Free Improvisation

Free Improvisation and Experimental Music

I have been involved in playing free improvised music for many years, since my writing project under the name Misterlee became a heady live performance blend of song-based content, moving into extended improvisations – largely due to the interpretive input and excellent musicianship of my 2 wingmen: Jamie Smith (guitar) and Mick Oxtoby (electric violin and bass). Through these early associations I have enjoyed playing with some of the UK’s finest exponents of ‘unplanned music’ and developed my own instrumental approach both in the specific practise of the free style, whilst also benefitting greatly my wider understanding of how music works from studying it.

Live on stage photograph of Misterlee playing at the Summer Sundae Festival in Leicester, 2006.

Misterlee playing the Summer Sundae Weekender Festival, Leicester, 2006.

FrImp: For those who are unfamiliar with the the concept of free improvisation, this is music which is played ‘in the moment’, without a preconceived agenda of style, tempo, key or harmonic structure. British guitar player and author of the book Improvisation, Derek Bailey: “The lack of precision over its [free improv’s] naming is, if anything, increased when we come to the thing itself. Diversity is its most consistent characteristic. It has no stylistic or idiomatic commitment. It has no prescribed idiomatic sound. The characteristics of freely improvised music are established only by the sonic-musical identity of the person or persons playing it.” Got it?!

Identity:┬áMy own ethos in approaching a free playing ideal centres around the quite simple premise that there is a correct direction for me to go at any one time – I just have to land on it. This involves developing heightened core skills and contrasts in dynamics, pace, melody, phrasing, tone, texture, emotion, intent (…and pretty much any other tangible variable I can lay my hands on!) as I view these as fundamental building blocks of music and sound. In the act of performance and decision making: listening, feeling, reacting, predicting and remembering are present all at once – constantly on the knife-edge of setting body into motion on the instrument.