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The Wayne State University improvisation chamber ensemble was organized in 1966 by Dr. Ruth Wylie. The group was originally conceived as a teaching aid but soon it was receiving enthusiastic reactions from concert audiences. During the past year Dr. Wiley's Chamber Ensemble has performed in several states and an entirely new idiom of musical performance has been developed by the performances still maintain their experimental character. Now here with tonight's programme of improvisation here's Professor Ruth Wylie of Wayne State University. Thank you and good evening. We are about to begin a series of programs by the Wayne State University improvisation Chamber Ensemble. And I think it might be interesting to our listeners to hear something about the way in which this group started how we work our purposes and whether or not it's been successful and to what extent and so forth. This was began this was begun by me last spring.
As a pedagogical aid to the teaching of Composition at least that was my original motivation. I had become familiar with the recordings that Lukas Foss had made with a similar group at UCLA. And also I had become increasingly interested in the avant garde jazz group improvisation that has begun to occupy some of the foremost jazz composers arrangers and performers. And so I thought. Since this does seem to be a trend and it seems to be very promising perhaps it might be valuable as a tool. To in induce composition students to become more quickly aware of contemporary techniques through the improvisation method rather than by more the slower process of analysis and of trial and error and writing music and having it criticised and so forth. So I began initially with two of my compositions students. James Hart way and John raya.
Who are both pianists incidentally. So when we first began to work last May we had only three pianists as far as the instrumentation is concerned. I must say that we were able to improvise quite well right from the start. However the fact that we had three pianos was definitely detrimental from the standpoint of timbers. Now it so happens that I play some flute so very soon we decided that two pianos were plenty and I had better make an attempt at improvising on the flute. Then I had another composition student from Israel a very interesting young chap who played the violin and who had never improvised before in anything like a 20th century technique. And I got him into the group and he went very beautifully but lost his visa and had to go to the University of Toronto so he is no longer with us on Fortunately it was a great loss. Incidentally I just got a Christmas card from him today. At any rate we were
quite satisfied with the results and of course we broke over the summer and didn't continue with the with the group or do any work at all. But as soon as the fall quarter began we started up again and this time I was able to interest two other performers two other instrumentalists one of whom is our trumpet player Frank Buckholtz and our present double bass player Don Lewandowski. Meanwhile two pianos were still too much so. Both of our other piano players decided we decided that they would double on the percussion instruments and it worked out very well I was amazed at the way in which they could handle the instruments. I hope you'll agree when we when you have an opportunity to hear our efforts. Well there were other reasons why I started the group. The initial reason that I've outlined for you did prove to be quite successful. The performers and composers involved the composition students involved might not agree with me there but I'm from a more detached position and I can guarantee that what they are playing now
is more and advanced much more typical of 20th century music. They have a much greater familiarity with contemporary techniques than they did when they started out. Another reason that I started this group was I was very much interested in whether or not this was an aesthetically valid form. In other words was it possible to improvise something in 20th century techniques which would be less noble which could have a feeling of unity and balance and proportion and be a work of art in a true sense of the word. And I feel and I think the members of the group feel also that we have succeeded in this respect also that it is definitely a valid creative form. With with great aesthetic value sometimes more than others I will grant you. Thirdly I was interested in what kind of audience reaction we would get whether this would be something that was enjoyable and could be intelligible to listeners and the performances that the public performances that we've had up to date have borne us out in this respect. Two we have gotten
very enthusiastic response and were quite pleased from that standpoint. Finally. I was very much interested in it because being a teacher of composition and a composer myself I'm very much interested in contemporary trends and consequently as avant garde trends in 20 century music have gone increasingly toward statistical music mechanistic music electronic music computer music etc.. On the one hand and on the other hand Chancellor Elliot toric music it seems like the prognosis for the future on the basis of the directions it's going in now must definitely arrive at a state where the live performer is not involved at all. Now this concerns me a great deal and I am convinced that the only solution to this problem or certainly one of the solutions to this problem will be improvisation groups of high quality with real understanding of 20th century techniques who can improvise live bodies in other words improvising
music which is listener ball which is aesthetically valid and to which live audiences can come and listen and perhaps participate to the extent of looking at some of the structural design plans of the performers are playing. Well this is more or less the way it started I'd like next to give you the names of the members of the group. Although I have indirectly I'd like to introduce them to you more formally. I'm Dr. Wiley professor of composition and theory at the university and I play piano and flute and recorders in this group and not all at the same time I assure you. We have John Raya a composition major at the university who plays piano and percussion. Again not at the same time. And Jim Hart way. A composition major a graduate student who is doing some teaching for us now on a graduate assistant ship and he also plays percussion and we have Frank Buckles on the trumpet and Lewandowski on the double bass. Later on we will be using the
harpsichord and recorders. Also in this group but for our first group of programs we will be sticking pretty much to that instrumentation that I gave you. One final note. You might be interested to know how we go about notating what we're playing. This is not completely free improvisation necessarily although we do a number frequently we do free improvisations and we will on these programs to a large extent we work from compose structural design plans and we have been experimenting over ever since we began the group in arriving at the best kind of graphic notation it doesn't look anything like music notation but we have arrived at something that's very clear and legible and we have some of these plans available if you would like to have them to look at before. For some of the later programs you may have these programs by writing in to the station and enclosing a self-addressed stamped envelope if you will write to the music. 5 0 0
3 5 Woodward Avenue Detroit Michigan 4 8 2 0 2. We will send you out some information about the group and some of our structural notational plans that we play for. I think this is will give you a pretty good background on the group and I know you're probably curious enough now to want to hear some of our playing the for this first program where we thought it might be interesting for you to hear us do one of these structured pieces and then perhaps immediately afterwards do the same piece for you again so that you can see how differently it might turn out the second time and if nothing else proved to you that this is in fact improvised that it isn't all written out for you. So that's what we intend to do and then if there's any time left over we will do a free improvisation for you. So we're going to perform no a piece just called adagio written by me for the group. This would be one piano percussion flute double bass and trumpet with the performers that I mentioned to you.
And right afterwards we will do another version with a different piano player we will switch the piano players. So this is an adagio by by me in our first version. Yes.
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Adagio. The first version of it and we are about to do a second version. This one we just finished turned out to be a long a little longer than we had expected. I think mostly because we got so interested in the double bass solo part way through that we let him go on playing longer than perhaps we ought to have for the time that was elapsing. So this next version we will have a different pianist John Ray I was the pianist in the first version Jim Hart way will be in this one and we will attempt to make this version a little shorter. So you shouldn't have any trouble and difficulty in seeing that it is altogether a different version. The second version Oh my. OK.
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You have just heard the second version of a slow piece for the
improvisation ensemble written by me for the group. And to finish our program we're going to do a completely free and unplanned improvisation and we will have the same instrumentalists and Jim Hart way will be at the piano. That was Professor Ruth Wiley with the Wayne State University improvisation Chamber
Ensemble. If you want information on this group and samples of the design plans for several of the improvisations send 15 cents in stamps to music. W d e t FM 5 0 3 5 Woodward Avenue Detroit 4 rate 2 0 2. This program was produced for national educational radio by w d t FM Wayne State University Detroit. The engineers Charles Nairn and David Pierce producer are on hood. This is the national educational radio network.
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Improvisation Chamber Ensemble
Episode Number
Producing Organization
Wayne State University
WDET (Radio station : Detroit, Mich.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program features live improvisational music, as well as a spoken introduction by Ruth Shaw Wylie.
Series Description
A series of performances by Wayne State University Improvisation Chamber Ensemble, which was organized in 1966 by Dr. Ruth Shaw Wylie, as an experiment in teaching contemporary techniques to advanced composition students.
Media type
Performing Group: Improvisation Chamber Ensemble
Producing Organization: Wayne State University
Producing Organization: WDET (Radio station : Detroit, Mich.)
Speaker: Wylie, Ruth Shaw
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-29-1 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:34
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Chicago: “Improvisation Chamber Ensemble; 1,” 1967-06-06, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 10, 2023,
MLA: “Improvisation Chamber Ensemble; 1.” 1967-06-06. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 10, 2023. <>.
APA: Improvisation Chamber Ensemble; 1. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from