CMS NYC Workshop Chronicles
By Michael Shore

FRIDAY MARCH 31:
WHY IS THIS WORKSHOP DIFFERENT FROM ALL OTHER WORKSHOPS?

I’ve only ever been to one CMS Workshop, June 2015 at Full Moon resort in Big Indian, NY. when I was mainly there to chronicle it for the CMS twitter feed and website, while lurking on the outside of the participants’ circle with a bag of small percussion devices…so I would say I was maybe a quarter participant. So, my frame of reference is limited—but I knew this NYC workshop would be very different from typical workshops: not being at a secluded bucolic resort but in the middle of noisy grimy NYC, and breaking up early the first two nights due to scheduled concerts at our host venue, Greenwich House Music School, would surely affect the sense of community that naturally grows among participants upstate. Also, no body awareness workshops ☹ (I still use some of the stretches I learned at Big Indian every single day).

It’s also different for me personally because this time I am a paying participant, bringing my own little 5-piece drum set-up as well as the small percussion. Small as it is, I as a very part-time amateur player still struggle mightily to cart it from my suburban Long Island home to the city via LIRR and subway, in a collapsible canvas duffel on plastic casters which I’m terrified the whole time will break off. They don’t, and I get a good taste of that dreary, back-breaking and unavoidable aspect of The Drummer’s Life. A valuable lesson indeed!

Finally, because I am much more participant than chronicler – and acutely self-conscious at how rusty and out-of-practice I am – I apologize up front for how different these notes will be than last time, with far less blow-by-blow detail and more hazily recollected impressionism. Due to my daily focus on focusing and not embarrassing myself during each master class, much of the weekend is a blur!

At Greenwich House we all meet and mingle during orientation, after setting up our gear…my fellow drummers and I somehow figure a way to fit all 5 kits onstage with the help of superhumanly patient production manager Alex. I’m suddenly grateful to have such a microscopic kit. In keeping with the spirit I’d felt so keenly at Big Indian and in all my dealing with CMS, everyone is cool and the vibe is mellow. The room gradually fills, a few faces familiar from the 2015 workshop I attended at Full Moon.

Eventually CMS Artistic Director/Co-founder Karl Berger calls us to order in a circle on the recital hall floor and asks us to introduce ourselves briefly. What an interesting group! The drummers include a student of Day 2 Guiding Artist Susie Ibarra’s, who will do wonderful gamelan-gong-type things with some small nesting metal mixing bowls, and one who works at the Jazz Foundation of America’s Jazz In The Schools program – so cool! There are around a dozen guitarists, including a “classical/theater composer by day, punk rocker by night,” another who’s brought a Chinese sanxian lute, and a long-haired young shredder who says he’s looking to learn how to contribute cool creative noises. There are names and faces I recognize from the stages at various downtown avant-rock and jazz gigs over the past few years. Someone came all the way from Washington state. There’s a dude with samplers and toys – “untrained”/”non-musician” company for yours truly! In fact, a lot of us say they’re like me: passionate music fans who put their instrumental dreams aside years ago to focus on family and/or career, but have rekindled that old inner mounting flame that never ever quite goes out.

CMS co-founder Ingrid Sertso leads us in the first of her daily vocal exercises, focused largely on deep breathing and long vowel sounds. It’s great to see her so healthy and energetic where two years ago she’d been weakened by illness. Her deep-breathing exercise is just the refreshing system-cleanse I need – the kind of thing someone like me always forgets to remember to do each day as mundanities and work and such get in the way. I actually begin feeling a sort of a buzz from all the extra oxygen intake from the deep-breathing, combined with the joy of making music – and I swear, just as I feel that buzz, Ingrid says “you know, some tribes around the world use these exercises as a way to get high.” My jaw drops open at how she’s read my mind. She also teaches us a lovely somber South African hymn: “We are going, Heaven knows where we are going…”

Karl Berger then outlines the basic ideas behind the workshop and provides some basic guidance and practice in rhythm, using his Gamala Taki method of counting rhythms in divisions of 3 and 2, having us sing out “ga-ma-la ta-ki” with different accents to different meters, then having us sing only certain syllables while keeping in rhythm – a great way to treat silence as another musical note, and to make rhythm more musical and less pure-math. Karl calls it “beat for beat attention.” It reminds me of one of my favorite chants by one of my favorite artists, Sun Ra: “music is silence too, music is silence too…” Karl then leads us in similar exercises using the singsong chant “time is, time is in, time is in time…” which I recalled from the 2015 workshop. Then he acknowledges the elephant in the room, that we had set up our instruments and must be itching to play them so let’s hit it and see what we can do. All I remember is focusing on the basslines from assistant Guiding Artist, the great Ken Filiano, who’s right in front of me onstage, and trying to follow Karl’s conducting gestures. Feels good to bash a bit for sure. The first day ends with “listening meditation”: Karl asks us to focus on sound and its disappearance – again, like the object lesson in the note value of silence, the kind of against-the-grain zen-koan lesson in which CMS seems to specialize – then he strikes a cymbal… and does it again… and again… and again… Faint street noises mix in with the ever-more-discernible overtones of the decaying cymbal crashes. The focus in the room is palpable. Great training for the ears, and a good start to the weekend!

SATURDAY APRIL 1
“WE ALL BELONG. AND IT’S COOL NOT TO BELONG”

The first full day of CMS NYC begins with several of us early arrivals outside at 8:45 am, waiting for someone from Greenwich House to show up and unlock the place, breakfast having been called for 9am. We can hear someone upstairs practicing piano but they can’t hear us calling “helloooo” and banging on the door. Possibly a reminder that the calendar says it’s April 1. Someone does show up not long after 9, and the day proper starts with breakfast, and CMS Executive Director Rob Saffer putting out the word that today’s Guiding Artist, Wilco guitarist (among other pursuits) Nels Cline, wants us in a big circle with the drummer spaced out evenly around it. I immediately run upstairs to set up, wanting to make sure I have a spot. Breakfast is a welcome, delicious and filling reminder that the food at Big Indian in June 2015 was plentiful, naturally healthy and yummy. The spread includes eggs, chicken sausages, steamed potatoes, fresh berries, yogurt, Granola, OJ and coffee or tea…at least I think there were big skin-on spuds. Maybe I’m mixing that up with lunch or dinner. What I definitely DO remember is those sausages – and the herb that so powerfully and wonderfully flavored them…sage? Whatever it was, my compliments to Hailee the caterer!

Back upstairs we do more breathing and singing exercises with Ingrid, including a song by the great South African pianist (and onetime CMS Guiding Artist) Abdullah Ibrahim. Ingrid notes that once upon a time, before the oceans split continents apart, what we now call North America was joined with Africa – and that “we are all Africans,” something I have long felt in my bones. How next will this bruja read my mind???

We then take our places in our big circle around the floor of the Greenwich House recital hall, guitarists flanking me in the area by the front windows, reeds and keyboards across from me towards the stage. Karl Berger gives some brief “basic practice” CMS guidance – such as the instruction that music and rhythm can be like a train, a commuter train, that runs the same circuit repeatedly, so if you feel lost at any point wait til the train comes round again to your “stop,” that part you recognize and feel comfortable with, and come back in there. He also says, at one point, “there’s no such thing as an A” – before introducing Nels Cline, who will repeat “there’s no such thing as an A” more than once and remark how liberating he finds that concept. Nels takes his place at the center of our circle, a tall, gangly, extremely affable guy who tells us of his own musical journey on the road to open-eared listening, name-checking familiar radicalizing signposts from Zappa and Beefheart to Coltrane and Sun Ra to Harry Partch and Anthony Braxton, and telling school-days tales of his brother, master-drummer Alex Cline, and SoCal’s answer to Braxton, reedman Vinny Golia.

Nels begins loosely organizing an initial getting-to-know-you group-improv session, moving slowly around the room, pointing to different musicians to see what they could do. A warm-up, so to speak, similar to what we did with Karl yesterday. As Nels goes round the room to single out certain individuals and small groupings, I am instantly impressed by the playing of some of my fellow participants, especially in the reed and string sections, and all the other drummers again scare the heck out of me with their technique.

After a lovely lunch of hummus, babaganoush, pita, cucumbers-and-feta and olives that has me ready to smash plates in a Zorba dance (and with Karl, Ingrid, Ken and Nels sitting amongst all us participants in typical no-hierarchical CMS fashion), Nels gathers us and speaks about noise and microtonal music. At some point I recall him mentioning the weekend warriors among us reigniting our passion for playing, and saying how he honors that as much as any full-time player – very gratifying to hear! He also mentions the very audible 60-cycle hum in the room, which as a noise fan he enjoys as a legitimate audio element in the mix, and remarks upon the old wiring in the building. This will prove the next morning to have been a most prophetic remark
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Nels says he wants us to create “something beautifully microtonal, Harry Partch meets Sonic Youth, over a 6/8 groove,” Oh sure Nels, no sweat! He also tells us he’s going to use cue cards to conduct this piece. In the name of microtonality, he “prepares” the guitars a la Fred Frith, offering the guitarists chopsticks to place under their strings. He says he had to borrow them from his wife, musician Yuka Honda of Cibo Matto fame, and that he’ll need them back! Nels’ cue cards say things like “A# minor” and “leave lots of space” and, at one point, “SCREAM!” – which Nels himself raucously joins us in doing. He also uses hand gestures and eye-contact, of course, to cue certain players or groups to start, stop, get louder or softer or harder. He tells the keyboardists onstage at the two Greenwich House grand pianos (yes, two grand pianos) he wants them to play inside the pianos – and during the jam he goes up onstage and ducks under the raised lids to show them how to really get in there and strum the guts of those pianos, like punk harps.

I’d like to hear this piece back to see how it really sounded but it was a blast to play, in more ways than one, though also a bit nerve-wracking for yours truly, with my extremely limited experience actually Playing With Other People. Nels is able to get us to a level of instant-cooperative music- and noise-making. He’s relentlessly chill, upbeat and supportive. His style as a Guiding Artist is a world apart from my last CMS workshop two years ago, where Steven Bernstein and Amir al-Saffr both spent a lot of time talking as one might expect a music teacher to talk, about chords and scales and modes and in Amir’s case, particular ethnic rhythms, before then applying them to carefully arranged improvs around specific themes. This is much looser and more open-ended. What I like about it is, it both assumes and offers a certain level of respect – to my mind, giving a palpable “you’re out of the nest, now fly!” sense of what it might or must be like to actually improvise music with fellow musicians and for listeners who have come to create or listen with you. Without even ever consciously specifically voicing it, this makes me profoundly aware of how terrifying and exhilarating a responsibility it is to be in such a position. It’s around this time, during a lull, that I remember to resume my role as CMS Twitter Feed Poster, and tweet out a couple of pix of Nels leading the workshop. I see that another participant, keyboardist Sugar Vendil, has mentioned CMS in a tweet: “@ music improv workshop today Karl Berger looked in my direction but I ducked so I wouldn’t get called on to solo #fear #hsjazzbandflashback.” Followed by: “I won’t duck tomorrow!” Sugar, I sure can relate!

Before our next and final improv with Nels, he talks more about what he’d heard and what he hoped to hear, and he says something that I think could serve as a sort of CMS credo: “We all belong, and it’s cool not to belong, too.” More prosaically, he asks the guitars to act as a Greek Chorus throughout our next improv, commenting on whatever had just come before he cued them. Nels feels good enough about this improv to stop guiding and take his guitar and solo at one point, then to sit down and lay his guitar across his lap and bang on it like a drum. Having Nels point to me at one point to solo, I am again made aware, in this minimally “directed” workshop, of the intimidating infinitude of choices anyone purporting to be a creative musician has to make at any time.

The day ends with Karl doing a brief gamala taki exercise, followed by his asking us to play an on-the-spot improv based on his “Time Is” tune from the day before, which he plays on a melodica. Because the tune adds and then subtracts melodic cells over an odd meter (I think), it’s not quite as simple as it sounds, at least for an unschooled out-of-practice drummer like me, so I only remember trying to both stay on time and in rhythm and loosen up enough to actually play. That, and Nels sitting in with us participants, “teacher” grinning from ear to ear as he improved along with the “student” orchestra. Another concluding and very focused listening meditation, and while others take their axes to locked closets downstairs, it’s time for us drummers to break down our kits and cram them into Alex the production manager’s office, somehow, to make way for tonight’s Greenwich House concert. In classic CMS fashion, what at first seems laughably impossible turns out to be surprisingly doable.

SUNDAY APRIL 2
FIRE MUSIC

After two days of damp chilly weather, the last and longest day of CMS NYC is beautiful and sunny. But it is about to begin with some unexpected drama.

After arriving and running upstairs to set up my kit, I run back down to grab breakfast. The dining areas, which border a courtyard/garden in back of the school, are packed and buzzing with conversation. Just as I walk into the first of the dining rooms – the lights go out. I stop dead in my tracks and wonder aloud if someone leaned on a light switch. Reed player Lee Odom is the one who first notices there are FLAMES BEHIND A WALL OUTLET – an apparent electrical fire! Amid the general uproar I scurry through adjoining rooms til I find a fire extinguisher. Alex the production manager happens to be standing right next to me, so never having worked a fire extinguisher in my life, I hand it to him and he expertly puts out the fire with a quick blast or two. Someone calls the fire department , and no fewer than three hook-and-ladders arrive in what seems like moments. Welp! Breakfast – some sort of bacon facsimile and eggs – is flavored with the tang of baking soda-like fire extinguisher powder and electrical-fire smoke in the air…and relief that Greenwich House is still standing. After wolfing down breakfast, still tasty despite the fire, I overhear one of the firemen asking Alex if they offer guitar lessons at Greenwich House. Only then do I recall Nels Cline yesterday, remarking on the old wiring in this building. Oh, it’s gonna be a barn-burner today alright!

Back upstairs, today’s Guiding Artist, jazz and avant-garde drummer Susie Ibarra . arrives and when I ask, pronounces herself totally fine with the circular setup with the drummers spaced out around it. Now however we have to fit in the house kit she’ll be using as well. Somehow this works out. Susie manages to call us to order and introduce herself – and this in itself is quite a feat, because as great a drummer as she is (and she is great) she is incredibly soft-spoken. It’s actually hard at times to make out her requests and instructions, but I can tell you that at points she says “I’m going to ask you to, for instance, play texture…or play patterns…” As with Nels Cline, her actual “instruction” is minimal: remember, CMS calls them “Guiding Artists,” and sometimes effective guidance is that which leaves us participants to figure things out for ourselves. I’d call it an object lesson in spontaneously coordinated collective improvisation – not just on the level of the actual playing and music-making, but in the respectful and responsible way in which everyone responded, shared, and alternately led and supported. In a way, I think Susie and Nels were both letting us learn how much we already “knew.”

The first, morning piece to play is, like the day before with Nels, a sort of warm-up and getting-to-know-you session, with Susie checking out various groupings by instrument, then breaking us up into different smaller groups with guitars, reeds, keys and drums more or less evenly distributed in each. Again, I must apologize to you readers that my nerves and effort at focusing kept me from better remembering the blow-by-blow after everything happened, but I vividly recall Susie Ibarra slowly walking round the inside of the circle checking us all out as we played, at times staring at us, at others looking down at the floor to really focus on what she was hearing… gesturing at times to change dynamics or recombine us… demonstrating “texture” by gently tossing some small strung-together wooden rattles up and down in her hands… and I also recall more and more of my fellow workshop participants impressing me with their playing.

We break for lunch, which most of enjoy out in the garden since it’s so nice out. Soup, tabbouleh and arugula salad, some cold noodle-veggie salad…it’s all delicious.

For the afternoon improv Susie asks someone to provide a melody. Lee Odom offers one on her clarinet: a lovely, descending birdsong which Susie immediately cottons to. I wish I could recall and describe exactly how Susie Ibarra managed to keep us all focused and contributing for more than an hour and a half on this, without seeming to do much of anything…but somehow she did. I am told we went at it for an hour and 42 minutes nonstop, as the music swelled and subsided, from delicate and tentative, to supple and lyrical, to bumptious and noisy, from thin to thick and hard to soft, with Susie’s hand gestures cueing everyone. At one point she sits down at her drums – finally – just a few chairs to my left, and lets loose, displaying masterly efficiency of motion, thrashing out kaleidoscopic polyrhythms while hardly seeming to move at all – her arms steady above the center-point of her 4-piece kit, pointing downward toward a spot right between her snare, mounted tom and floor tom, only her wrists and fingers moving in real-time time-lapse. Don’t mess with Ms. Ibarra cos when she plays, she don’t play!

Took me awhile to locate my lower jaw after that…. After Susie Ibarra’s afternoon master class, Ingrid leads us in the final vocal workshop: giving us different sounds, from sighs to coos to grunts, to make as she arranges and on-the-spot chorus. Then each of us taking turns inside the circle, instantly and intuitively harmonized notes – “mmmm,” “aaaaaaaahhhh,” “ohhhhh,” “ooooooo,” “eeeeeee” — sung at us, so we really feel the vibrations. We sing the solemn South African “we are going…” one last time and knowing it is the last time this time feels bittersweet. Karl then has us back in the big circle for a final session of “basic practice” with Gamala Taki, which I handle with much more confidence than the previous day, even though there are moments when I, and others, audibly come in early or late with a sounded syllable. I am reminded, again, that putting in actual physical practice time – especially for a drummer – is so important. The body has to develop that sense-memory of the actual activity. It’s the same with something seemingly as nursery-rhyme simple as remembering when to say “ma” and “ki” after several silent beats. Or singing “time is, time is in, time is in time…” It’s not easy – til it is…

Then Karl takes out his melodica to lead us in the last official orchestral piece of this CMS workshop. It’s another disarmingly and deceptively simple tune, his “Five Feelings,” which is, yes, in 5. And Karl arranges it so each drummer gets to take a quick 2 or 4-bar solo. This is big fun. No – it’s HUGE fun. After two-and-a-half days we are starting to get a real feel for each other, maybe…and that combined with the knowledge that this is out last collective shot, I think, has us all really leaning into it. I suspect the long-haired young guitar shredder would agree – I distinctly recall him, as the whole group absolutely ROARED, nodding his head in time, lifting both his arms aloft and making devil horns like some avant-garde Beavis or Butthead. I feel quite buzzed by the time it’s all over.

We break for dinner — lasagna and roasted veggies and some really amazing cheesecake – then concluding participant jams organized by Ken Filiano who’d set up a sign-in sheet for anyone who wanted to play. There are several small groups, all engaging in free-improv from quiet to stormy, often making sound use of silence (pun intended). Sana Nagano on violin, Lee Odom on clarinet, Ras Moshe on tenor, and all the drummers still left make big impressions on me: Aaron Latos absolutely attacking one poor ride cymbal as he erupts from a whisper to a thunderstorm… Will Glass living up to his name with quicksilver free playing that reminds me of Original Free Drummer Sunny Murray’s classic self-descriptive quote that he was trying to play “the constant cracking of glass”… Susie Ibarra’s student Michael LaRocca with ferocious technique and intensity – and then inventive in a whole other way in another, aleatoric ensemble, crouched on the floor making unearthly sounds with electronics. Guitarist Lorin Roser is kind enough to let yours truly sit in on a groove-oriented trio late in the evening, with bassist Dan Dybus – thank you Lorin and Danny!

Of course the other drummers and I are last to leave. As we lug out our gear, I’m pondering the techniques, philosophies and approaches I’d learned by doing during this weekend – and how, if applied with any consistency, they could help me improve both my playing and my listening. I am also confident there will prove to be dividends from this weekend I have yet to even realize. And I am struck by the distinct possibility, the likelihood even, that we took lemons and made lemonade this weekend, making positive use of the difference I mentioned earlier in this workshop vs the ones at Full Moon – dispersing at the end of shorter days into the surrounding big city, rather than being together an entire weekend at a remote bucolic location. I think that may have helped us all focus more intensely and urgently in the more limited time we had together. Making this, perhaps, the streetwise in-your-face CMS workshop. Big thanks to Rob Saffer, Ken Filiano, Nels Cline, Susie Ibarra, Ingird Sertso, Karl Berger, Hailee Powell, Alex and Rachel from Greenwich House, the NYC Fire Department and all my fellow participants!

Testimonials:

It was a great experience overall for me. I think the inclusionary and non-judgmental aspect to CMS was very comforting. Everyone has a very open and giving spirit.

Awesome! Everything was very engaging, for me. I can’t say that I ever got bored, or even less than excited. The material is amazing in how it engages musicians of different abilities and backgrounds.

CMS is one of the best things to ever happen to my playing and listening, and I am still processing what I learned at the most recent workshop. These days when I hear live or recorded music, I immediately pick up on how much the musicians are listening to one another – or not. Also, the CMS tends to attract nice people.

Basic Practice was truly, deeply illuminating and I will think of the breathing and rhythm exercises probably every day of my life, certainly every time I sit down to my instrument.

I noticed that since going to the workshop, “There is something different” in my playing. I can’t put my finger on it but there is a noted difference. (And, I’ve been playing nearly 50 years!

CMS is hands-on, learn-by-doing workshop that treats music at its most basic, universal level, developing principles that can be applied to any style.

CMS is the opportunity to get in a room with a rotating crew of legendary musicians to learn their processes in a wonderfully open-minded, accepting environment.

I particularly liked the phrases in compound meters (i.e. ta-ki ta-ki ga-ma-la) and the way that it kept the whole group attentive no matter their background.

A CMS workshop focuses on what is at the core of all music making. A participant can refine and take these elements into their life’s work no matter their specific path. That holds true even for the non-musical participants.

I found the content new and engaging.  As a self-taught musician who does not read music, I was a little concerned that there might be moments where I felt a little behind, but this did not prove to be an issue.  I am really glad that the CMS website accentuates that all levels of musicians are welcome, because that was one thing that really inspired me to “take a chance” and sign up.  And I am so glad that i did because I learned so much and felt at home.

Working with Karl and Ingrid will stick with me for many years.  Their approach to the universality of music and the curiosity with which they approach the unknown has given me a brand new perspective.

For me, a lot of this workshop was about getting back to the very basics – breathing, singing, using the body as an instrument. And Karl is such a good teacher, the basic “gamala taki” does not get old for me. At least not yet – ask me again after I’ve done another five workshops. He’s an extraordinary teacher. He says things that people have tried to tell me for years, but now I finally get it.

Nels Cline had good things to say, and for me the biggest takeaway was his open, welcoming attitude, the idea that almost anything can work in music as long as everyone is listening to one another and allowing room for one another. I also liked what he said about the ups and downs of being a visionary pioneer, that if you want to be totally original, it’s the hardest road to take, because that means you have to convince other people to do things your way. For the rest of us, said Cline, we have to learn the common language of notes and chords. That was insightful.

The secret weapon of the CMS? Ken Filiano! What a musician. No offense to the guiding artists, but as a practical matter, I learned more from talking with Ken or overhearing him in conversation. For instance, when you want to learn a short, staccato phrase, practice it slow, and *don’t practice it legato*. Even if you are practicing at a slow speed, stay true to the sonic image you want to achieve. Practice it staccato and keep the spaces between the notes proportional. Then speed it up. Wow – so obvious and so true. He said that when he tunes his bass, he doesn’t just tune one string to one note on the piano. He uses harmonics on the bass to tune to different octaves on the piano, so he is tuning the entire bass to the entire piano. Wow. And he said he hears first with the belly and only later with the ears. As for volume when playing with an ensemble, he said, “I can hear myself for four hours a day. When I’m playing with a group, I don’t need to hear myself. If I can hear myself, I’m playing too loud.” I would love to attend a workshop of Ken Filiano just talking about how to feel the “one.”

Noted Composer Joined by Pianist Marilyn Crispell, Cellist Leila Bordreuil & Improviser Miguel Frasconi
Greenwich House Music School
Saturday, April 8, 2017, 8:00 PM

The revamped Creative Music Studio™ will present an evening with the pioneering composer and electronic musician Richard Teitelbaum in a rare NYC performance on Saturday, April 8 at Greenwich House Music School, 46 Barrow Street (off Bleecker Street) in Greenwich Village at 8:00 PM. Tickets, available at the door, are $20.

The CMS™ concert will feature an extraordinary combination of improvisers playing together as a quartet for the first time. Several pieces will be debuted, providing the group ample room to improvise in duos, trios and as a quartet. Pianist Marilyn Crispell has performed with Teitelbaum for four decades, the two having first met at the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock in the 1970s. Glass instrument player Miguel Frasconi studied with Teitelbaum at Toronto’s York University, also in the 1970s, and cellist Leila Bordreuil studied and worked with Teitelbaum at Bard College. At Greenwich House Music School the quartet will explore and expand the sonic possibilities of electronic and acoustic improvisation.

Underwriting support for this performance is provided by the Robert D. Bielecki Foundation.

 Richard Teitelbaum was born in NYC in 1939. After graduating from Haverford College, he went on to get a Master of Music degree from Yale in 1964. Teitelbaum studied with composers Luigi Nono and Goffredo Petrassi in Italy on a Fullbright scholarship, after which he brought the first Moog synthesizer to Europe. Teitelbaum performed hundreds of concerts with it, and co-founded the pioneering live electronic music group Musica Elettronica Viva with Frederic Rzewski and Alvin Curran. This group was also instrumental at the Creative Music Studio where all three composers taught and worked. Teitelbaum’s opera, Golem, was performed at the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria (1991), and Teitlebaum himself has performed throughout the U.S., Japan and Europe. His music is heard on Cantaur, Hat Hut, Tzadik, and other labels. Besides making music and working with interactive computer systems, Teitelbaum has taught electronic music and composition at New York’s Vassar College, and Bard College where he has also been Director of the Electronic Music Studio. He was also instrumental in the development of the Creative Music Studio, having taught a variety of master classes on experimental and electronic music, further expanding the palette of sounds and musical experiences CMS has offered.

 Marilyn Crispell has been a composer and performer of contemporary improvised music since 1978. For ten years, she was a member of the Anthony Braxton Quartet and the Reggie Workman Ensemble, and she has performed and recorded extensively as a soloist and with players on the American and international jazz scene, also working with dancers, poets, film-makers and visual artists, and teaching workshops in improvisation. She has been the recipient of three New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship grants, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust composition commission. She has been deeply involved in the Creative Music Studio since she first came there as a student in the 1970s. Her debut recording with Anthony Braxton kicks off CMS Archive Selection Series Vol. 2.

 Leila Bordreuil is a Brooklyn based cellist and composer from Aix-en-Provence, France. She works in the realm of Noise music, improvisation, New Music and sound-art. Her cello playing is often improvised, and mainly focuses on texture variations and a collage of phantom overtones and pitched utterances. Through an original vocabulary of extended techniques, preparations, and imaginative amplification methods, her instrument is used as an abstract resonant body to challenge conventional cello practice. Her composed works draw from a similar texture-based musical aesthetic, but also focus on the relationship between sound and space. In her site-specific electro-acoustic compositions, architecture is the foundation of the piece and musicality arises from an organized spacialization of sound. Leila’s collaborative projects include duos with Michael Foster and Tamio Shiraishi, a trio with Sean Ali and Joanna Mattrey, and the no-wave band “Signal Break”. She has performed at the Whitney Museum, The Kitchen, The Stone, MoMA PS1, Issue Project Room, All Ears Festival (Oslo, NO), Cafe Oto (London, UK), Ausland (Berlin, DE), Ftarri (Tokyo, JP) , and many basements across the U.S.

 Miguel Frasconi is a composer and improviser specializing in the relationship between acoustic objects and musical form. His instrumentarium includes glass objects, analog electronics, laptop, and hybrid constructions of his own design. He has composed chamber music, operas, and numerous dance scores. His opera, Hand To Mouth, was premiered in northern California in 2015, and a new short opera will be premiered at Symphony Space, NYC, in May 2017, as part of Experiments in Opera’s spring season. Miguel has worked closely with composers John Cage, James Tenney, Pauline Oliveros, Morton Subotnick, and has collaborated with many choreographers, including Alonzo King and modern dance pioneer Anna Halprin. In September 2012 the New York Times called his CAGE100 Festival @ The Stone “one of the best observances of John Cage’s 100th birthday” and included performances by his Noisy Toy Piano Orchestra and John Cage Variety Show Big Band. Miguel’s music has been released on New Albion, Porter Records, clang.cl, and recordings of his string quartets will soon be released on the Tzadik label.

Greenwich House Music School (GHMS) has been providing high-quality music education to the people of New York City since 1905. The school has occupied its current location since 1914 and has played an important part in the careers and lives of tens of thousands of students. The distinguished faculty works to ensure students of all ages have the opportunity to experience music through classes and performances, and being at the center of New York’s downtown arts scene allows for an array of renowned artists to become active at the school. Past guests have included John Cage, Jorma Kaukonen, Henry Cowell, Edgar Varèse, Morton Subotnick, Joan La Barbara and Meredith Monk. The school continues to serve the musical needs of students of all ages with private lessons, group classes, ensembles and regular student and faculty recitals. In addition to educating its students, GHMS serves the community with a wide spectrum of concerts and readings in its Renee Weiler Concert Hall, hosts education workshops and meetings for local civic and cultural organizations, and provides rehearsal and performance space for local musicians.

The Creative Music Studio engages musicians and listeners from all backgrounds and traditions, deepening and transforming their personal experience, understanding and expression of music as a universal language by illuminating its shared elements in workshops, residencies, performances, recording and archival projects throughout the U.S. and around the globe. 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. www.creativemusic.org

Robert D. Bielecki Foundation Grant Supports CMS’ 2017 Season Of Concerts And Workshops

The Creative Music Studio™ has received a grant from the Robert D. Bielecki Foundation.  The $11,500 grant will underwrite scholarships for CMS™ workshops and production expenses for performances by the CMS Improvisers Orchestra and smaller ensembles.

“The Creative Music Studio, under the leadership and steadfast commitment of co-founders Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso, remains as vital to the health of creative music today as it was at its inception nearly 50 years ago,” said Robert D. Bielecki.

CMS will use the funds to support scholarships for aspiring musicians at its upcoming workshops:

  • NYC Workshop March 31 – April 2: Nels Cline, Susie Ibarra
  • Spring Workshop I:  June 12 – 16: Min Xiao Fen, Peter Apfelbaum, Warren Smith, Joe McPhee, plus more
  • Spring Workshop II:  June 19 – 23: Billy Martin, Cyro Baptista, Mark Guiliana, and more
  • Fall Workshop Oct 2 – 6: Mary Halvorson, Omar Tekbilek, Billy Martin, and more

The Robert D. Bielecki Foundation grant will also be used to underwrite production expenses for upcoming ensemble performances CMS is presenting at Greenwich House Music School:
April 10:  Richard Teitlebaum, Marilyn Crispell, Miguel Frasconi and Leila Bordreuil
May 13:  Karl Berger, Steve Gorn, Ken Filiano, Thomas Ulrich, Jason Hwang, and Sana Nagano

Finally, the grant will support Saturday evening performances by the CMS Improvisers Orchestra at the El Taller Artspace and Community Center in East Harlem: April 29, May 27, June 10, September 30, October 28, November 25 and December 9, 2017. The CMS™ Improvisers Orchestra takes the principles of CMS Workshops to a professional level with extraordinary results. In 90 performances, the CMS™ Improvisers Orchestra has received numerous critical reviews. The Wall Street Journal said the orchestra’s sound “draws on lush harmonies and a well-defined relationship between foreground soloists and background” while 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.’”

Events in Manhattan and the Catskill Mountains Feature Mary Halvorson, Nels Cline, Billy Martin and others

CMS will present an expanded series of concerts and workshops in Manhattan and upstate New York throughout 2017, featuring a diverse line up including Nels Cline, Mary Halvorson, Min Xiao Fen, Billy Martin and many others.

The CMS™ 2017 season begins with the first workshops it has conducted in New York City in over twenty years, from March 31 – April 2, at the Greenwich House Music School (46 Barrow St.) in Greenwich Village. The workshop features two master classes per day with guiding artists guitarist/bandleader/composer Nels Cline (Wilco) and percussionist/composer Susie Ibarra, along with CMS co-founders Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso leading CMS ‘basic practice’ as well as improvisers’ orchestra sessions. Bassist Ken Filiano and other musicians work with participants on a more personal level, informally coaching, playing and tutoring daily.  Details and registration are here.

Also at Greenwich House Music School CMS will present two evening concerts.  “The Music of Richard Teitelbaum” with noted composer Richard Teitelbaum  (electronics), Marilyn Crispell (piano), Leila Bordreuil (cello) and Miguel Frasconi (glass object instruments) on Saturday, April 8 at , 8:30 PM.  The next month CMS will present “The Music of Karl Berger” with Karl Berger (piano), Steve Gorn (bansuri flutes, clarinet), Sana Nagano (violin), Jason Hwang (viola), Tomas Ulrich (cello), and Ken Filiano (bass) on Saturday, May13 at 8 PM.

In June CMS heads upstate to Big Indian, NY in the Catskill Mountains for an expanded workshop intensive at its upstate home, Full Moon Resort.  The workshop will be split into two parts. The first will take place June 12 -16, featuring Warren Smith, Peter Apfelbaum, Min Xiao Fen on Chinese modes, Joe McPhee, Tanya Kalmanovitch, Ken Filiano, Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso, and others.  The second part will take place June 19 – 23, featuring Billy Martin, Cyro Baptista, Mark Guiliana, Gil Olivera, Allen Herman, Adam Morford and others.  Musicians and non-musicians can sign up for either part, and if they register for both workshops, they will receive a 25% discount.

CMS will be back in Manhattan for a series of concerts by the CMS Improvisers Orchestra at the El Taller Cultural Community Center 215 East 99th Street.  The concerts will take place on three Saturday evenings, April 29, May 27 and June 10 and will feature special guests composer/violinist David Soldier (4/29), poets Papoleto Melendez and Bernardo Palumbo (5/27) and percussionist Valerie Naranjo (6/10), along with CIO regulars Peter Apfelbaum, Warren Smith, Graham Haynes and Ken Filiano, among many others.

On Labor Day weekend, on Saturday, September 2 at 8:00pm, CMS will be at Woodstock’s legendary Maverick Concerts to present “In the Spirit of Don Cherry,” a septet led by Karl Berger and featuring CMS associate artistic directors Steven Bernstein and Peter Apfelbaum, Mark Helias, Tani Tabbal, Bob Stewart and Ingrid Sertso, exploring musical themes from Cherry’s 50 year-old landmark recordings Symphony for Improvisers and other recordings.

CMS’ Fall 2017 Workshop will take place at the Full Moon Resort from October 2-6, featuring composer/guitarist Mary Halvorson, drummer Billy Martin, Omar Tekbilek on Turkish music, bassist Ken Filiano, Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso and additional performers to be named.

The CMS 2017 season will conclude with a second concert series at El Taller on four Saturdays: September 30, October 28, November 25 and December 9. Special guests and artistic collaborations will be detailed at a later date.

Peter Apfelbaum, Joe McPhee, Warren Smith, Tanya Kalmanovitch, Min Xiao Fen and CMS Co-Founders Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso To Lead Spring 2017 Workshop

June 12 – 16 Workshop Features Intensive Workshops, Jam Sessions and Intimate Concerts in a Spectacular Mountainside Setting

Creative Music Studio (CMS) associate artistic director Peter Apfelbaum, percussion master Warren Smith, reed player Joe McPhee, Chinese pipa player Min Xiao Fen, violist Tanya Kalmanovitch join CMS co-founders Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso as Guiding Artists for the CMS Spring 2017 Workshop intensive, June 12 – 16 at the ear-inspiring Full Moon Resort in Big Indian, NY.

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The workshop will be held in conjunction with a second workshop the following week, June 19 – 23, led by Billy Martin, Cyro Baptista, Mark Guiliana, Allen Herman and others (a 25% discount will be offered to those who register for both workshops).

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CMS™ NYC Workshop Intensive, March 31 – April 2

Guitarist/bandleader/composer Nels Cline along with percussionist/composer Susie Ibarra join Creative Music Studio™ Artistic Directors/Co-founders Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso as Guiding Artists for the CMS™ NYC Workshop Intensive, March 31 – April 2, conveniently located at the Greenwich House Music School in Greenwich Village.

Workshops include daily CMS 'Basic Practice,’ including rhythm and vocal training, improvisers’ orchestra sessions and two master classes per day with Nels and Susie, as well as jam sessions with Guiding Artists. Bassist Ken Filiano and other musicians will be on hand to work with participants on a more personal level, informally coaching, playing and tutoring daily. Meals will be provided. The cost, including meals, is $350; registrations before March 1 will be only $300.

Register Now

This workshop, the first CMS has conducted in New York City in over twenty years, features a single CMS Guiding Artist working with participants in two extensive workshops each day, creating multiple opportunities for artists to work directly with participants as individuals or in ensembles. As in the past, there will be daily CMS basic practice (breath work, rhythm and vocal training), as well as 90 minutes each day with Karl Berger leading orchestra of improvisers.

A recent CMS workshop participant said, “Ultimately, music must be an expression of our freedom, not our boundaries. I found my freedom at CMS, in my ability to play what I hear and to hear what I play. This is more than a lesson in music; it is a lesson for life.” And, another said, “When I returned from the workshop I picked up my instrument and was blown away by the change in my mental and physical approach to playing. I was no longer afraid to play, no longer in doubt of the truth and power of my own inner music. My playing was reborn.”

CMS Workshop Guiding Artists in 2013 – 2016 have included: Vijay Iyer, Dave Douglas, John Medeski, Henry Threadgill, Joe Lovano, Steve Coleman, Hassan Hakmoun, Pauline Oliveros, Fabian Almazan, Marty Ehrlich, John Hollenbeck, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Billy Martin, Oliver Lake, Don Byron, Tyshawn Sorey, Peter Apfelbaum, Tony Malaby, Cyro Baptista, Marilyn Crispell, Steven Bernstein, Adam Rudolph, Jason Hwang, Amir el Saffar, Kirk Knuffke, Kenny Wessel, Steve Gorn, Mark Helias, Tom Rainey, Thomas Buckner, Judi Silvano, Harvey Sorgen, Tani Tabbal, Ken Filiano, Badal Roy, Warren Smith, Omar Tamez, and John Menegon, in addition to Creative Music Foundation co-founders Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso.

CMS Workshops feature two full days of intensive workshops, master classes, intimate concerts and informal jam sessions that inspire active listening, personal expression, improvisation and musical exploration. Musicians of any instrument, including voice, are welcome as are non-musicians. Adults who played music earlier in their lives can benefit from this lifelong learning opportunity that offers participants a once-in-a-lifetime experience to learn from and play with music masters, and to simply spend time with them in an informal, personal setting. The non-traditional atmosphere of the Creative Music Studio Workshop encourages participants to experiment, push beyond limits, genres and categories, to take risks, and to develop their own deeply personal musical expression.

Register Now

“CMS is always about musical diversity and this workshop promises to continue that legacy,” said Karl Berger, CMS’s artistic director. “CMS is renown for creating a space where artists from varied backgrounds mix, teach and play, and transfer deep knowledge about music and life. Nels and Susie are perfect to continue this practice.”

CMS NYC Workshop Schedule:

Friday, March 31 (1:00 – 5:30pm):

1:00 – 2:00 Orientation

2:00 – 3:00 CMS Basic Practice

3:15 – 5:15 Improvisers’ Orchestra

5:15 – 5:30 Listening Meditation

Saturday, April 1 (9:00am – 5:00pm):

9:00 – 9:30 Light breakfast, snacks

9:45- 11:45 Master Class/Workshop

12:00 – 1:00 Lunch

1:15 – 2:30 Master Class/Workshop

2:45 – 3:45 CMS Basic Practice (rhythm/vocal)

3:45 – 4:45 Improvisers Orchestra

4:45 – 5:00 Listening Meditation

Sunday, April 2 (9:00am – 10:00pm):

9:00 – 9:30 Light breakfast, snacks

9:45- 11:45 Master Class/Workshop

12:00 – 1:00 Lunch

1:15 – 2:45 Master Class/Workshop

3:00 – 4:00 CMS Basic Practice (rhythm/vocal)

4:00 – 5:30 Improvisers Orchestra

5:30 – 5:45 Listening Meditation

6:00 – 7:15 Dinner

7:30 – 10:00 Performance/Jams

Register Now

Guiding Artist Biographies:

Nels Cline, Guitarist/Composer/Bandleader
Up to the mid-2000s, guitarist Nels Cline was probably best known for his work in the group Quartet Music (with brother Alex Cline, bassist Eric Von Essen, and violinist Jeff Gauthier) as well as other projects in the jazz, rock, and avant-garde idioms, and for his general involvement in the West Coast's improvisation community. However, since 2004, Cline has been a member of Wilco, which has opened up a much larger audience for the guitarist than is typical for even the most well-known of avant jazzers and creative improvisers.

Born in Los Angeles in 1956, Cline began playing guitar around the age of 12, when his twin brother Alex began learning the drums. By the time Cline reached his twenties, he was heavily involved in L.A.'s improvisational community and, in 1978, appeared on his first recording, Openhearted, by multi-instrumentalist Vinny Golia. He went on to appear on over 70 releases, lead several of his own groups—including the Nels Cline Trio and the sextet that followed, Destroy All Nels Cline—and tour internationally with a variety of bands. As a composer, Cline has scored two films in addition to writing much of his own material. He has also produced albums for himself, G.E. Stinson, and Jeff Gauthier, among others.

Bassist Eric Von Essen and Cline met up in the late '70s and began working together, recording an album of duets called Elegies that was released in 1980 on the Nine Winds label. Von Essen got involved in an orchestra with violinist Gauthier, and it wasn't long before the three formed a group of their own. Alex Cline sat in on their first concert and eventually joined the three permanently, resulting in the group, Quartet Music, which remained together throughout the '80s. In addition to his work in Quartet Music during this decade, Cline worked with Liberation Music Orchestra West Coast, was a member of a rock band called Bloc, worked with Julius Hemphill as well as Charlie Haden, and released his first album as leader, Angelica, which included members of Quartet Music, saxophonist Tim Berne, and more.

The first half of the '90s found his new Nels Cline Trio hosting a weekly improv series for four years and recording as many albums. During the '90s, Cline also worked with Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth), Stephen Perkins (Jane's Addiction), Mike Watt (Minutemen), and the Geraldine Fibbers. A duo recording by Cline and percussionist Gregg Bendian covering John Coltrane's Interstellar Space was released by the Atavistic label in 1999. That same year, the California Music Awards named Cline Outstanding Jazz Artist of 1999. The next year, he released Inkling on Cryptogramophone, beginning a collaborative relationship with Andrea Parkins that would continue for the next several years. Destroy All Nels Cline was next, followed by the formation of the Nels Cline Singers, who released their first album, Instrumentals, in 2002.

In 2004, Cline was asked to join Wilco and has toured and appeared on all subsequent albums by them. He still had time for other projects, however: there have been several one-off collaborations during the ensuing years and two albums by the trio of Cline, Andrea Parkins, and Tom Rainey. In 2004, the Nels Cline Singers released Giant Pin, which Cline followed with an album of Andrew Hill compositions in 2006, the sublime New Monastery. Cryptogramophone subsequently issued two more releases by the Nels Cline Singers, Draw Breath in the summer of 2007 and the two-CD package Initiate in 2010. Later in the year, Cline released Dirty Baby, a double-disc collaborative project with poet and producer David Breskin. Add this project to all the work Cline has done as a sideman since the turn of the century and you've got one extremely busy, prolific, and versatile guitarist. In April of 2014, he appeared as a guest on Joan Osborne's Love and Hate album, and as a full collaborator with Medeski, Martin & Wood on Woodstock Sessions 2. In 2014, Macroscope, with the Nels Cline Singers, and Room, a duet offering with classical guitarist Julian Lage, appeared on Detroit's Mack Avenue Records.

After recording Star Wars with Wilco and a tour, Cline signed to Blue Note. His debut for the label was the double-length Lovers. Realizing a long-held dream, the set was inspired by Bill Evans, Jim Hall, Gil Evans, and Henry Mancini. Cline created an ambitious, self-proclaimed "mood music" project with an 23-member ensemble. Lovers contained jazz and Great American Songbook standards alongside originals and covers of songs by Annette Peacock, Gabor Szabo, Sonic Youth, Jimmy Giuffre, and Arto Lindsay. The single/video "Beautiful Love" was issued in early June of 2016. The album was premiered live at the Newport Jazz Festival in July, and released in August. (Billboard Magazine)

Susie Ibarra, Composer/Percussionist/Educator
Composer/Percussionist Susie Ibarra creates live and immersive music that explores rhythm, indigenous practices and interaction with cities and the natural world. She is a 2014 TEDSenior Fellow. Her work includes , Musical Water Routes in the Medina of Fez, a music and river route mobile app in collaboration with architect Aziza Chaouni, May 2016 Sacred Music Festival of Fez, Mirrows and Water, a composition and sonic installation commissioned for Ai Wei Wei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Signs at the sculpture trail of the National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson, Wyoming 2015; Digital Sanctuaries, a modular music app walk that remaps cities with sanctuaries of music and engages with historical and cultural sites within a city with music composed by Electric Kulintang commissioned by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and City of Asylum Pittsburgh; Circadian Rhythms, commissioned for Earth Day 2013 at Renssalear RPI EMPAC, inspired by endogenous rhythms for 80 percussionists and 8.1 surround sound of Macaulay Library recordings; The City, a Radio Radiance commission for Young Peoples Chorus of NYC; We Float, a 2014 commission by Ecstatic Music Festival with singer songwriter Mirah, a sonic retelling of space explorations; and The Cotabato Sessions , a digital music film and album that captures one family legacy of gong-chime kulintang music in Mindanao, Philippines . She is a Faculty member at Bennington College where she teaches Performance, Percussion, and at the Center for Advancement of Public Action. Her teaching at the Center focuses on her work in rebuilding cities with the arts, art intervention and advocacy for human rights extended equally to women and girls.

Karl Berger, PhD: Composer / Arranger / Conductor / Pianist / Vibraphonist / Consultant
Founder and director of the nonprofit Creative Music Foundation, Inc., and creative leader of the legendary Creative Music Studio, Karl Berger is dedicated to the research of the power of music and sound and the elements common to all of the world's music forms. In addition to his composing and playing, Karl is known around the world for educational presentations through workshops, concerts, recordings, and with a growing network of artists and CMS members worldwide.

Karl Berger is a six time winner of the Downbeat Critics Poll as a jazz soloist, recipient of numerous Composition Awards (commissions by the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, European Radio and Television: WDR, NDR, SWF, Radio France, Rai Italy. SWF-Prize 1994). Professor of Composition, Artist-in- Residence at universities, schools and festivals worldwide, PhD in Music Esthetics.

Karl Berger became noted for his innovative arrangements for recordings by Jeff Buckley ("Grace"), Natalie Merchant ("Ophelia"), Better Than Ezra, The Cardigans, Jonatha Brooke, Buckethead, Bootsie Collins, The Swans, Sly + Robbie, Angelique Kidjo and others; and for his collaborations with producers Bill Laswell, Alan Douglas ("Operazone"), Peter Collins, Andy Wallace, Craig Street, Alain Mallet, Malcolm Burn, Bob Marlett and many others in Woodstock, New York City, Los Angeles, Tokyo, London, Paris and Rome.

He recorded and performed with Don Cherry, Lee Konitz, John McLaughlin, Gunther Schuller, the Mingus Epitaph Orchestra, Dave Brubeck, Ingrid Sertso, Dave Holland, Ed Blackwell, Ray Anderson, Carlos Ward, Pharoah Sanders, Blood Ulmer, Hozan Yamamoto and many others at festivals and concerts in the US, Canada, Europe, Africa, India, Phillippines, Japan, Mexico and Brazil.

His recordings and arrangements appear on the Atlantic, Axiom, Black Saint, Blue Note, Capitol, CBS, Columbia Double Moon, Douglas Music, Elektra, EMI, Enja, Island, JVC, Knitting Factory, In&Out, MCA, Milestone, Polygram, Pye, RCA, SONY, Stockholm, Vogue and others.

Ingrid Sertso: Vocalist, Poet
Through her work with such avant-jazz musicians as Don Cherry and Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso established herself as a captivating, adventurous vocalist, capable of blending jazz, African, South American and other worldbeat influences into a distinctive, hypnotic sound.

Although Sertso didn't become well-known until the release of Dance with It in 1994, she spent over 20 years honing her art. During the late '60s, she lived in Europe, leading her own trios and performing with the likes of Eric Dolphy, Don Cherry, Steve Lacy, Karl Berger and Leo Wright; she also worked as a music teacher at several institutions in Europe. In 1972, she became a permanent resident of the United States and she released her first album, We Are You, on Calig Records. Over the next few years she taught, while she performed in North America and Europe with the likes of Cherry, Ed Blackwell, Lee Konitz, Sam Rivers, Jimmy Giuffre, Bob Moses, Dave Holland, Perry Robinson and Jumma Santos. In 1974, she released Kalaparush on Trio Records in Japan. It was followed in 1975 by Peace Church Concerts on India Navigation/CMC Records.

In 1975, Sertso became a faculty member at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. She stayed there through 1975 and 1976, before moving to the Banff Centre of Fine Arts in Calgary, Canada. She had two residencies at Banff before moving to the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, New York, where she became the co-director. While working at the Creative Music Studio, she began singing in the Art of Improvisation with Berger and David Inzenon. In 1979, she toured major European cities as a solo artists, supported by the Woodstock Workshop Orchestra. She also released an album on MPS Records that year.

During the early '80s, Sertso remained a co-director at the Creative Music Studio, while continuing to record and perform with a variety of musicians, including such mainstays as Don Cherry and Karl Berger, as well as Paulo Moura, Nana Vasconcelos, Steve Gorn, Dan Brubeck and Mike Richmond. In 1984, she performed with the Music Universe Orchestra at the Kool Festival in New York and released a duet album, Changing the Time, with Berger on Horo Records in Italy. She also toured Europe twice during this time and she also toured West Africa with Olatunji and Aiyb Dieng.

Sertso's career picked up momentum during the latter half of the '90s. She held a series of concerts and workshops in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and she regularly tour the US on club and festival circuit. Sertso also toured Europe twice and sang solo vocals on Berger's orchestral ballet, The Bird. She was one of the co-leaders of Rhythm Changes, who released the Jazzdance album on ITM Records. During these five years, she also performed and recorded with a variety of artists, including Pauline Oliveros, Lee Konitz, Frank Luther, Anthony Cox, Leroy Jenkins, Jimmy Cobber, Linda Montano and Karl Berger.

In 1990, Sertso catapulted back into the mainstream jazz spotlight through her version "Until the Rain Comes" on Don Cherry's Multi Kulti album. Shortly afterward, she began working on a new album, but she became sidetracked by collaborating with Karl Berger and guitarist Paul Koji Shigihara. The trio blended original compositions with Sertso's poetry, improvisations and interpretations of traditional tune. Sertso also regularly performed poetry readings at the Tinker Street Cafe in Woodstock and the Knitting Factory in New York, and she also regularly played clubs along the Northeast coast. In 1994, she released her comeback album Dance with It, which earned positive reviews. —Stephen Thomas Erlewine (All Music Guide)

Ken Filiano: bassist
Bass player, composer, improviser, Ken FIliano has been performing throughout the world for thirty years, collaborating with leading artists in multiple genres, fusing the rich traditions of the double bass with his own seemingly limitless inventiveness. Ken leads two quartets, Quantum Entanglements, and Baudalino's Dilemma (Vinny Golia, Warren Smith, Michael TA Thompson), and is a co-leader of The Steve Adams/Ken Filiano Duo and TranceFormation (Connie Crothers, Andrea Wolper.) His extensive discography includes a solo bass CD, “subvenire” (NineWinds), and “Dreams From a Clown Car" (Clean Feed), which presents his compositions for his quartet, Quantum Entanglements (Michael Attias, Tony Malaby, Michael TA Thompson). Ken has performed and/or recorded with Karl Berger, Bobby Bradford, Anthony Braxton, Connie Crothers Quartet, Bill Dixon, Ted Dunbar, Giora Feidman Quartet, Vinny Golia ensembles, Taylor Ho Bynum, Jason Kao Hwang, Joseph Jarman, Raul Juanena, Joelle Leandre, Frank London, Tina Marsh, Warne Marsh, Dom Minasi, Barre Phillips, Roswell Rudd, ROVA Saxophone Qt., Paul Smoker, Fay Victor Ensemble, Pablo Zielger, and many more. Ken is on the teaching roster at the New School in New York, and is a guest artist lecturer at School of Visual Arts and Hunter College (New York). He teaches master classes in bass and improvisation, and has a private bass studio in Brooklyn.

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Cancellation Policy:

CMS reserves the right to cancel the workshop by March 11, 2017. In the event of cancellation, anyone who has signed up will receive a full refund, excluding any fees paid to register.

Taxes and Fees:

As a 501c3 nonprofit, CMS does not need to charge sales tax for this event. But there will be modest registration fees via EventBrite for registering.

CMS™ NYC Workshop Intensive, March 31 – April 2

Mark Dresser and Nicole Mitchell Join CMS Co-Founders Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso At CMS Los Angeles Workshops

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The CMS LA Workshop runs 9:45am–7pm, followed by evening concert performances and open jam sessions with Guiding Artists. Daily CMS 'Basic Practice' includes rhythm and vocal training, improviser’s orchestra sessions and two master classes with Guiding Artists.  Other musicians will be on hand to work with participants on a more personal level, informally coaching, playing and tutoring daily. Gourmet meals will be provided. Cost, including all meals, is $350. Early registration before December 15 is only $300. Partial scholarships may be available by inquiring directly to CMS. 

This workshop, the first CMS has conducted in Los Angeles, features a single CMS Guiding Artist working with participants in two extensive workshops each day, creating multiple opportunities for artists to work directly with participants as individuals or in ensembles.  As in the past, there will be daily CMS basic practice (breath work, rhythm and vocal training), as well as 90 minutes each day with Karl Berger leading orchestra of improvisers.   

“I found my freedom at CMS, in my ability to play what I hear and to hear what I play. This is more than a lesson in music; it is a lesson for life,” said a recent CMS Workshop participant.  Another participant said, “When I returned from the workshop I picked up my instrument and was blown away by the change in my mental and physical approach to playing. I was no longer afraid to play, no longer in doubt of the truth and power of my own inner music. My playing was reborn.”

Recaps, videos and testimonials from past workshops are available here.

CMS Workshop Guiding Artists in 2013 – 2016 have included: Vijay Iyer, Dave Douglas, John Medeski, Henry Threadgill, Joe Lovano, Meshell Ndegeocello, Hassan Hakmoun, Pauline Oliveros, Fabian Almazan, Marty Ehrlich, John Hollenbeck, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Billy Martin, Oliver Lake, Don Byron, Tyshawn Sorey, Peter Apfelbaum, Tony Malaby, Cyro Baptista, Marilyn Crispell, Steven Bernstein, Adam Rudolph, Jason Hwang, Amir el Saffar, Kirk Knuffke, Kenny Wessel, Steve Gorn, Mark Helias, Tom Rainey, Thomas Buckner, Judi Silvano, Harvey Sorgen, Tani Tabbal, Ken Filiano, Badal Roy, Warren Smith, Omar Tamez, and John Menegon, in addition to Creative Music Foundation co-founders Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso.  

CMS Workshops feature two full days of intensive workshops, master classes, intimate concerts and informal jam sessions that inspire active listening, personal expression, improvisation and musical exploration. Musicians of any instrument, including voice, are welcome as are non-musicians.  Adults who played music earlier in their lives can benefit from this lifelong learning opportunity that offers participants a once-in-a-lifetime experience to learn from and play with music masters, and to simply spend time with them in an informal, personal setting.   The non-traditional atmosphere of the Creative Music Studio Workshop encourages participants to experiment, push beyond limits, genres and categories, to take risks, and to develop their own deeply personal musical expression.

“CMS is always about musical diversity and this workshop promises to continue that legacy,” said Karl Berger, CMS’s artistic director. “CMS is renown for creating a space where artists from different generations and varied backgrounds mix, teach and play, and transfer deep knowledge about music and life.  Mark and Nicole are perfect to continue this practice.”

Register Now

CMS LA Workshop Schedule:

Friday, January 27:

7pm –                  Orientation

8pm - 10              Improvisers Orchestra

10 - ?                   Jams

Saturday/Sunday January 28, 29:

9:00  – 9:45          Light breakfast, snacks

9:45 – 11:15         CMS Basic Practice: Rhythm/Voice Training 

11:30 – 1:00         Master Class/Workshop

1:00 – 2:15           Catered Lunch

2:30 - 5:00           Master Class/Workshop

5:15 – 6:45           Improvisers Orchestra

6:45 – 7:00           Listening Meditation

7:00 – 8:15           Catered Dinner

8:30 – Midnight      Performances/Jams with Guiding Artists

 

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Guiding Artist Biographies:

Nicole Mitchell, flutist, composer, bandleader, educator 

Nicole Mitchell is a creative flutist, composer, bandleader and educator.  As the founder of Black Earth Ensemble, Black Earth Strings, Ice Crystal and Sonic Projections, Mitchell has been repeatedly awarded by DownBeat Critics Poll and the Jazz Journalists Association as “Top Flutist of the Year” for the last four years (2010-2014). Mitchell’s music celebrates African American culture while reaching across genres and integrating new ideas with moments in the legacy of jazz, gospel, experimentalism, pop and African percussion through albums such as Black Unstoppable (Delmark, 2007), Awakening (Delmark, 2011), and Xenogenesis Suite: A Tribute to Octavia Butler (Firehouse 12, 2008), which received commissioning support from Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works.

Mitchell formerly served as the first woman president of Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), and has been a member since 1995. In recognition of her impact within the Chicago music and arts education communities, she was named “Chicagoan of the Year” in 2006 by the Chicago Tribune. With her ensembles, as a featured flutist and composer, Mitchell has been a highlight at festivals and art venues throughout Europe, the U.S. and Canada. 

Ms.Mitchell is a recipient of the prestigious Alpert Award in the Arts (2011) and has been commissioned by Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, the Ravinia Festival, the Chicago Jazz Festival, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the Chicago Sinfonietta Orchestra and Maggio Fiorentino Chamber Orchestra (Florence, Italy).  In 2009, she created Honoring Grace: Michelle Obama for the Jazz Institute of Chicago. She has been a faculty member at the Vancouver Creative Music Institute, the Sherwood Flute Institute, Banff International Jazz Workshop and the University of Illinois, Chicago. Her work has been featured on National Public Radio, and in magazines including Ebony, Downbeat, JazzIz, Jazz Times, Jazz Wise, and American Legacy.

Nicole is currently a Professor of Music, teaching in "Integrated Composition, Improvisation and Technology," (ICIT) a new and expansively-minded graduate program at the University of California, Irvine. In November 2014, ICIT was approved for the unleashing of a new MA/PhD program, which will be offered starting fall 2015.  Mitchell's recent composition, Flight for Freedom for Creative Flute and Orchestra, a Tribute to Harriet Tubman, premiered with the Chicago Composers’ Orchestra in December 2011 and was presented again with CCO in May 2014.  She was also commisisoned by Chicago Sinfonietta for Harambee: Road to Victory, for Solo Flute, Choir and Orchestra in January 2012.  Her latest commission was from the French Ministry of Culture and the Royaumont Foundation in October 2014, which supported the development and French tour of Beyond Black - a collaboration with kora master Ballake Sissoko, Black Earth Ensemble and friends. Currently Mitchell is preparing her next commission supported by the French American Jazz Exchange, entitled Moments of Fatherhood, featuring Black Earth Ensemble and the Parisian chamber group L'Ensemble Laborintus, to premiere at the Sons d'hiver Jazz Festival in late January 2015. 

Among the first class of Doris Duke Artists (2012), Mitchell works to raise respect and integrity for the improvised flute, to contribute her innovative voice to the jazz legacy, and to continue the bold and exciting directions that the AACM has charted for decades.  With contemporary ensembles of varying instrumentation and size (from solo to orchestra), Mitchell’s mission is to celebrate the power of endless possibility by “creating visionary worlds through music that bridge the familiar and the unknown.”

 

Mark Dresser, bassist, composer, educator 

Mark Dresser is a Grammy nominated, internationally renowned bass player, improviser, composer, and interdisciplinary collaborator. At the core of his music is an artistic obsession and commitment to expanding the sonic, musical, and expressive possibilities of the contrabass. He has recorded over one hundred thirty CDs including three solo CDs and a DVD. From 1985 to 1994, he was a member of Anthony Braxton’s Quartet, which recorded nine CDs and was the subject of Graham Locke’s book Forces in Motion (Da Capo). He has also performed and recorded music of Ray Anderson, Jane Ira Bloom, Tim Berne, Anthony Davis, Dave Douglas, Osvaldo Golijov, Gerry Hemingway, Bob Ostertag, Joe Lovano, Roger Reynolds, Henry Threadgill, Dawn Upshaw, John Zorn. Dresser most recent and internationally acclaimed new music for jazz quintet, Nourishments (2013) his latest CD (Clean Feed) marks his re-immersion as a bandleader. Since 2007 he has been deeply involved in telematic music performance and education. He was awarded a 2015 Shifting Foundation Award and 2015 Doris Duke Impact Award. He is Professor of Music at University of California, San Diego.

“Calling contrabassist Mark Dresser a virtuoso is like saying Albert Einstein was good at math.” San Diego City Times. 

“Mr. Dresser, a bassist who is one of the great instrumental forces in recent American jazz outside of the mainstream… New York Times

 

Karl Berger, PhD: Composer / Arranger / Conductor / Pianist / Vibraphonist / Consultant 

Founder and director of the nonprofit Creative Music Foundation, Inc., and creative leader of the legendary Creative Music Studio, Karl Berger is dedicated to the research of the power of music and sound and the elements common to all of the world's music forms. In addition to his composing and playing, Karl is known around the world for educational presentations through workshops, concerts, recordings, and with a growing network of artists and CMS members worldwide.

Karl Berger is a six time winner of the Downbeat Critics Poll as a jazz soloist, recipient of numerous Composition Awards (commissions by the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, European Radio and Television: WDR, NDR, SWF, Radio France, Rai Italy. SWF-Prize 1994). Professor of Composition, Artist-in- Residence at universities, schools and festivals worldwide, PhD in Music Esthetics.

Karl Berger became noted for his innovative arrangements for recordings by Jeff Buckley ("Grace"), Natalie Merchant ("Ophelia"), Better Than Ezra, The Cardigans, Jonatha Brooke, Buckethead, Bootsie Collins, The Swans, Sly + Robbie, Angelique Kidjo and others; and for his collaborations with producers Bill Laswell, Alan Douglas ("Operazone"), Peter Collins, Andy Wallace, Craig Street, Alain Mallet, Malcolm Burn, Bob Marlett and many others in Woodstock, New York City, Los Angeles, Tokyo, London, Paris and Rome.

He recorded and performed with Don Cherry, Lee Konitz, John McLaughlin, Gunther Schuller, the Mingus Epitaph Orchestra, Dave Brubeck, Ingrid Sertso, Dave Holland, Ed Blackwell, Ray Anderson, Carlos Ward, Pharoah Sanders, Blood Ulmer, Hozan Yamamoto and many others at festivals and concerts in the US, Canada, Europe, Africa, India, Phillippines, Japan, Mexico and Brazil.

His recordings and arrangements appear on the Atlantic, Axiom, Black Saint, Blue Note, Capitol, CBS, Columbia Double Moon, Douglas Music, Elektra, EMI, Enja, Island, JVC, Knitting Factory, In&Out, MCA, Milestone, Polygram, Pye, RCA, SONY, Stockholm, Vogue and others.

 

Ingrid SertsoVocalist, Poet 

Through her work with such avant-jazz musicians as Don Cherry and Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso established herself as a captivating, adventurous vocalist, capable of blending jazz, African, South American and other worldbeat influences into a distinctive, hypnotic sound.

Although Sertso didn't become well-known until the release of Dance with It in 1994, she spent over 20 years honing her art. During the late '60s, she lived in Europe, leading her own trios and performing with the likes of Eric Dolphy, Don Cherry, Steve Lacy, Karl Berger and Leo Wright; she also worked as a music teacher at several institutions in Europe. In 1972, she became a permanent resident of the United States and she released her first album, We Are You, on Calig Records. Over the next few years she taught, while she performed in North America and Europe with the likes of Cherry, Ed Blackwell, Lee Konitz, Sam Rivers, Jimmy Giuffre, Bob Moses, Dave Holland, Perry Robinson and Jumma Santos. In 1974, she released Kalaparush on Trio Records in Japan. It was followed in 1975 by Peace Church Concerts on India Navigation/CMC Records.

In 1975, Sertso became a faculty member at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. She stayed there through 1975 and 1976, before moving to the Banff Centre of Fine Arts in Calgary, Canada. She had two residencies at Banff before moving to the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, New York, where she became the co-director. While working at the Creative Music Studio, she began singing in the Art of Improvisation with Berger and David Inzenon. In 1979, she toured major European cities as a solo artists, supported by the Woodstock Workshop Orchestra. She also released an album on MPS Records that year.

During the early '80s, Sertso remained a co-director at the Creative Music Studio, while continuing to record and perform with a variety of musicians, including such mainstays as Don Cherry and Karl Berger, as well as Paulo Moura, Nana Vasconcelos, Steve Gorn, Dan Brubeck and Mike Richmond. In 1984, she performed with the Music Universe Orchestra at the Kool Festival in New York and released a duet album, Changing the Time, with Berger on Horo Records in Italy. She also toured Europe twice during this time and she also toured West Africa with Olatunji and Aiyb Dieng.

Sertso's career picked up momentum during the latter half of the '90s. She held a series of concerts and workshops in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and she regularly tour the US on club and festival circuit. Sertso also toured Europe twice and sang solo vocals on Berger's orchestral ballet, The Bird. She was one of the co-leaders of Rhythm Changes, who released the Jazzdance album on ITM Records. During these five years, she also performed and recorded with a variety of artists, including Pauline Oliveros, Lee Konitz, Frank Luther, Anthony Cox, Leroy Jenkins, Jimmy Cobber, Linda Montano and Karl Berger.

In 1990, Sertso catapulted back into the mainstream jazz spotlight through her version "Until the Rain Comes" on Don Cherry's Multi Kulti album. Shortly afterward, she began working on a new album, but she became sidetracked by collaborating with Karl Berger and guitarist Paul Koji Shigihara. The trio blended original compositions with Sertso's poetry, improvisations and interpretations of traditional tune. Sertso also regularly performed poetry readings at the Tinker Street Cafe in Woodstock and the Knitting Factory in New York, and she also regularly played clubs along the Northeast coast. In 1994, she released her comeback album Dance with It, which earned positive reviews. —Stephen Thomas Erlewine (All Music Guide)

 

 

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Cancellation Policy:

CMS reserves the right to cancel the workshop by January 11 2017.  In the event of cancellation, anyone who has signed up will receive a full refund, excluding any fees paid to register.

CMS Receives New York State Council on the Arts Grant for CMS Improvisers Orchestra Performances

WOODSTOCK, NY, December 6, 2016 - The Creative Music Studio™ has received a grant from the New York State Council for the Arts (NYSCA) with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.  The $5,000 grant will support repertoire development and performances in 2017 by the CMS™ Improvisers Orchestra conducted by Karl Berger.

"We look forward to applying these funds to our 2017 programs’ musician fees," says CMS Executive Director Rob Saffer. "The support of NYSCA and our other funders is vital to growing CMS' public performance activities and providing working New York musicians with both creative and financial opportunities.”

The CMS™ Improvisers Orchestra, conducted in artistic director Karl Berger’s inimitable style developed over decades, is comprised of 20 or more professional string, horn, reed and percussionists.  It explores original compositions by Berger as well as melodies from the world's folk traditions, and themes written by visionaries 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.

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

The CMS™ Improvisers Orchestra has received numerous critical reviews. 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.’”

Pauline Oliveros, Fabian Almazan and Steven Bernstein Go Deep at CMS Fall Workshop – Read Kurt Gottschalk’s Recap

 

CMS Fall Workshop 2016 Chronicles

By Kurt Gottschalk

Monday, September 19:

A pair of double bassists took the Roadhouse stage Sept. 19 in the second of a series of evening encounters. Both were in dark shirts and cargo shorts, both wearing big grins, one barefooted the other in stocking feet.  Before they even began, they were drawing good-natured gibes from the musicians in the audience. They played a brief improvisation, Ken Filiano, stage left, steering the ship as Leigh Daniels, to his right, looked on entranced.

It was more or less the eve of the Fall 2016, Creative Music Studio workshop and it was more or less a night for feeling one another out. Already a camaraderie had begun to develop. Having already done a round of introductions and shared a big meal and drinks, they now were setting about what they had come for.

Pianist and CMS Guest Artist Angelica Sanchez is coordinating the evening performances, announcing that a guitar trio would be up next and asked if anyone wants to play who isn’t on  the list. Sitting in the front row, participant Bob Drake motioned and was given the choice – as are all the players – to either pick a band or draw names. He chose the latter, resulting in bassist Daniels’ return to the stage for a pleasingly sympatico duet with analog electronics.

Then came the first all-star set of the week: cofounders Karl Berger (keyboard) and Ingrid Sertso (voice) with Omar Tamez on guitar, Donny Davis on reeds, Joe Hertenstein on drums and Ken Filiano on bass, beginning in a drift before everyone was even set up, slipping into some casual bop and, at length, into abstractions on “Blue Moon.” It was, perhaps, a tribute to the Full Moon Resort, the modest Catskills getaway where CMS has been holding its semi-annual workshops since its rebirth in 2013. For the rest of the week, a couple dozen participants were to be involved in daytime workshops, covering improvisation of course but also breathing, movement, voice, rhythm, world spirituality and more. Evenings would see more performances, including other guests and workshop leaders, including Fabian Almazan, Steven Bernstein, Iva Bittova, Pauline Oliveros and others.

But for now, they were just playing, with each other and for themselves.

 

Tuesday, September 20:

Tweeted:

“I thought I heard some pretty good listening.” – Bob Sweet

“We don’t learn something here, we take it out.” –  Ingrid Sertso

“I don’t practice, I already practiced. If we keep playing the same licks, they’ll lose their spontaneity.” –  Pauline Oliveros

“Blend any note with any note. Don’t be afraid. Harmonize through dynamics.  Listen to all of it.” –  Karl Berger

“Pay attention to every moment, every sound, every sound of every sound. That’s beat for beat attention.” –  Karl Berger

“There’s no such thing as pitch, only sound that you constantly hear and adjust.” – Karl Berger

What does it mean to listen? The question needed to be asked, if not entirely answered (or so it seemed), before any instruments could be picked up on the first full day at the Creative Music Studio’s fall workshop on Sept. 20.

Such preparations involved workshops with Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso focusing on breath, voice, rhythm and polyrhythm followed by a session led by composer and sound philosopher Pauline Oliveros focusing on active listening.

Oliveros described playing her accordion with Stuart Dempster on didgeridoo in a huge, demilitarized underground cisterns with a 45-second decay — a “hall of audio mirrors,” she called it — for five solid hours. That session inspired the name she gave to her work and research, “deep listening.” Ever since, she said, she has been working to define “the difference between hearing and listening.”

Oliveros also spoke about her work with instruments designed to allow deaf people to “hear” tones by receiving the vibrations tactilely. “I’ve learned there is a lot to learn about listening from deaf people,” she said. She then addressed her own hearing loss at 84 years of age and concerns about finding a hearing aid that isn’t designed solely for hearing speech.

The session included a 15-minute “listening meditation” after which the participants were divided into small groups to discuss their listening experiences and then to compare with the whole of the group. Implicit in the activity was the idea that if you can’t listen to your environment, you can’t listen to the musicians you’re playing with.

“I’m trying to transmit to players the deepest part of where we get our music from, if we are able to do that,” Oliveros said.

The morning’s exercises seemed to pay off. After lunch and a session of body awareness, the players committed a gentle group improvisation under Oliveros’s direction without giving in to the temptation to solo and found a mutual, organic resolution. The teacher, however, was not finished challenging her charges.

“What you misunderstood created an interesting texture but what was missing for me was reinforcing that environmental sound,” Oliveros said.
“I just want to wail on top of that,” said reed player Donny Davis, drawing laughs.
“I know, I could feel the tension,” she replied.

Oliveros instructed the group to reinforce (not to echo or overpower) a naturally occurring sound inside or outside the room through several rounds of solo, duo and trio exercises. They then tried another group piece, this time more daring, more variegated, exploring nonmusical sounds still without the intrusion of ego.

“I thought I heard some pretty good listening,” laughed drummer Robert Sweet, a workshop participant and author of the book All Kinds of Time, a history of the Creative Music Studio.

With that established, the participants undertook group playing in the CMS Composers Orchestra under Berger’s direction, beginning with an improvisation on a single note, then learning the system of hand gestures he uses to guide group improv.  Next he gave them a set of boppish lines, quickly woodshedded them and and then applied a quick 45-minutes of schooling to create a convincing performance reminiscent of the Charles Mingus jazz workshop.

The evening’s performances began with what could only be described as a significant meeting between Oliveros, Sertso and guest artists Czech violinist and singer Iva Bittova. It was simultaneously exploratory and charming. Then followed a very satisfying pair of jams on various two Ornette Coleman pieces with Berger and Sertso, Davis, trumpeter Steven Bernstein, bassist Ken Filiano, drummer Joe Hertenstein, pianist Angelica Sanchez and guitarist Omar Tamez.

A few student ensembles which seemed to bring the evening to an early end, with the name to watch out for being Nikki Malley. She showed herself to be inventive, exciting and not lacking in musculature on her vibraphone. A first-meeting duet with Guiding Artist Fabian Almazan on piano and Hartenstein on drums quieted the room. After a brief pause, unwilling to let the stage sit empty, Berger reclaimed his position at the keyboard after the students had finished for a series of duets on standards, including a wonderful take on “Take the A Train” with Bernstein and ending in a fantastically staggered reading “St. Thomas” with Hertenstein. Earlier in the day, Berger had told the workshop participants that “with music, when you play, there is no age.” But vamping on Duke Ellington and Sonny Rollins, the 81-year-old trailblazer displayed a wisdom that only comes with years.

 

Wednesday, September 21:

Tweeted:

“If you are shy, I am shy. So please, let’s tune.” – Ingrid Sertso

“We basically have a childlike nature, a purity that you have to get in touch with in order to do art.” – Ingrid Sertso

“We give the music to the world. We don’t keep it in.” – Ingrid Sertso

“It’s funny, we’re an intellectual society now and we’ve forgotten to sing together.” – Karl Berger

“When you sing, there’s a vibration in your head that doesn’t allow you to think the same way. Use that.” – Karl Berger

“As I go on in my own music, I find a play less and less. I leave more and more space.” – Karl Berger

Day 3 of the Creative Music Studio fall workshop proved to be was a foray into Cuban rhythms. With each of the semi-annual sessions, a different world culture is selected for a day’s investigation and pianist/composer Fabian Almazan was invited to introduce the music of his heritage for the Sept. 21 workshop/master class.

After the daily body awareness session and morning rhythm and voice exercises led by CMS co-founders Karl Berger (“When you sing, there’s a vibration in your head that doesn’t allow you to think the same way. Use that.”) and Ingrid Sertso (“We basically have a childlike nature, a purity that you have to get in touch with in order to do art.”), Almazan took over with a lecture on the history and practice of Cuban music that would last from 11:30 to 5 (with a break for lunch and another body awareness session).  He explained the history of various rhythmic patterns and how those ‘musical units’ affect melodic and harmonic composition.  He showed video of Santeria ceremonies, once ‘banned’ in Cuba, now celebrated by the new government and used as a form or tourism: “San-tourism” he called it. He also showed the group the variety of Cuban instruments and their derivation from other parts of the globe, while also explaining how in Cuba, everything is used as an instrument, tapping out rhythms on a nearby recycling bin as an example.

Almazan’s influence carried over into Berger’s afternoon Improvisers Orchestra session, where the talented young pianist (who came to America from Havana at age 9) led the ensemble of participants in instrumental explorations of Cuban themes. In the slow build of the week, the afternoon session marked the introduction of soloing to the collective process and armed with decades of Cuban cultural, political and historical knowledge, the assemblage set about exploring influences from south of the border.

During the first piece, Berger walked slow circles, playing his red melodica and eyeing individual players closely before signaling them to take their turn. Almazan moved from keyboard to clavé to drums to explain how the parts of a second piece would fit together into a succession of solos over group rhythms.

“There isn’t really pitched material except for the singers so when you’re not playing the themes, you’re playing percussion,” he explained, leading the players to mute their strings, tap their keys, clap their hands or drum on folding chairs.

The afternoon workshops ended with the ‘listening to the sound disappear’ meditation, a staple of CMS daily listening practice.

The evening performances began with the featured band this time, Almazan, Berger, Steven Bernstain, Donny Davis, Ken Filiano, Joe Hertenstein and Omar Tamez playing a far-reaching set, Almazan and Filiano both blurring the edges with deft use of volume knobs. Half phrases flew around the stage, “My Favorite Things,” “I’m Beginning To See the Light” and perhaps the alien message from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

The second half opened esoterically enough, with a duo of Jared  Samuel on synth and Filiano making even more dramatic use of his effects pedals and bowing, and another duo of Nicki Malley on vibraphone and Bob Drake on analog electronics. A quartet of flautists provided another break in the rotation but for the most part, the afternoon’s rhythmic practice seemed to push the evening jams. A final improv (by Drake and Filiano) was even postponed until the following day, the audience/performers seeming genuinely excited to leave their nightclub and rest up for the coming day.

 

Thursday, September 22:

Tweeted:

When I saw the Grand Canyon, you know Ornette Coleman, “The Skies of America”? I wrote him a postcard. – Ingrid Sertso

We’re all a little lopsided in one way or another. We have to break through these habits. – Karl Berger

Think of music as the silence that is framed by a sound. – Karl Berger

We’re talking about really fundamental stuff, just feeling each beat, that’s enough. – Karl Berger

Anywhere you are, you can practice. – Karl Berger

We hesitate to use our voice and we don’t remember turning hearing into listening. – Karl Berger

Something happened, I don’t know why, but everybody just talks, nobody sings. – Karl Berger

We do a lot of involuntary thinking. You just use your breath and it’s gone. It comes right back, of course, but then you do it again. – Karl Berger

If I had a record store, I would just sort the records by name. – Karl Berger

 

Steven Bernstein’s Koan Factory:

“Everyone knows what diatonic is? It’s the key you’re in. You’ll die if you leave the tonic.

I’m interested in music that explores more than one key at a time.

Learn everything. There’s no such thing as wasted knowledge.

Even fixed rhythm is not fixed. There’s good changing rhythm and bad.

In this whole thing about western music, whether you’re talking about Count Basie or Bruce Springsteen, it’s all about arpeggios.

It’s good to know your scales but if you’re improvising, it’s important to have all the arpeggios under your fingers

What you play is not the music. The note that comes out of your instrument is not the music. To me, what people hear is the music.

If you have sound, rhythm, melody and a little bit of magic, there’s no chance of failure.

Take that soprano and put it under the back wheels of a car. I’m just trying to give you some good, professional advice.

If you can play one song really well and you really understand how it works harmonically, you can play any song.

Keeping your instrument out of the case is a really important habit to have. You need to develop the practice of practice so you play everyday.

These cats who come out of conservatory, I say ‘man, you can play everything but a gig.’

It doesn’t have to be notes. Notes are just easy, that’s why I like them. There’s only 12 of them – how hard is that?

After a couple of full days focusing on listening and breathing, of feeling their bodies and finding their singing voices, the final day of sessions at the Creative Music Studio fall workshop offered some nuts and bolts under the guidance of trumpeter/composer Steven Bernstein. In particular, Bernstein reinforced to the participants the need for strong instrumental technique and an awareness of the audience.

“What you play is not the music, he said. “The note that comes out of your instrument is not the music. To me, what people hear is the music. A lot of times, what people see onstage is the music. It’s all about getting music to other human beings.

He had the assembled players work through exercises with arpeggios then apply them to a piece of his own written in an Ethiopian mode. After the previous day’s exercises in Cuban music, it was compelling to see how readily an orchestra can be recalibrated with a few tools and some careful guidance.

“In this whole thing about western music, whether you’re talking about Count Basie or Bruce Springsteen, it’s all about arpeggios,” he said. “People talk a lot about scales. It’s good to know your scales but if you’re improvising, it’s important to have all the arpeggios under your fingers.

He then offered to the group what he said are the four essential elements of music:

• Sound – ‘You better have a good sound. Once you have a sound you listen to other people and say ‘how can my sound fit into this music?’

• Rhythm – ‘A rhythm that is not continuous is still a rhythm. If you go out and stand by that stream for 10 minutes, there’s a rhythm there. It’s not a Motown song but you might still want to play it.”

• Melody – ‘Melody is the mind’s way to make sense of things, it allows us to create order. One note repeated three times is a melody because your mind is going to go ‘oh, you played three notes.’

• Magic – the fourth element, he said, is magic. “Those four elements are all you need to make good music. If you have sound, rhythm, melody and a little bit of magic, there’s no chance of failure.”

The afternoon session was spent working through Ornette Coleman’s “Round Trip” and with Bernstein extemporizing on the value of knowing one song through and through.

“If you can play one song really well and you really understand how it works harmonically, you can play any song,” he said. “I really believe that works, because there’s only one set of rules for music. How does the melody function, how does the harmony function, how does the rhythm function?

And, of course, he stressed the importance of daily practice.

“Keeping your instrument out of the case is a really important habit to have,” Bernstein said. “You need to develop the practice of practice so you play everyday. It’s really something everyone needs to develop in order to play an instrument.”

Karl Berger took over the rest of the session to lead the group in another piece with a focus on dynamics. “For not doing this more than once, that was amazing,” he said after they finished, in what would be the last piece of formal instruction. “There’s nothing else to do but listen to the sound going away.”

The evening performances began with Bernstein on slide trumpet and Berger on vibes, joined by vocalist Ingrid Sertso, saxophonist Donny Davis, guitarist Omar Tamez,  bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Joe Hertenstein for a take on “Art Deco.” Together they connected the dots between Don Cherry (who wrote the tune and with whom Berger played) and the spirit of multiculturalism and global music (which Cherry embraced and Berger and Sertso have followed in their work with the CMS) collective improvisation and a vision of jazz that looks not just forward but backwards as well (Cherry wrote the piece for Billie Holiday). They then took on “Round Trip,” the 1968 Coleman piece they’d worked on during the afternoon, Berger switching then to piano. (A bit of incongruous irony there: The piece was originally recorded during Coleman’s classic quartet’s tenure but as a side project without Cherry.)

Plenty more went down that night, the premiere of the CMS Gamelan Orchestra (of a sort) including Bob Drake on analog electronics, standup comedy from Bernstein and Sertso, a nice duet of electronics , solo trombone,  some verse backed by bass, a little country-fied bop – all the participants played, along with guiding artists, and just past 12, a lovely “Round Midnight” by Berger and Bernstein. But let’s just say it ended there, with Billie, Don and Ornette, on a small stage at an out-of-the-way Roadhouse somewhere in the Catskills.

Notes from Rob Saffer, CMS Executive Director:

Another great week: abundant generosity among musicians, among people; ears changed, lives changed (at least a few).  Thanks again to our guiding artists – Pauline, Fabian and Steven – and to Ken Filiano for his constant presence and help organizing the evening jam sessions, to KB and Ingrid, Matthew Cullen, Geoff Baer, Karin Wolf and Kurt Gottschalk. Thanks to our family at Full Moon who always make us feel at home. And, ultimately that’s what CMS is about – feeling at home. Participants constantly tell us how CMS is like no other music workshop, retreat or camp – the non-competitive nature of CMS offers participants a chance to do things they’ve never done, take chances, make themselves vulnerable in a safe, supportive encouraging atmosphere. “It’s like coming home” many have told us. This week was no exception. People took musical, emotional and personal risks, rose to new challenges and came away excited by new tools to try over the coming days, months even years. As one participant told me, “Three days was hardly enough to absorb all that musical wisdom; I don’t know if a lifetime would be!’  And, that’s what CMS is all about.