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Improvisation: Its Nature And Practice In Music Paperback – August 22, 1993


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; Reprint edition (August 22, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306805286
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306805288
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.9 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #163,304 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Guitarist Derek Bailey has performed solo concerts throughout the world, played with most of the musicians associated with free improvisation, and recorded over ninety albums. He lives in London, where he divides his time between solo performances; organizing and playing in Company, an international ensemble of improvising musicians; running his own label, Incus Records; writing; and ad hoc musical activities.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 12 customer reviews
Helps one find things to say about music that so often 'scares' people you know!
Adam C. Hill
Quite hyperbolic and idiosyncratic in parts, so if you're looking for an academic study look elsewhere.
James E. Anderson
If you want to understand the thought processes of improvising musicians, read this book.
Christopher Forbes

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Forbes on October 23, 2002
Format: Paperback
Let's get the caveat out of the way first. This is NOT a How to book on Improvising! In fact...I'm not sure there can be a How To book on improvising...there are no tricks and written examples really defeat the purpose. The only way to learn to improvise, at least in a contemporary setting, or a free setting, is to do it and do it and do it. At first it won't sound good...that's where so many people get lost. They think that if their improvisation isn't brilliant off the bat, then somehow they haven't got the "trick" yet. But perserverence is what leads to mastery. (For example, when I was 16, I got sick of my jazz harmony in my piano's left hand. I spent an entire weekend at the piano, practicing chords that I'd discovered on Bill Evans albums. Changed my jazz playing forever!) So if you are looking for a How To book...give it up. Reading won't help, only playing will. (Like the Nike commercial says, just do it!)
Now on to the book at hand...Derek Bailey's book on Improvisation is really a classic. Bailey's interest here is wide ranging. Using a combination of interviews and essay, he looks at improvisation, or the lack of it, in Indian, Flamenco, Baroque, contemporary concert, rock, jazz and freely improvised music with the purpose of exploring improvisation in all it's forms from the inside. The act of improvisation is basically conceptual. How you think about your material has a deep effect on the material itself. So the book examines mostly the attitudes of improvising musicians toward improvisational issues: structure, composition/improvisation, rules and stylistic issues, recording, the relationship to the audience, and even the attitude toward innovation. It is interesting that there is such diversity, even in the improvising community, in outlook.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Eric Cook on January 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
The low ranking of the previous reviewer, who was apparently expecting this to be a introductory how-to manual, should be disregarded, as he's missed the point and direction of this classic work. Rather than being a instructional primer, it is instead a larger examination and explanation of improvisational music from the unique perspective of an extremely talented and thoughtful insider. The topics covered are diverse and wide-ranging, touching on the myriad of styles and genres listed above. Bailey addresses issues of composition, "anti-instrument" approaches, recording issues and more in the form of essays and excerpts of conversations with Steve Lacy, Earl Brown, Viram Jasani, John Zorn and many others.
I'd like to give this item 4.5 stars, as it's not perfectly written - the flow from topic to topic is abrupt at times, and I think it could have been a stronger work had Bailey explored some of the tangents touched upon in greater depth. I'll err on the positive side, however, and go with 5 stars.. It's just that important of a work for anyone interested in listening to or making improvised music. I'm not even much of a fan of Bailey's recorded work (though I wouldn't argue about his role historically), but will recommend this book without hesitation.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 8, 1998
Format: Paperback
Derek Bailey hasn't played a composed note in decades. This book is like his playing... engaging, difficult, comical, infuriating, and ultimately liberating. Bailey examines the improvisation in many musical forms - not just jazz, but also Indian classical music, blues, Baroque figured bass, and of course free improvisation. Like his music, this book examines issues mostly ignored by the commercial and academic music mainstreams, with a keen and critical eye.
And like his music, most people won't be able to stomach this book. But those who can will learn things. It will change your understanding of music.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is absolutely essential for anyone seeking to learn more about modern music and approaching music in an historical manner. Baily explains the role of improvisation in a variety of music forms and in the process helps the reader attain greater knowledge and appreciation of these various genres. The only section that is lacking is the one regarding rock 'n' roll, which focuses on Steve Howe of the band Yes, a rather insignificant artist in modern songwriting and rock music. Other than that, this book is a masterpiece.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Adam C. Hill on March 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
I'm a great lover of outside music, but
not a musician, and I found this book
very accessible and sharply written.
Helps one find things to say about
music that so often 'scares' people
you know!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By James E. Anderson on January 4, 2012
Format: Paperback
of one person's views on what is of value in music, and beliefs about the nature of improvisation and its place in society.

Quite hyperbolic and idiosyncratic in parts, so if you're looking for an academic study look elsewhere.

An example on p140: " In any but the most blinkered view of the world's music, composition looks to be a very rare strain, heretical in both practice and theory." ??? This statement after describing how a group of 7 improvising musicians all agreed that there was no essential difference between composing and improvising. Bailey, it seems, didn't get the fact that most written music stems from mental improvising or often improvising on an instrument and the fact that it is later notated is rather beside the point.

In fact Bailey wasted a lot of my time on discussing this false dichotomy, particularly when he used it to bag western classical music in general - it seems he had a rather large axe to grind.

The real value for me was in the fascinating and instructive interviews he conducted with musicians who improvised in various stylistic genres including baroque. It is for this aspect of the book that I give it 5 stars and thank Bailey very much for his time and effort.
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