I’m writing a piece for string quartet and 3 percussionists. In this piece I want to have the players improvise in certain passages. This creates many challenges, not the least of which is how to notate improvisation. I’ve done this before in chamber music with some success using spatial and box notation, and mixing it up so no more than a few players are improvising at a time.
However, I don’t know who some of the players are, and I want to write a piece I can take to other ensembles, that’s approachable and player-friendly. I’m a bit nervous about what the players’ approach might be, probably unnecessarily though, because I’ve found that most modern players are well versed in many styles, having performed in jazz and rock settings, and having more than just classical music on their iPods.
I’m always curious how other composers might use improv in their work, and what success they’ve had in a jazz/classical hybrid, or what Gunther Schuller first termed Third Stream music.
I’m used to chord changes, and specific idiomatic and tonal jazz styles. This piece won’t swing, but some of it will sound like free jazz within a modern classical framework. Also, there’s no rhythm section per se, but I can evoke rhythms that lay down a framework within which to work.
I tried this sort of hybrid piece in music school, and I had players who refused to perform it. The thought of improvisation intimidated a few, but one backed out because he felt it would upset the serious classical teachers. How’s that for paranoia? But that was back in the day…
I’ll post some examples of what I come up with. I’d appreciate any comments or advice.