UCSC Music Department
ISIM Festival


The December 3-6 collaborative festival/conference is entitled, "Improvisation, Diversity, and Change: Uncovering New Social Paradigms Within Spontaneous Musical Creativity." The University of California, Santa Cruz's "Rebuilding Global Community through the Arts" festival project (RGCA), and the International Society for Improvised Music's annual conference are cosponsors for this event.

Logo for Rebuilding Global Community Through the Arts   Rebuilding Global Community Through the Arts


The 2009 UCSC/ISIM Improvisation Music Festival and Conference is aimed at rebuilding global community through the arts. At this event, we will explore global art and its relation to culture, using creativity to re-identify societal structure.


Improvisation: Spontaneous action is a direct reflection of an artist’s creativity. Art, as a universal language, is a form of cross-cultural communication, expressing feelings and culture through music, dance, art, film, and performance.

Diversity: By understanding the multi-dimensional concepts of artistic creativity, artists can always present new and unique forms of artistic expression to our global community. Music and art becomes a window for seeing the diversity of international culture and inspiration.

Change: As a form of communication

Aural: (Sound)

Oral: (Vocal)

Technological: (i.e. Instruments)

Kinetic: (Movement, Dance)

Visual: (Presentation, art i.e. paintings, sculptures, fashion)


Improvisation in Life

In music improvisation becomes spontaneous composition. If music and the arts are mirrors of society, the soul and environment, then a composer’s job is to observe the universe and report their findings to world society through composition. Thus, it is useful to find correspondences between the forces of nature and the processes of creation, and to convert those elements into constructive ways of thinking about music. Spontaneous composition evolves from all musical languages, past and present, and consolidates and personalizes them into contemporary communicative forms of expression charged with specific knowledge and wisdom that can emerge only from a broad search for truth and self-exploration. In her book, Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up, Patricia Ryan Madson says:

Life is an improvisation, and if we are lucky, a long one. It may end unexpectedly, and for some, too soon. I won’t be the first author to remind readers to seize the day, to live each precious moment fully and with gusto.

The process of creation involves a constant struggle with oppositional forces. The process of tension and release becomes detrimental in life if the tension gets too far out of proportion. The notion of improvisation needs to be incorporated into analytical thinking, since life is poly-dimensional and we need to respond continually to the ever-changing world.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and all forms of our species had to improvise to survive. Existing originally as nocturnal creatures, due to the dominance of the dinosaurs during the day, it was the mammal’s hearing that allowed it to develop superior brainpower and evolve into creatures of greater control over its physical environment. Early mammals were very small and vulnerable and had to improvise constantly to maintain survival. Madson reminds us that,

Long before there was planning there was improvising. For millennia humans functioned naturally only by thinking on their feet, problem-solving in the here and now. I wake up. I look around carefully. I hunt for food. I share it with fellow primates. We find a warm, dry place to sleep. We have a few laughs.

In music, the first step in developing and expressing creativity is to master the language of the idiom while allowing inspiration to extend traditions and conventions. Style and structure influence individual improvisation by establishing a set of familiar musical expectations for the soloist, accompanis,t and listener. In developing music within such settings, creativity has more to do with the ways in which musicians handle unexpected musical circumstances that occur within familiar boundaries. Thus creativity is the most important aspect of improvisation and its flexibility, and its level of development and maturity, helps to distinguish the master artist from the uninspired craftsman.

Spontaneous composition involves composing during the performance, therefore assembling and applying musical concepts and elements spontaneously, although a storehouse of premeditated musical ideas have been developed in advance. Composers use sound, silence, visual elements, and other factors to elicit intellectual, physical, emotional and subconscious responses from listening audiences.

Polarity abounds throughout the universe. Balance appears to propel and guide motion, proportion and sequence in Nature. In music, harmony, phrasing, meter, and other structural elements of music involves identifying related components that form systems of symbiotic agreement, expectation, and unity; or provide surprise, tension and conflict. All elements of music and art seek abstract balance of its elements.

Patricia Ryan Madson. Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up. New York: Bell Tower, 2005. p. 15.

Madson, Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up. New York: Bell Tower, 2005. p. 21.