Free Improvisation Research Orchestra, ongoing


Title: Free Improvisation Research Orchestra
Instructor: Gahlord Dewald, leads but we’re all doing the work.
Dates & Times: Monday, March 30, 2020 7:00pm-9:00pm
Location: Community of Sound: One Main Street (parking in City lot by the hotel is 2hrs free)
Fee: Pass-the-hat.

Note about the space: The bathroom situation is super complicated (three locked doors, steps, five minute walk). If you can, go before the session starts. :slight_smile:

As with all of our activities, our Code of Conduct applies.


Embodied knowledge:creative practice
For the first hour there will be Free Improvisation. Free as in without set keys, rhythms, etc. The environment will be one of welcoming new people to this creative practice so don’t be shy, come make some sound. I will have the doors open a little early if you need some set up. The purpose of this segment of our time together is to increase our embodied knowledge of improvising among others; what that feels like.

Disembodied knowledge:theory, histories, networks, documentation
In the second hour we shift gears to the other kind of research and present scholarly things related to the practice of free improvisation: discussion of things you’ve been reading, annotated bibliographies, essays, mind-maps, and so on. The format will be short presentations and short discussions. The purpose of this segment of our time together is to engage with scholarly and serious work that is being done around this creative practice and to increase the available knowledge of our community.

Bring the stuff you need to participate in the embodied knowledge portion of the evening.

Also, to gain access to our collection of research papers, do the following:

  1. Download Zotero
  2. Let @Gahlord know what your username is.
  3. Pick something and start reading it.
  4. Consider what sort of research about improvisation interests you enough to sustain continued disembodied activities.

It will also be useful to have an account on this Collaboration Server so you can comment and communicate in this topic or privately via message.

FIRO is structured like a “research group” at an academic institution. We have a general topic of inquiry–free improvisation as a creative practice–and explore this topic together and individually. We document and share our efforts by engaging in free improvisation together and through documentation that advances our own and others’ understanding of the creative practice.

Though there are not “assignments” we do agree that we want to explore the existing and related disciplines and share/discuss our findings.

In this way we are building a community of practice around free improvisation.

Feel free to post questions about this group in this topic.

Current Research Objectives

  • Create publicly accessible annotated bibliography/literature list of scholarly works discussing free improvisation and adjacent creative practices.
  • Group reading: Derek Bailey’s improvisation book or TV series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)
  • Individual reading from the shared Zotero group (contact Gahlord for access).
  • While there are many resources available on older generations of free improvisors, there seems to be a gap on the practices of many of the contemporary practitioners of the past 10 or 20 years. We would like to investigate that “near history” so it isn’t forgotten under the weight of previous generations.
  • There is interest in intonation/pitch concepts related to jazz and free-improvisation.


I’m extremely excited and grateful that you put this on the books. Looking forward to it.


Thank you everyone who came out for our inaugural Free Improvisation Research Orchestra session. What a treat to have Elliot Sharp among our participants to help get us started!

I’ve updated the post at the beginning of this topic to reflect some of our discussions. If you want to be notified of adjustments/developments related to FIRO that occur on this forum let me know and I’ll create a special group for us that we can use as an email notification etc.


Thanks everyone who made it out for FIRO3. We had a great improvisation inspired by some reading from Bailey in FIRO2. We improvised alongside a rhythmic pattern which had a steady pulse but that pulse was itself tempo modulated by an unrelated LFO; we played improvised with a regularly irregular pulse.

Pulse (rimshot/bass drum) patch by Gahlord
Alto Sax by Jost
Drum Kit by Nick
Woodblock by Al
Double Bass by Gahlord

The disembodied knowledge part of the evening included discussion of Arthur Jafa’s polyventiality from the Jazz Cadence anthology, Hal Galper’s discussion of time and “big beat,” and a movie about dancers drawing rhythm from everyday life.