Chamber Improv

Chamber improv is a form of group improvisation between musicians, actors, and potentially other performance art, in which all players interact and trade off focus throughout. It crosses many musical styles, and uses structures, skillsets and formats of improvisational theatre and chamber music to integrate the roles of the various participants. In jam sessions, participants explore and build skills of focused awareness, collaboration, trust, taking creative risks, and embracing uncertainty through improvised co-creation experiences rooted in the present moment. In performance, chamber improv can be used to craft full-length plays, scenes, songs, or anything, really.

It's a toolset and framework I'm building with Ali Pappa, and we hope it catches on. Inspired and incorporating elements from Conduction gestural vocabulary (Butch Morris) and other forms of musical group improvisation as well.

Learn about the chamber improv story and listen/watch clips from jams and full virtual shows below!


 

JAM SESSIONS (2019-present)

There are no upcoming jams right now, I'm busy working on a virtual musical!

 

Back soon though :)



 

I ran the first chamber improv jam in June 2019, after sitting with the idea a year after my first experience using the Conduction gestural vocabulary.

In jam sessions in person in Austin, Texas, I invited over groups of my musician friends from the live music and classical music communities to experiment with improvised chamber music possibilities, and eat dinner and hang out together! We did this six times in person and put on a show in February 2020, then once Corona hit we started doing virtual jams.

At this point I had gotten into improvisational theatre, so we started adding some actors to the mix. We did this weekly from April through August 2020.

Some of the things we explored: focused awareness, collaboration, trust, taking creative risks, and embracing uncertainty through improvised co-creation experiences rooted in the present moment. In June 2020 Ali and I decided to curate the jam space as the space we wanted to see in our creative world: a space where artists of many sexualities, gender identities and races predominated and felt safe and supported to bring their own experiences, backgrounds and culture into their improv. 

Here are a some highlights from virtual and in-person jams! There's a whole YouTube playlist for this, too.




 

VIRTUAL SHOWS (2020)

After over a year of running chamber improv jams, Ali and I produced and directed four experimental virtual improv show through the Hideout Theatre in Austin, Texas. On the Hideout Twitch Channel, we performed a different show with a different cast every week in September 2020. 

 

One of the main goals was to get actors and musicians to see that interacting with each other with a higher degree of connection than they might be used to was worthwhile and could be really fun to pursue - a sort of proof of concept of the art form. 
 

Another main goal was to build a framework for teaching the skills of musician-actor interaction needed for a really fruitful hour of collaborative co-creation in front of an audience. Musicians also needed a crash course in some of the concepts from improv theatre that the actors were already familiar with. We smashed this process as best we could into two rehearsals before each show, had a great time and learned a lot in the process!

We gathered a cast of musicians and actors from different theatres and cities (Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, New York, Miami, Orlando, Ottawa, Bangalore). We also curated the group the same way we do the jams, to have a diverse representation of racial, sexual and gender identities. The theme for each show was devised by the group, and we ended up with these four!

 

"The enemy of art is the absence of limitations." - Orson Welles 

 

CONDUCTION 2019 presented by Density512

On February 16th, 2019 I produced my first Conduction show, at Big Medium in Austin, presented by new music collective Density512. We have great media from it and an album coming out at some point, but right after this show I moved to Los Angeles and then coronavirus showed up, so if you're reading this, I haven't quite gotten it together to share yet.

It was a hit though! We sold out the intimate space with a 40-person audience, and had a great interactive time with the 11-piece ensemble (2 sopranos, flute, violin, cello, double bass, 2 keyboards, electric guitar, pedal steel guitar, percussion, and me conducting! This was really a launching point for me when I realized, "I can produce really meaningful shows!"

Ali attended this show and that's how we got started working and playing music together. While promoting this show we got to do a cool TV and radio spot, with their own unique improvisations:

 

WATCH us play an improvised piece on 'We Are Austin,' aired on CBS on February 10, 2020.

LISTEN to us improvise three conducted tunes on KUTX's Eklektikos (aired on February 15th, 2020).

CONDUCTION 2018

Back on my 30th birthday - March 8th, 2018 - I had the opportunity to play in a chamber ensemble gathered by Density512 and Liminal Sounds. We were conducted by Dino Deane and it was completely improvised, and that experience led me to create everything else I talk about on this page. Conduction is the gestural vocabulary and framework that Dino used to conduct the musicians in our concert. It was created and pioneered by jazz cornetist Butch Morris in the mid-80s in Manhattan, and he later used it all over the world with all kinds of groups of musicians. Dino and a few other practitioners carry on his legacy today. Here is the music we created during that show:

 


 

Conducted by Kenzie:

Conducted by Dino, Kenzie on flute:

© 2020 Kenzie Slottow

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