Keynotes (GRS)

Keynote speaker: Dr. Laudan Nooshin
Time: Wednesday 10th June, 10:45 – 12:15
Title: Re-Imagining Musical Difference: Creative Process, Alterity and ‘Improvisation’ in Iranian Music from Classical to Jazz

Since the late 1980s, an important strand of my research has sought to understand the underlying creative processes of Iranian classical music (musiqi-ye asil), a tradition in which the performer plays a central creative role and which is therefore often described as ‘improvised’, both in the literature and – since the mid-20th century and drawing on concepts initially adopted from European music – by musicians. Methodologically, one of the greatest challenges has been tracing the relationship between musicians’ verbal discourses – usually taken by ethnomusicologists as evidence of cognitive processes – and what happens in practice. Of course, the relationship is a complex one and the dual ethnomusicological methods of (a) ethnography and (b) transcription and analysis don’t always tell the same story. In the case of my work, I found a disjuncture between musicians’ discourses of creative freedom, albeit underpinned by the central memorised repertoire known as radif, and the analytical evidence which showed the music to be highly structured around a series of what could be termed ‘compositional procedures’, but which are not explicitly discussed by musicians. The results of analytical enquiry thus led me to problematise the dominant discourses which reify improvisation (bedāheh-navāzi) and emphasise the oral, ephemeral and improvised nature of Iranian classical music against something more planned and structured as represented by the concept of (usually implying notation) composition (āhang-sāzi); and ultimately to an interest in the implications of such binary thinking, both for the study of Iranian music and more broadly for (western) musicology.

More recently, I have been working with younger musicians – university-educated and cosmopolitan – who are developing new discursive frameworks for their creative practice, including an explicit articulation of compositional intent and an intellectual-analytical approach to performance which are quite new to Iranian music. From the researcher’s point of view, this closer alignment of practice and discourse makes it easier to discuss finer details of creative process with musicians. Of particular interest are the ways in which some of these musicians are moving beyond the accepted oppositional discourses of creativity and are re-imagining notions of musical difference, including a more porous understanding of creative practice and a more integral relationship between the ‘improvisational’ and the ‘compositional’.

This keynote address will explore various themes and issues arising from my work on creative processes in Iranian classical music, particularly in relation to questions of alterity. As well as discussing specific examples from Iranian music, I will engage broader questions concerning musicological paradigms, particularly where these have been mobilised as a marker of ‘otherness’, as in the case of (western) musicological discourses of creativity or in Iran where some scholars have drawn on notions of difference to distinguish a local ‘indigenous’ musicology from an externally-imposed (Euro-American) ‘imperialist’ musicology. I examine the implications of such paradigms for the analysis and understanding of musical creativity.

Laudan Nooshin

Dr. Laudan Nooshin

Laudan Nooshin is Senior Lecturer in Ethnomusicology in the Music Department at City University London, UK. Her research interests include creative processes in Iranian music; music and youth culture in Iran; music and gender; neo/post-colonialism and Orientalism; and music in Iranian cinema. Recent publications include the edited volumes Music and the Play of Power in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia (2009, Ashgate Press) and The Ethnomusicology of Western Art Music (2013, Routledge), as well as book chapters and journal articles in Iranian Studies, Ethnomusicology Forum and the Journal of the Royal Musical Association. Laudan is currently on the Editorial Boards of the Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication (Brill) and Ethnomusicology Forum (Routledge). From 2006-9 she was a member of the International Advisory Panel of the Journal of the Royal Musical Association and between 2007-2011 was co-Editor of Ethnomusicology Forum. Her forthcoming monograph is entitled Iranian Classical Music: The Discourses and Practice of Creativity (Ashgate Press).

Keynote speaker: Dr. Sigbjørn Apeland

Time: Wednesday 10th June, 14:30 – 16:00
Title: Improvising with the harmonium: Stories and Sounds

In this presentation, I will take a distanced position towards my own playing, trying to analyze what is happening when a contemporary improviser puts a forgotten, but historically and symbolically loaded instrument into play.

I will use the harmonium as a point of departure for problematizing the genres, contexts, stories and memories that are parts of the social event that any musical statement represents.

Improvising on the harmonium is not only about making sound. It is about relating to more or less broken instruments, logistics and solving a lot of practical challenges. For me the “musical” and the “extra-musical”(or text/context) becomes an inseparable unity.

Sigbjørn Apeland

Sigbjørn Apeland

Sigbjørn Apeland (1966). Education from Rogaland Conservatory of Music (organ) and The University of Bergen (Ph.D in etnomusicology). He holds a position as associate professor at Arne Bjørndal´s collection of Norwegian folk music at the University of Bergen. He collaborates with musicians within a wide range of genres, especially church music, Norwegian folk music, electronics and improvised music. He has also composed/performed music for mixed-media projects, most recently: The Organ Tower (installation/performance for about 25 harmoniums and electronic organs), Kanskje aller helst der (play by Ragnar Hovland), Jeanne d´Arc (silent movie). Participates on about 40 recordings. Two of those have got the Norwegian “Grammy” – Spellemannsprisen. (With Alog, electronica 2005, and Sigrid Moldestad, folk music 2007). Apeland is one of the few musicians who frequently plays the harmonium on professional occations. As an academic, Apeland has been teaching, supervising and writing within the fields of musicology, cultural studies, church music, theology and folklore studies. He has also extensive experience as a folk music collector and researcher, basically focused on material from Western Norway.


Keynote speaker: Grieg Academy Research Group for Jazz & Improvisation (GAIMPRO)

Time: Wednesday 10th June, 16:30 – 18:00
Title: Teaching Improvisation for Real – philosophical and didactical issues related to the process of teaching students how to be high-skilled jazz improvisers

Improvisation skills are emphasized as important in many different areas, and it is common to generalize and transfer knowledge about improvisation between different professions. In some research literature, jazz practice is used both as an example and a metaphor for the nature of improvisation.

In this presentation the members of GAIMPRO (The Grieg Academy Research Group for Jazz and Improvisation) will use their insider-position in jazz, improvisation and education to present and reflect on their own practice, both as jazz musicians and jazz educators.

The purpose of this presentation is to go in the opposite direction of generalizing knowledge and understanding of improvisation, and instead go more deeply into what improvisation means in jazz education. The following discussion will show whether this resonates with the understanding of improvisation in other areas/practices. The presentation will also include some music performance by the members of GAIMPRO.

Some questions that will be discussed are:

  • What is improvisation?
  • What do we want our students to learning during their BA-degree?
  • What kind of improvisation-related competencies are emphasized in our jazz study?
  • How do our students develop their improvisation competence?
  • How do we balance and integrate the relationship between theory and practice?
  • What is our role and mission as jazz educators in our students learning processes?

Sætre, Austad, Thormodsæter, Dahl – GAIMPRO







Assistant Professor Eivind Austad teaches piano, improvisation, jazz theory and jazz history. His research interest is in jazz performance practices in modern jazz from the 1950s and up till our time, aural-based improvisation methods with an emphasis on harmony and rhythm and arranging/composition.

Associate Professor Thomas T. Dahl teaches guitar, improvisation, combo classes and jazz theory. His research interests are in performance practices on modern jazz guitar, improvisation techniques, ensemble development and music production.

Associate Professor Steinar Sætre is the leader of the GAIMPRO research group and teaches in jazz theory and jazz history. His research interests are in the pedagogy, culture and practices of jazz education, performance practices in early jazz, arranging/composition and jazz history.

Associate Professor Magne Thormodsæter teaches bass, combo classes and jazz theory. His research interests are in performance practices – especially in piano-trio and quintet format, methods for ensemble playing and research on beat placement and general improvisation methods.

Keynote speaker: Professor Colin Lee

Time: Thursday 11th June, 10:45 – 12:15
Title: Improvisation and Post‐Minimalism: Implications for the Development of Clinical  Musicianship

Art and clinical improvisation share many creative components that are similar. In clinical improvisation the creation and establishment of musical structure is integral to the ongoing aims of the therapeutic process. In artistic improvisation musical forms are freely created reflecting the spontaneity of players and potential listeners. The creative awakenings of both have much in common and if considered from an equal artistic perspective should be thought of as allies.  If music therapy is to develop its artistic potential then post-minimalist stylistic influences could be seen to be crucial in the development of clinical improvisation. By comparing the post-minimalist movement with current theoretical trends in music therapy a new of critical thinking could emerge, one that considers equally the musical and clinical qualities inherent in improvisation. This presentation will highlight the balance between the musical qualities of clinical improvisation and the therapeutic potential of improvisation as art. Through the celebration of musical diversity contained in performance and therapy the artistic qualities of clinical improvisation can become equal to the non-musical formations of therapeutic aims.  Based on the authors developing theory of Aesthetic Music Therapy audio extracts from improvised music therapy sessions will be presented. Through recent research comparing the compositional and improvisational processes of Paul Nordoff further questions will be raised with regard to the interface between artistic and clinical musicianship. This presentation will include two post-minimalist performances of works for tape and piano. Merging audio extracts from improvised music therapy sessions alongside live compositional responses, a new way of artistic/clinical music will be explored.

Prof. Colin Andrew Lee

Prof. Colin Andrew Lee

Colin Andrew Lee, Professor of Music Therapy at Wilfrid Laurier University Canada, received a PhD from City University, London in 1992. Following piano studies at the Nordwestdeutsche Musikakademie, Germany, he earned a Postgraduate Diploma in music therapy from the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Center, London, England (1984). He has extensive clinical and supervisory experience and has specialized in the areas of HIV/AIDS and palliative care. Colin’s research culminated in his music-centered theory of Aesthetic Music Therapy (AeMT). Colin also gives improvised concerts based on his experiences as a music therapist. In 1996 he helped form the Towersey Foundation, a charity that promotes and creates positions for music therapy in palliative care. Books include: Music at the Edge: The Music Therapy Experiences of a Musician with AIDS (1996), The Architecture of Aesthetic Music Therapy (2003), (Lee, Houde) Improvising in Styles: A Workbook for Music Therapists (2011) and Paul Nordoff: Composer and Music Therapist (2014).