Then he shared his three keys for achieving flow in performance and life. 1) Waiting. Not playing brings in the flow. 2) Listening. Switch from scheming to listening. Listen. Listen more. Seriously, listen. 3) Using your voice. Sing or hum, loud or soft, and your mind will be forced to quiet itself. “If the U.S. Congress started the day by singing, they wouldn’t be fighting so much.”

He took questions, and the conversation turned to how technical practice fits in with the form of expression we’re all trying to learn at CMS. Karl made clear that flow is not a substitute for technical proficiency. There will be periods, he said, when your practice will focus solely on technique. He made equally clear, however, that technique is not the point of practice. “There is an element of virtuosity which is impressive to people. These are effects. They go away. People remember performances because of flow, not because of effects. … When you perform, get into a flow state, and act like you don't even remember your own name."

11:45 p.m., Master Class - Billy Martin

Billy started by telling us about his earliest musical memories. He did tap dance routines with his mother for years, he said, as he laughed. “Maybe it went on a little too long …” Despite the element of embarrassment, tap instilled rhythm and coordination in his body from before his memory began. It also shaped what he heard, as a child. His mother played him records of Ellington and Basie, show tunes and other dance standards. This, combined with the influence of his brothers (soul and funk and rock), and the music of his concert violinist father, was potent medicine. “I wanted to be a part of all of it.”

Once we were acquainted, Billy began his lesson. “You have to think of yourself as a composer right away. Develop your own unique way of saying things.” Billy’s method for finding his own unique voice? Begin each practice with a solo. It could be two minutes, or twenty minutes, but solo first. Record it, and listen back later. Figure out what you were doing after you’ve done it, not before.

The second practice technique he shared was phrase work. You play a short phrase, then wait in silence - for much longer than you think you need to - and then play another phrase that is as close to the opposite of the first as possible. The silence is what gives you perspective on what you’re playing. It should also stop you from scheming. We went around the room, trying this out. Billy pushed us to be as radical as possible. “Is that even music?” he said, laughing. “That’s what I want to be asking. What was that? Was that even a guitar?”

Another tip about this exercise: keep the phrases short. “It’s a phrase. It’s not a sentence. It’s I love you. It’s shut the fuck up. It’s not, Oh hey I wanted to tell you about this thing that happened to me the other day …”

2:45 p.m., Master Class - Billy Martin, Continued

The afternoon session was built around Billy’s Stridulations, a word that he picked up from the sound crickets make when they rub their legs together. Billy’s Stridulations are graphic scores of rhythms he’s gathered from around the world, combined with ones he’s made up or edited. The graphic notation is intuitive, with Xs marking a played beat and dots marking a silent beat. We were each given five lines of phrases on a page, each composed of a total of 12 beats. The first phrase was a clave, or key, which looked like this:

x • x • • x • x • x • •

The second was a symmetric beat, which looked like this:

x • • x • • x • • x • •

Play on the x, rest on the dot. The clave tells you where the “one” is (the first beat of 12) because it repeats only once in a cycle. Hence key. Play the first phrase, and then the second, and you’ll hear that the first sounds like it’s in something like 6/8, while the second is a straight-up four-on-the-floor. Play them together, and you have a polyrhythm. These multiple senses of pulse characterize the West African rhythmic traditions that informed Brazilian and Latin American claves and musical traditions.

At its heart, the Stridulations system is a way of experiencing multiple rhythms at once. Our exercises were aimed at getting us to hear how those rhythms lock together. The sensation of finally hearing how the disparate phrases spoke with one another as a whole was deeply satisfying. Once the basics were covered, we set out to make music. First we worked on the “closed” Stridulations, where there was a common beat. After having fun with that for a while, we played the Stridulations “open,” where each player could combine their chosen phrase, melody, timbre, tempo, and style however they wished. We were encouraged to avoid a groove, to sit in silence more than we play, and to think of ourselves as crickets in a field or stars appearing in the sky.

5:15 p.m., Improvisers Orchestra

Karl introduced the students to two different games for Thursday’s orchestra. The first was built around the phrase “All we can do is all we can do.” Another beautiful, simple affirmation turned into challenging additive rhythm. In this case, each word got a chance to take up two beats instead of one, in succession, except for “is,” which is so important a word that it got four. (“Aaaall we can do is … all weeee can do is … all we caaaan do is …). The result was a phrase that felt roughly like eight bars of 3/4 followed by two bars of 4/4, but of course, as Karl pointed out in the morning session, “You have to break free of those bars, they’re like a jail.”

The purpose of the song was to again reinforce the attention to every beat, to explore the multiple pulses, and to make beautiful music.

The second exercise was even more complicated, based around four variations of a melody that swung up and down, with each variation resting different portions of the phrase. This one proved a little more troublesome to remember, but by the end we again “changed our shirts” when we were done practicing it, and made a little music. Then it was time for the final listening meditation, and final words of wisdom from Karl, Billy, and Ingrid.

8:30 p.m., Roadhouse Performances

Tonight’s performances had more of a party flavor. There was a good old fashioned blues-based barn-burning organized by Gus Mancini, a reggae-infused bop led by Lorin Roser, a sing-a-long (Blue Moon, accompanied by the collective howling of the entire workshop) led by Mary Enid Haines and featuring Susan Larkin on Violin and Rickie Lee Kroell on vocals , and several more jams that had the feeling of old friends enjoying each other. Such a warm way to end the workshop

When it was Karl, Omar, Ingrid, Maria, and Ken’s turn to speak their piece, the results were electrifying. What struck me most about their collaboration was how each member got the chance to shape the rest of the band in his image. This was not trading solos over an established beat. It was a seamless transition between multiple modes of playing, each player’s personality shining through with the help of the others. So much flow. So much listening. And, crucially, so much laying back and listening until the need for more sound was felt.

A string quartet, made up of Jan, Jeff, Ken, and Lee, provided a holy-sounding combination of chest-melting low drones and wonderfully overtoned bow work. Then, a duet by Karl and Ingrid: What a Wonderful World. Ingrid’s voice was so filled with pain and hope that I wanted to cry. Karl’s choice of chords and intervals was equally powerful, equally emotive. After it was over, Ingrid said, “We need that. The world is so messed up. So messed up …” Perhaps she was being specific - that we needed that song, that message - but I don’t think I was alone in hearing it as a justification for the entire CMS workshop experience.

I stepped outside to sit by the fire. When I heard music that I knew could only come from Billy Martin, I stepped back in and watched as he and Enrico danced on stage, hands vibrating, fingers bouncing across the heads of tambourines. I knew it was what I wanted to hear as I walked back down the hill to my room, so I gathered my things and headed out into the quiet of a full moon night.

— Mark Ferguson

Notes from Rob Saffer, CMS Executive Director

photo by Rick Warren

Mark and Luke have marvelously captured the sights and sounds of the CMS Fall 2017 Workshop.  I don't have much to add, but since this was their first CMS workshop, they wouldn't have been able to see and feel something subtly different than other workshops: the distance between Guiding Artists and Participants, while usually quite thin, grew even more non-distinct. Artists and Participants interacted in ways I hadn't seen in the past ten workshops we've conducted. Whether it was mingling at meals or mingling during evening performances, it was hard to tell who was who and who was teaching whom.  This was best exemplified Thursday night, perhaps the most musically diverse and thrilling yet; the night culminated with Billy Martin and Enrico Pucinelli playing a percussion duet that (d)evolved into what seemed like children alternately fighting, playing and exploring together. There was so much physical and sonic movement it was hard to tell who was doing what. And, it didn't matter. This was a four-armed, four-legged creature, singly focused on playful, creative sound.

As always thanks to Matthew Cullen (sound), Geoff Baer (video), the entire Full Moon Resort staff (and whoever finally found the secret recipe for strong coffee), all the wonderfully talented and loving Guiding Artists and the equally talented and loving Participants who made full moon at the Full Moon so special.

-Rob

 

Peter Apfelbaum’s World Music Project Features Ghanaian xylophone master Alfred Kpebesaane

Saturday, October 7, Greenwich House Music School, NYC

The Creative Music Studio™ begins its fall season at NYC’s Greenwich House Music School with a performance of Peter Apfelbaum’s world music project, Song of the Mystic Thread, on Saturday, October 7 at 8:00. Advance tickets are $20 ($15 students) and are available online and at the door.

Song of the Mystic Thread utilizes both Western and non-Western instruments and “expanded” tuning to create a blend of hypnotic, non-tempered polyrhythmic music and new world folk songs.  Apfelbaum is one of CMS’ associate artistic directors (along with Billy Martin and Steven Bernstein). In addition to Apfelbaum (woodwinds/de-tuned organ/piano), the group features two leading practitioners of the gyil (traditional Ghanaian xylophone) – master Alfred Kpebesaane and his protege, Brittany Anjou, along with Charlie Burnham (violin/vocals), Mali Obomsawin (bass) and April Centrone (drums/riqq), along with special surprise guests.

Peter Apfelbaum

Down Beat writes, “Apfelbaum is still playfully exploring sonic possibilities and, in the process, making some bold musical assertions about the future of jazz,” while CMJ New Music Monthly calls him a ‘visionary, galvanic composer like few others of his time.”

The Creative Music Studio™ engages musicians and listeners from all backgrounds to deepen and broaden their musical sensitivity, expression and understanding through workshops, recordings and concerts worldwide.

The Creative Music Studio™ and CMS ™ are trademarks of the Creative Music Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation founded in 1971. It receives funding from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and the Robert D. Bielecki Foundation, among others.

 

 

Remembering Don Cherry” With Guest Soloists Peter Apfelbaum and Graham Haynes

Saturday, September 30 at the El Taller Cultural Community Center, NYC

 The Creative Music Studio™ Improvisers Orchestra, conducted by Karl Berger, will commence its fall season on Saturday, September 30 at the El Taller Cultural Community Center at 215, East 99th Street in Manhattan. This performance features multi-instrumentalist and CMS™ associate artistic director Peter Apfelbaum, cornetist Graham Haynes, violin/viola virtuoso Jason Hwang, percussion wizard Warren Smith, and vocalist/poet Ingrid Sertso. The performance begins at 8:30 with a rehearsal open to ticket holders at 7:00 when listeners gain insights into the unique process that guides the CIO.  Tickets are $20 ($15 students).

In this performance, the CMS Improvisers Orchestra will play themes composed by Don Cherry, including “Om Nu,” “Remembrance” and “Thomas Mapfumo” inspired by the great Zimbabwean musician, as well as Jim Pepper’s “Witchi Tai To.” Cherry was and remains instrumental in the creation of CMS. The New York State Council on the Arts and the Robert D. Bielecki Foundation are generously underwriting this performance.

Since its inception in 2011, the CMS Improvisers Orchestra, comprised of 20 or more string, horn, reed, and percussion soloists, has performed nearly 90 times.  Conducted in Karl’s inimitable style developed over decades at the legendary Creative Music Studio™, the CMS™ Improvisers Orchestra explores Berger’s original compositions as well as melodies from the world’s folk traditions and themes by visionary composers such as Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman, creating a platform for musical ideas to arise spontaneously among the orchestra’s musicians. Karl’s conducting blends and harmonizes improvised sounds and rhythms in constantly shifting instrumentations and dynamics.  One of the orchestra’s trademarks is Ingrid Sertso’s unique vocalizations and poetry.

Additional artists in the CIO include: Jason Hwang, Leonor Falcon, Annemarie Wiesner, strings, Ras Moshe, flute and tenor sax; Sylvain Leroux, fula flutes; Haruna Fukazawa, Bill Horberg, flutes; Gene Coleman, alto flute, Nick Gianni, bass flute, Don Payne, clarinet; Christoph Knoche, bass clarinet; Richard Keene, oboe; Jason Candler, soprano sax; Welf Doerr, Patrick Brennan, alto sax; Bill Ylitalo, baritone sax; Westwood Johnson, trombones; Kenny Wessel, Ted Orr, guitars; Warren Smith, drums, Nicolas Letman, bass percussion; and surprise guests.

CIO will also perform at El Taller on Saturday, October 29 and again on December 8, in a performance showcasing its collaboration with the Chinese pipa virtuoso and composer, Min Xiao Fen. The CIO will perform with the Soldier/Kane Duo on November 25.

The CMS Improvisers Orchestra has received numerous critical reviews. In a glowing review, the Wall Street Journal said the orchestra’s sound “draws on lush harmonies and a well-defined relationship between foreground soloists and background.”  The arts blog Lucid Culture remarked that “the camaraderie and warmth of the repartee between the orchestra and conductor – and among the orchestra itself – was visceral,” and acclaimed jazz critic Howard Mandel wrote that the orchestra “can expand on simple themes paying utmost attention to dynamics and each other through ‘intuited communication.”

CMS Improvisers Orchestra at El Taller; CMS Ensembles at Greenwich House Music School

The Creative Music Studio™ has announced its Fall 2017 series of concerts in New York City with four performances by the CMS Improvisers Orchestra (CIO) conducted by artistic director Karl Berger, along with a series of three ensemble performances curated by CMS associate artistic directors Peter Apfelbaum, Steven Bernstein and Billy Martin.

 On Saturday, September 30 the series kicks off when the CIO performs with the Soldier/Kane duo, featuring Dave Soldier (violin) and Jonathan Kane (drums), at El Taller, 215 East 99th Street. There will be a second CIO Soldier/Kane concert at El Taller on Saturday, November 25. All CIO performances begin at 8:30pm, preceded by an open rehearsal for ticket holders at 7pm. Tickets are $20 ($15 students). These CIO concerts are supported through the generosity of the New York State Council on the Arts and the Robert F. Bielcki Foundation.

Peter Apfelbaum

On Saturday, October 7 CMS’ performance series at Greenwich House Music School,(GHMS) 46 Barrow Street (off 7th Ave.), begins with Peter Apfelbaum’s world music project, Song of the Mystic Thread. Utilizing both Western and non-Western instruments and “expanded” tuning, this ensemble plays hypnotic, non-tempered polyrhythmic music and new world folk songs.  In addition to Apfelbaum (woodwinds/de-tuned organ/piano), the group features two leading practitioners of the gyil (traditional Ghanaian xylophone) – master Alfred Kpebesaane and his protege, Brittany Anjou, along with Charlie Burnham (violin/vocals), Mali Obamsawin (bass) and April Centrone (drums/riqq), along with special surprise guests.  All CMS performances at GHMS begin at 8:00pm, and tickets are $20 ($15 students). Advance tickets for this performance are available here.  Tickets are also available at the door.

Min-Xiao-Fen

On Saturday, October 28 the CIO series at El Taller continues with special guest, Chinese composer, vocalist and pipa player Min Xiao Fen, a guiding artist at the CMS Spring Workshop last June. On Saturday, December 9 there will be a second CIO   El Taller concert featuring Min Xiao Fen.

 On Saturday December 2, CMS’ GHMS performance will feature Billy Martin’s Omnispheric Orchestra, an improvising ensemble that weaves prose and sound into a dynamic musical and literary experience. The ensemble includes Billy Martin (percussion), Marty Ehrlich, Ned Rothenberg and Daniel Carter (reeds), Adam Lane (bass), and the poets Bob Holman, Ashley August, Mohamad Hodeib and Nkosi Nkululeko, among others to be named later. Advanced tickets are here and will also be available at the door.

The CIO will perform its 100th concert during the run at the El Taller.   Since its inception in 2011, the CIO, comprised of 20 or more string, horn, reed, and percussion soloists, has performed nearly 100 times.  Conducted in Berger’s inimitable style developed over decades at the Creative Music Studio™, the CIO explores original compositions as well as melodies from the world’s folk traditions and themes by visionary composers such as Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman, creating a platform for musical ideas to arise spontaneously among the orchestra’s musicians. Berger’s conducting blends and harmonizes improvised sounds and rhythms in constantly shifting instrumentations and dynamics.  One of the orchestra’s trademarks is Ingrid Sertso’s unique vocalizations and poetry.

The Creative Music Studio™ engages musicians and listeners from all backgrounds to deepen and broaden their musical sensitivity, expression and understanding through workshops, recordings and concerts worldwide.  The Creative Music Studio™ and CMS ™ are trademarks of the Creative Music Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation founded in 1971.

CMS Ensembles To Perform at Woodstock’s Maverick Concerts (September 2) and at the Drum Boogie Festival (September 9);

Scholarships Now Available for the CMS Fall Workshop with Billy Martin, Mary Halvorson, Omar Tekbilek and Others

 The revamped Creative Music Studio™ will present “in the Spirit of Don Cherry’ at Woodstock’s legendary Maverick Concerts, Saturday, September 2, at 8:00. Performed by the all-star CMS™ Improvisers Octet led by Karl Berger, ‘In the Spirit of Don Cherry’ will explore Cherry’s compositions as well as music inspired by him and will use those themes as launching pads for exciting improvisation that weave together jazz, world and contemporary music. Six members of the CMS Improvisers Octet played with Cherry: Karl Berger (piano, vibes, leader), Bob Stewart (tuba), Steven Bernstein (trumpet), Peter Apfelbaum (reeds, percussion), Ingrid Sertso (vocals), Graham Haynes (cornet); along with Woodstock’s Tani Tabbal (drums), and Adam Lane (bass). Tickets are $5 – $40 and available at the Maverick Concerts website. More detailed information is here.

 On Saturday, September 9, a CMS ensemble led by Karl Berger will perform a ‘World Boogie’ Set at the Drum Boogie Festival at Woodstock’s Andy Lee Field at 12 noon in a free public performance. CMS is responsible for bringing many extraordinary musicians to the Woodstock area and ten of them are performing in this ensemble. In the tradition of CMS, this ‘World Boogie Band’ combines melodies and rhythms from the world’s folk music with free-wheeling improvisation. The group includes CMS artistic directors/co-founders Karl Berger (vibes/piano) and Ingrid Sertso (vocals), Tani Tabbal (drums), Ken Filiano (bass), Don Davis (reeds), David Oliver (marimba), Joakim Larkey (percussion), Ted Orr (tabla and guitar), Peter Buettner (flutes) and Bill Ylitalo (reeds, flutes, percussion).

Scholarships Available for October Workshop

 Finally, CMS is pleased to announce the availability of financial support for those wanting to attend its CMS Fall Workshop, October 2 – 6, with guitarist/bandleader/composer Mary Halvorson, CMS associate artistic director and percussionist Billy Martin, Turkish multi-instrumentalist Omar Tekbilek and many others. Those wishing to inquire about scholarships for the Fall Workshop should contact CMS directly: mail@creativemusic.org.

The Creative Music Studio™ engages musicians and listeners from all backgrounds to deepen and broaden their musical sensitivity, expression and understanding through workshops, recordings and concerts worldwide.  The Creative Music Studio™ and CMS ™ are trademarks of the Creative Music Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation founded in 1971.

 

 

“In The Spirit of Don Cherry” to be Performed by the CMS Improvisers Octet Led by Karl Berger

Saturday, September 2, 2017, 8:00pm at Maverick Concerts, Woodstock, NY

 

 The revamped Creative Music Studio™ will present In the Spirit of Don Cherry at Woodstock’s legendary Maverick Concerts, Saturday, September 2, 2017, at 8:00. Performed by the all-star CMS™ Improvisers Octet led by Karl Berger, ‘In the Spirit of Don Cherry’ will explore Cherry’s compositions as well as music inspired by him and will use those themes as launching pads for exciting improvisation that weave together jazz, world and contemporary music. Tickets are $5 – $40 and available at the Maverick Concert website.

Six members of the CMS Improvisers Octet played with Cherry: Karl Berger (piano, vibes, leader), Bob Stewart (tuba), Steven Bernstein (trumpet), Peter Apfelbaum (reeds, percussion), Ingrid Sertso (vocals), Graham Haynes (cornet); along with Woodstock’s Tani Tabbal (drums), and Adam Lane (bass).

Noted for his long association with saxophonist Ornette Coleman, which began in the late 1950s, Don Cherry became a pioneer of world-fusion music in the 1960s. During this period, he incorporated various ethnic styles into his playing and composing. Cherry, who died in 1995, was essential to the creation and development of the Creative Music Studio he inspired many of its methodologies, taught many CMS workshops and founded his legendary group, Codona, at CMS. A suite of his is included in CMS Archive Project Selections Vol. 2, released in 2015.

“This all-star octet of improvisers will play Don Cherry’s compositions and songs, but is not solely a repertory ensemble,” said Karl Berger, CMS’ artistic director. “Don was unique in opening the way to interpreting music from anywhere in the world in very personal and inspiring ways. His music is always great fun to play and to listen to. We feel his presence, loud and clear; Don’s music speaks to us and everyone in engaging and positive ways. His amazing spirit lives on in this ensemble and in the multitude of musical expressions emerging at the Creative Music Studio.”

The octet was founded 12 years ago and is comprised of players who collaborated with Cherry from the 1960s through the 1990s. Karl Berger joined Don’s quintet in 1965 and played on many of Don’s breakthrough recordings such as “Symphony for Improvisers.” Peter Apfelbaum was Don’s music director in the 90s; he and Steven Bernstein played frequently with Don then. Ingrid Sertso performed with Don on many occasions, including on his album, “Multi-Kulti,” and on her album, “Dance with It”; she also wrote lyrics to several of Don’s songs, including “Art Deco.” Bob Stewart and Graham Haynes played extensively with Don, often internationally.

 About CMS: The Creative Music Studio™ engages musicians and listeners from all backgrounds to deepen and broaden their musical sensitivity, expression and understanding through workshops, recordings and concerts worldwide.  The Creative Music Studio™ and CMS ™ are trademarks of the Creative Music Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation founded in 1971.

New Blood Revitalizes Creative Music Studio

It hardly seems possible but Woodstock’s own Creative Music Studio, that ethereal prodigy of a golden era, has been sent to the gym and returned rippling with muscle. Like the town’s original experiment in freedom (known since 1905 simply as “The Maverick”) CMS remains, first and foremost, a forever tolerant state of mind. So how do “forever tolerant” and “rippling with muscle” coexist? This is how: with a kick-ass new board, a supercharged trio of artistic directors, and the original god-parents of World Music, Karl Berger & Ingrid Sertso, imperturbably at its heart.’ Read journalist Tad Wise’s full story in  the Woodstock Times.

And, if you didn’t see it last week, New York Times‘ music critic Giovanni Russonello wrote an extensive feature article on CMS and its expanded artistic team. Read the full story.