Quantifying Improvisation

Em Spencer – Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design and School of Music, Theatre & Dance

Collaborators: Casey Cheatham – School of Music, Theatre & Dance; Joey Karz – School of Music, Theatre & Dance; Liam Charron – School of Music, Theatre & Dance;

This project seeks to challenge the misconceptions regarding self expression, and freedom in art. To demonstrate this, my team and I will be exploring creativity in two fields that embody self expression in an unstructured manner, but require intentionality and prehension in the fields of study. It’s important this project is interdisciplinary, and specific to the fields in art and music, to demonstrate that free expression is interpretable in the extremes, and does not require explanation through a more scientific or analytic medium in order to translate meaning. One of the biggest challenges will be individual analysis of performance throughout the project. As artists and musicians, we all can be very critical of our own work, especially when conceptually there is a lot of room for interpretation. I anticipate there being disagreement between musicians as to which recording is most representative of the painting, as some takes may showcase specific artists over others. I hope to mitigate this by preparing extra time in case the group cannot agree on a singular take.

The project starts with the painting I will create, which I have allotted around two weeks to gather materials and complete. From there, the collaboration aspect of the project will be done within one day, and will consist of the musicians and recording engineer showing up to the studio, as well as the expectation that the recording engineer will do any audio editing required to enhance the tracks. From there it will again become my responsibility to complete the project by listening to the completed recordings, and creating another painting, which I will again expect to complete within a two week period.

This project will start a conversation, specifically within SMTD, about what improvisation is, and how it can be used in different settings or even across mediums. I also expect to challenge the stereotype that free improvisation is done ‘randomly’. Additionally, this project aims to inspire others to learn more about the cross-overs between art and music, and how collaborations between the two disciplines can benefit both parties. As both a musician and artist I, as well as my colleagues, have extensive experience thinking quickly on our feet and the ability to adapt to whatever situation arises. This is a vital skillset with such an open ended project such as this, in that we are able to incorporate challenges into our process. Another crucial component to this project is collaboration, a skill that is practiced by all parties involved on a daily basis. Finally, I chose peers for this project that act with intentionality. The concept of this project can only be carried out by those who look for meaning and decisively translate that into their playing.