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After I'd been teaching Adventures in Voice, my "anything goes" vocal-theatre workshop, for a few years at Sommermusikfest, I had a few people who'd participated many times and some of us decided to get together in the Kartoffelhütte ("potato hut" - a kind of disused shed) at Sommermusikfest - on a camp site in central Germany. These Kartoffelhütte Jams were some of the free-est , and longest, long-form improvisations I've ever had the pleasure of being involved in. There were about 15 of us and we sat in chairs in a circle although people could get up and walk around, move to a new spot if that's what they felt like.
In my workshop, I always stress the importance of feeling uninhibited in these types of jams that don't have an audience. In fact, one of the aspects of my class that differed from almost all the other workshops is that we did not prepare a piece for public performance, to share at the end of the fest. It was really "participants only" - although new ones could join at any time, including at the very end. This was a great way of keeping it both totally uninhibited, especially for people who'd been doing weird vocal stuff together for a whole week, and keeping it fresh as curious outsiders were allowed to walk in and join the circle. Sometimes we would do "pop-ups" in public spaces, sort of guerilla type unannounced "performances" as we were scattered about. So for example, we might begin a rhythmic banging of spoons at lunchtime from different positions within the lunch area, and develop a jam from there, to which people not in the class would either react with great irritation to and leave, or get involved in. Thankfully we had the second reaction more often!
I recorded the final time of Kartoffelhütte Jams, by which point the core group was extremely relaxed with one another and also paid no attention to the recording device. The jams were up to three hours long, though most segments were probably 10-45 minutes before coming to a complete stop at which point a new Jam would be created.
I edited down a couple of my favorite chunks and titled them and present them here.
When I listen back to these, I am still amazed by the funny thing that happens where something tuneful, even beautiful and moving, suddenly emerges from a cacophony, spontaneously creating real and actual music. But just as much, I appreciate the unmusical aspects when it's just pure sounds making a comedy, or a tragedy, or a forest, or a machine....something from the imagination beyond language. This is why I call the workshop "Adventures in Voice". Some students were also studying overtone singing and incorporated these techniques into their improvs with interesting results. Even the students who had sudden coughing fits seemed to merge them rhythmically into the whole mix.
Notice too how as soon as words start to creep into it, the spell is broken and the improv falls apart with some laughter and silliness. The best part about these workshops was discovering the incredibly funny things that can happen, just with noises made by your voice - a true adventure!
After being discovered by Bobby McFerrin as a young vocal improviser in San Francisco, I spent some years writing and
performing with ensembles that remain important in the history of Bay Area arts, then did time tangling with the music biz in LA & NYC, followed by a decade in Europe, recording all the while, before coming "home" to NOLA. This is a partial musical record of that journey....more