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Archive for May 11th, 2007

New York: Saturday Improv

Friday, May 11th, 2007

On Saturday, there were many interesting workshops, sometimes scheduled at the same time. Brian went to one that was more ukulele-player-oriented and I went to the improv workshop by Yoon Sun Choi (and Khabu on ukulele).

nycimprovworkshop.jpgI was apprehensive. I’m good at improvisation with my visual arts but not much at all for singing. I guess I do well improvising when I dance, so I did do OK but it was a stretch. Stretching is a good thing for creative people.

Yoon Sun and I were the non-ukulele people in the room, she said she hadn’t played one before (she did during the improv exercises). I own one but rarely play, my voice is my primary instrument followed by bass, whistling and kazoo. The workshop adapted fine to a singer in the midst of a circle of ukuleles. First we didn’t use instruments, anyway.

We “passed around” a sound to start. Then we passed a more complex sound. Then we started using our bodies to make other sounds (clapping, tapping hands on lap, stomping) if we wanted to do so. Then we had it so that two people were always making sounds at the same time. The first person would stop and a third would take that person’s place. It was fascinating how most of the time it was atonal, sometimes with a recognizable underlying beat but there was no particular concern with what key anybody was in. For a trained singer, that was a little odd for me but I stayed in the moment and did OK.

nycimprovteam10.jpgLast we broke up into groups of 3 and took turn improvising as a group, rather than passing a sound around. Each group was very different. One group had a lot of rhythm, most played instruments but again did not worry about key. Then it was our turn. I was paired with two other women (there are not as many women as men in the Ukulele circuit) who I had not met previously. At least one of them had heard our act on Friday night so she knew about my work at least a bit.

It turned out that one woman played the uke as a rhythm instrument, keeping a beat. The other woman had determined that she’d like to find a way to sing with me as well as play, so she played an actual chord or series of chords where I felt very comfortable vocalizing. She joined in and it was delightful. It was sort of bluesy, and the only group which ended up sounding relatively like familiar sounds. All good, both the familiar and the unfamiliar.

Here is a photo of the two leaders of the workshop, and then a photo of me with the other two women in my improv group. I believe the woman at right is JoAnn (not sure how she spells it) and the one in the middle has a name starting with J, I think it was Janet. We had a great time.