The Portal

Improvisation as Form

Silas Riener and Rashaun Mitchell laying out notecards from their Desire Lines improvisation practice. Photograph by Cori Olinghouse.

Silas Riener and Rashaun Mitchell, notecards from their Desire Lines improvisation practice, photograph by Cori Olinghouse.

This course centers improvisation as a practice, as a mode of collaboration, and as a method of communicating within and between bodies, disciplines, and communities. Improvisational forms are processual by nature and are carried on through physical presence and embodiment. This praxis-based course will unfold through readings and discussion incorporating the disciplines of live art (music, dance, and performance), physical explorations led by guest artists, and project-based experiments. Selected readings include the following edited anthologies: The Other Side of Nowhere: Jazz, Improvisation, and Communities in Dialogue; The Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies; The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies; Danielle Goldman’s I Want to Be Ready: Improvised Dance as a Practice of Freedom; Kodwo Eshun’s More Brilliant Than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction; along with writings by Fred Moten, Vijay Ayers, and screenings of Check Your Body at the Door, Milford Graves: Full Mantis, and Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives. Students will engage in physical explorations with guest artists who have developed ways of transposing improvisational methodologies interdisciplinarily. In a discussion-based forum, students will perform close readings of improvisational forms to develop critical skills for reading multidisciplinary works that are iterative, unfolding in space and time. As part of this, students develop final projects that employ ideas of “sampling and remixing” to experiment with combining images, actions, and ideas.