Spring 2013 Workshop Journal

Creative Music Studio’s 40th Anniversary Workshop Recap: Four-day Intensive Features Workshops and Unique Concert

 Engaging workshops and groundbreaking concerts in a breathtakingly beautiful natural environment. And, the food was great!

The Creative Music Studio’s first 40th anniversary workshop took place between May 20 -24, 2013, at Full Moon Resort, nestled streamside in a valley 30 minutes west of Woodstock, NY. Twenty five participants interacted day and night with 15 guiding artists, including Marilyn Crispell, Don Byron, Dave Douglas, John Medeski, Steve Gorn, Tom Buckner, Mark Helias, Steven Bernstein, Ken Filiano, Oliver Lake, Harvey Sorgen, Tani Tabbal, Kenny Wessel, and of course Creative Music Foundation co-founders Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso.

The following offers a short, daily recap:

Monday, May 20

The CMS 40th Anniversary Workshop at Full Moon Resort is underway. Storm clouds cleared and we started with hot, humid weather, especially for the western Catskills in May. After refreshing drinks at the open bar and all kinds of tasty appetizers, Karl Berger gave a short orientation, welcoming the guiding artists and participants, sharing some CMS history, some anecdotes and then asking everyone to introduce themselves and why they came. One person said that he came to 'go beyond genres and to learn and feel and play pure music.' Karl responded, "Perfect." We went to the cafe for a wholesome, tasty and filling dinner and then walked up to the Roadhouse to hear a concert. It started quietly, with Karl playing keyboards, Mark Helias on bowed bass, playing microtones. Tani Tabbal came in with mallets on tom toms and a Ingrid Sertso fit in beautifully, offering sounds that meshed with the musicians. Then Oliver Lake joined in and the energy really picked up. The group played for 90 or so minutes, fully improvised gems. A lot of the focus was on our special guest, Oliver, who doesn't come to this area too often. He mentioned how great it is to be in such natural beauty, in a place really suited for music. After the concert, various participants picked up their instruments and started long, democratic jams where people were listening as much as playing, learning about each other as players. What a great start to the workshop!

Tuesday, May 21

If there was a common thread through today's remarkable slate of workshops it was: Find your voice, play your music. After morning body awareness lead by Savia Berger, followed by a gamalataki rhythm and voice workshop Karl and Ingrid conducted, guiding artist John Medeski led the group first through exercises to help develop musical conversation and transitions, and followed with an exercise based on Karlheinz Stockhausen. Oliver Lake lead an afternoon workshop first by playing a solo performance, and then instructing the group on orchestral pieces he had written. Mark Helias urged participants to take note of what's unique in their playing, to write it down as their own 'self-orchestral language.' He also shared thoughts on when to be self-judgemental and when to let it go (hint: when you're performing). The workshops ended with a Tibetan bell 'listen to the sounds disappearing' meditation.

Tonight's concert featured Karl on vibes, Ingrid vocals, Mark on bass, Tani Tabbal drums, Bob Selcoe guest trumpet. Later Sylvain Leroux sat in, as did participants from the workshop.

Special thanks to videographers Don Mount and Robert O'Haire, and Matthew Cullen, our sound engineer.

Wednesday, May 22

Today was very special. After morning body awareness and a really deep gamalataki rhythm and voice training session, Karl worked with the group on finding a group sound, on dynamics, on listening. "Every note contains every other note," was his mantra, truly freeing the group to play with greater openness. He talked about getting out of the rational mind and into the creative mind, a sentiment echoed by special guest guiding artist Dave Douglas who gave an afternoon workshop. After sharing his deep gratitude for being a musician of sound mind and body, of being able to be together at Full Moon in nature surrounded by great musicians, and of having so much music passed down through the generations, Dave jumped in to his composition workshop, offering the group a variety of exercises to inspire composition. His bottom line: stay really focused and give yourself tight limitations to work within. The group liked this very much and then everyone played their compositions. Marilyn Crispell joined him, offering her own insights into composition. Later in the afternoon, Kenny Wessel gave an insightful presentation and demonstration of Ornette Coleman's theory of harmolodics while Tom Buckner taught a spirited improv class.

The fireworks at the evening concert were even greater than the lightening storm that lit the sky; Dave Douglas, Steven Bernstein, Marilyn Crispell, Karl Berger, Harvey Sorgen, Kenny Wessel and John Menegon tore through a bunch of Ornette and Don Cherry tunes (also Coltrane’s “Cherryco”), electrifying everyone in the roadhouse performance space. It was truly memorable and 'historic,' according to Bernstein. We agree.

Thursday, May 23

Today was like an anatomy lesson. Steven Bernstein lead the morning master class, explaining the 'science, spirituality and language' of music, and emphasizing the importance of daily practice rituals, or 'the practice of practice.' Don Byron taught the science of composing, editing and rewriting. On the spot compositions were critiqued and analyzed, themes were reworked and tunes reshaped - the anatomy of composition. One piece, written in minutes by CMS alum Bob Selcoe, caught Dony’s ear and was later played in his evening concert. Steve Gorn taught us the anatomy of a raga, and opened the evening concert playing flute ragas backed by  Marilyn Crispell on tambura. Don Byron's set followed with Karl on piano, Ken Filiano on bass and Harvey Sorgen on drums. Don played tenor sax and clarinet and the group ended their set with a Tom Dorsey gospel tune, an unusual but apt ending to a CMS gig. Spirited sets of jamming followed, ranging from a euphonium, guitar (Ken Wessel), drum and bass quartet to groups including an iPad, tenor and alto saxes, bass clarinet, African flute, piano, guitar, trumpet, voice and more.

The week was a heavenly experience that most of us will never forget. Thanks to Full Moon Resort for being gracious hosts who fed us well and made us feel at home. And, special heartfelt thanks to all the musicians who generously gave their selves and their wisdom to the participants. And, of course special thanks to Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso and Rob Saffer of the Creative Music Foundation, for putting all of it together.

Quotes about CMS 40th Anniversary Workshop May 20-24, 2013

“It was a life changing experience, which opened windows on a variety of modalities of music improvisation. The jazz idiom was central, and most participants were fluent in it, but it was not the only idiom. World music (which could have been developed further) and contemporary classical music lurked around in everything we did.”

“Striking to me was the human, and almost spiritual aspect of the workshop, as incorporated in the music practice and the relationship between participants and some of the guiding artists. “

“I was challenged and inspired by the different approaches taken by the guiding artists, and I thought all were outstanding. I also enjoyed meeting the other participants and sharing in their ideas, experiences and perspectives.”

“I will most remember the incredible music played by the guest artists. Great to hear time played with such virtuosity, feel, and originality. I can't express it clearly, but there is something about this way of playing that gets to the heart of things rather than just recreating a style. No museum music here. There were moments when the hall lifted off the ground.”

“I'm revisiting the GAMALATAKI material with renewed vigour, even using it to improve my swim stroke. Try doing the elementary backstroke in 5/4. it works! I've learned that the approach to the down stroke - sweeping your arms up from your sides to above your head - is just as important as the down stroke itself, which is just what Karl emphasized in attending to all aspects of the pulse equally.”

“This was a very rewarding experience for me! I enjoyed being in nature and around people of like mindsets – no ego, no notions of what music is or isn’t. I was very excited and left so inspired, filled with encouragement.”

“The CMS 40th Anniversary Workshop was an experience that brought meaning behind the notes your playing , beyond the technique and into playing beauty.”

“I liked the way that workshops seemed to be geared to just about everyone in the room. So a professional might gain as much as an intermediate player. Getting to immerse myself in the thinking and practice of playing more freely gave lots of knew ideas that I am already using in my practice (and trying to incorporate into performance).”“The improvising orchestra was not only a highlight of the workshop, it was one of the most engaging musical experiences I have ever taken part in.”

“The entire workshop was a plus. So many engaging sessions, opportunities to talk with the guiding artists, hearing them play and hanging out over good food with participants and faculty all combined to make this a great experience. “

“I wanted to start to understand how musicians who play more freely (for lack of a better term) prepare to do what they do. I got that and more.”

“I have attended many jazz music camps, CMS was the most intimate and engaging. I learned things that I am sure I will continue to try to apply for a long time. “

“I certainly picked up some practical pointers, especially attention to dynamics and the importance and utility of spending more time on composition. I also really enjoyed having the opportunity to play with experienced, talented musicians dedicated to improvisation and seeing how I could contribute to and become part of a collective musical expression with them; it was rewarding (and, at least to some extent, validating), and I can already sense the effect that experience is having on my playing, both individually and with others. There's also the sense that I was able to touch (or at least get closer to) something both more abstract and more fundamental about music, both through the GaMaLaTaKi workshops and the duo and larger group playing opportunities; that's something I've been recalling unexpectedly over the last week or so, which suggests to me that the workshop was more profoundly affecting than I probably realized while it was happening. My personal takeaway is that I feel that I have a closer relationship with music and my role in it than I had before, which may not have been exactly what I was looking for when I signed up, but which I'm delighted to have.”