Jacob Zimmerman - July 11th, 2010
The Zooid Concept: Strategies for Creating Autonomy Within Group Improvisation Curated by Jacob Zimmerman (http://jacobrexzimmerman.com/)
“Zooid: A cell that is able to move independently of the larger organism to which it belongs.”
The focus of this session will be to apply some of the technical and compositional concepts I have been developing in my solo saxophone music to an improvising group context, with an overarching emphasis on creating a situation where all players exhibit a high level of independence and autonomy within the ensemble. This is a characteristic of much improvised music that has influenced my own music. Particularly as demonstrated in the music of A.A.C.M. musicians such as Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, Wadada Leo Smith, and Henry Threadgill. “Zooid” is the name of Threadgill’s most recent musical project.
On my Solo Music:
In the same vein as saxophonist and composer Anthony Braxton, my solo music is meant to function as a “testing ground” for ideas that will eventually be applied in various group contexts and/or compositions. I will perform two very different solo pieces and describe the implications they may have for group improvisation.
This piece is a relatively loose improvised structure based entirely around exploring some of the sonic possibilities of a single fingering on the saxophone. Basically I’m treating the saxophone like a bugle by only using my embouchre and breath to shape the sound. To apply this to a group improvisation each player should utilize a similar technical approach to their instrument. For example: guitar players could put their guitar into an open tuning and play only using their right hand (or picking hand), percussionists could choose a single drum or cymbal and explore the way in which different implements vary the sound, etc…
This piece is a through-composed study on the basic relationship between isolated phrases with either a single ascending or descending melodic contour. The structure of the entire piece is intended to utilize melodic contour as a means to effectively convey the perception or feeling of imagined abstract visual structures and space. The piece has three continuous movements entitled ascending, descending, and ovals. The first two movements are intended to present the two opposite poles of melodic contour, culminating in the third section, which is meant to reflect an amalgamation of ascending and descending contours. Metaphorically speaking, the first two sections are about directed movement through space, while the third section is about harnessing and shaping these movements into visual structures floating in space. With the group we will explore the basic possibilities of what Roscoe Mitchell would call a “scored improvisation,” meaning that the players will utilize notated material that I will provide as their primary sonic vocabulary. The material will consist of isolated melodic phrases that can be played at any time in any order. The emphasis with these improvisations will be to explore contour relationships, and the way in which timing and time can have implications for an explicitly visual perception of music.