»to Friedrich Cerha«

Improvisation models for ensembles of varying size and makeup


I Linz Version
For 4 to 8 instrumentalists
Duration: between 6 and 12 minutes
Premiere: 1996 in Linz (Brucknerhaus), Ensemble Wiener Collage

René Staar: Jam Session »for Fritz« is the attempt to place my composition method (aided by chord-rows) on a basis of improvisation. This piece was also an attempt to equalize the possibilities of the freedom to improvise among the members of the Ensemble Wiener Collage, which are not there in other projects such as commissioned works.

The players can decide for themselves the harmonic material on which they should improvise and approach it in different ways.

First the functions of the ensemble members are determined. There are rhythmical parameters and melody parameters, which will be performed as soloists. Hence Jam Session is an ensemble improvisation. The players decide how many of them want to improvise (hopefully all of them), in which order this happens, and how the rhythmic-harmonic parts should be apportioned.

Then different ways will open up:
1) One of the harmonic and formal versions worked out by the composer can be taken and adapted for the chosen cast of players. That means that the players unite only on the division of harmonic structure and the choice of the basic rhythmical structure, and one of the players (perhaps a percussionist or a standing violinist) must give the signal to continue.
2) One chooses the predetermined harmonic structure of the composer (the so-called »basis-part«) and he himself composes the form on the basis of the concrete possibilities of the intended performance.
3) One dedicates makes up the rule for himself, obeying that which the composer has foreseen for the basis-part and shaped all of the steps (1) basis-part (2) chorus-rhythmic part (3), choice of rhythmic structure etc.

Thus the player can choose various degrees of freedom, while the composer emerges more or less at the decision of the player.

Each performance is in its particular version really a new creation. Nevertheless as the first performance only the first improvisation on a designated version is foreseen (by either the composer OR the players). Thus can the various version all have things in common (the same parts, the same harmonic development). It is important that the original formal shape have a simultaneously logical-harmonic conception, so that each improvisational foundation shows an unbroken line from beginning to end.

So it is clear that Jam Session offers the players different degrees of freedom. {René Staar; Translation: Michael Ingham}

II Paris Version
For 10 to 18 instrumentalists and an ad libitum female singer
Duration: between 10 and 18 minutes
Premiere: 1996 in Paris (Radio France), Ensemble Wiener Collage with René Staar