Guided Listening #3: Improvisation

For this Guided Listening you will need the following:

A copy of these teaching steps
Text asset: Norma Beecroft, Improvvisazioni Concertanti No. 2
Audio asset: Excerpt of Improvvisazioni Concertanti No. 2 by Norma Beecroft
All assets are provided below.

I. Predict

  • Write the following quotation on the board:

"The resultant textural confusion gradually subsides to an atmosphere of resolution." Norma Beecroft (score programme note)

  • Ask students to rephrase the quote in their own words. What does it mean? Any guesses on what the music will sound like?

II. Listen and Discuss

  • Listen to the audio asset excerpt of Improvvisazioni Concertanti No. 2 by Norma Beecroft.
  • Read the text asset: Norma Beecroft, Improvvisazioni Concertanti No. 2 which describes the composer's use of aleatoric music.
  • Ask: Do you think that Beecroft succeeds at creating a sense of confusion in this controlled improvisation section? Could she have achieved the same effect without using improvisation? If so, how? (Consider some of the other techniques suggested in the previous Guided Listening sections.)
  • Why do you think she wished to create confusion? Why does improvisation work well for creating a sense of confusion? (Possibly because composers more often try to create clarity by controlling each note and it's volume.)
  • Consider: What effect can "breaking the rules" of traditional composing with something like improvisation have on the composer? On the performer? (Improvisation in composed music permits each performance to be unique, allowing for varying interpretations by performers and listeners. Members of the orchestra can contribute in their own way to the improvisational section.)

III. Experiment

  • Try picking some notes, rhythms and sounds to use as a "set" for a group improvisation with your voices and/or instruments. Try switching between confusion and resolution.

Norma Beecroft, Improvvisazioni Concertanti No. 2
Norma Beecroft (b. 1934) has played a large role in many areas of Canadian music as a composer, largely of electronic music, and as a CBC radio broadcaster, producer and administrator. Improvvisazioni Concertanti, No. 2, composed in 1970, is from a set of three pieces with the same name. It is the first time she composed using aleatoric (chance) elements in which performers are at times left to improvise their parts under a controlled structure. The piece begins around a central pitch of C, continues to a middle improvisational section that causes textural confusion, and then returns to the beginning central pitch. Improvvisazioni Concertanti, No. 2, was first performed in 1971 by the National Arts Centre Orchestra.

Excerpt from Improvvisazioni Concertanti No. 2 by Norma Beecroft. (0:01:04)

Excerpt from Improvvisazioni Concertanti No. 2 by Norma Beecroft. - Play now

Warning: Audio file is larger than 6MbDownload (1.52Mb)

This, from the middle of Beecroft's second Improvvisazioni Concertanti, is the second section of the piece to feature controlled improvisation for the orchestra. Beecroft provides pitches and instructions for the players to choose from.?

Credits and Copyright

  • Audio Asset: Excerpt from Improvvisazioni Concertanti No. 2 by Norma Beecroft
    1970, Norma Beecroft
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