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photo by Lenny Gonzales

Carl Ludwig Huebsch: „From the point of view as a listener Philip, how do you tell whether an improvisation is good or not?“

Phillip Greenlief: „Well, perhaps it’s easier to say what isn’t good than what is good. It’s hard to describe these things – but if the person playing seems in their head and self-possessed and not really thinking about the room – that’s not a good thing. But just when it’s good, I stop thinking. I’m just listening“

Huebsch: „What makes you feel good about contemporary improvisation?“

Greenlief: „When I’m listening to a great improviser, I just lose track of myself and my thinking. I’m not analyzing anything. I’m not saying ‘oh, they just did that again‘. I’m not arguing with the performance in my head. It’s communicating to me and I’m listening and I’m open and receptive. Sometimes it’s you, you can be tired and your mind just doesn’t want to pay attention. I think that’s the case with any art form, whether it’s a movie or a novel, or a painting in a gallery. „PHILLIP GREENLIEF“ weiterlesen


Carl Ludwig Hübsch: „Aurora, how do you tell whether an improvisation is good, from the point of view as a listener?“

Aurora Josephson: „I know an improvisation is good if I feel that I am in good hands; that the improvisers have the experience needed to keep not only my attention, but the attention of the entire audience, including those who have never heard an improvisation before. I believe this can happen with less experienced improvisors who have extensive training, but a bulk of the best improvisations I have heard have originated from players with over twenty years of experience improvising constantly.

I know the improvisation is good when I no longer think about the music in the context of improvisation, but as a stand-alone piece of music which transcends all musical genres.“

Huebsch: „Those ones who have practiced for more than 20 years raise your expectations. But in a concrete situation of music, are there any parameters for you which determine whether you don´t like what you hear?“

Josephson: „I would say when it is obvious someone is not listening, when people play over one another, when you…“

„AURORA JOSEPHSON“ weiterlesen


Carl Ludwig Hübsch: „Gino, from the point of a listener, how do you tell whether an improvisation is good or not?“

Gino Robair: „As I listen to the sounds, I want to feel like they have a sort of spontaneity and direction; that the musicians are not noodling, but are going in some sort of direction with the improvisation. So, that’s one thing I am listening for. Do they have intent, or are they looking for intent?

Second, I like it when the instruments are melding in such a way that I can’t always tell which person is making which sound.“

Hübsch: „Is there something an improviser has to know that an interpreter doesn’t have to know?“

„GINO ROBAIR“ weiterlesen


Carl Ludwig Huebsch: „Tom, from the point of view of a listener, how do you tell whether an improvisation is good or not?“

Tom Djll: „That’s a good question. For me it’s a sense of surprise – the initial surprise of a good improvisation. I hear something and I’ll go‚ ,Oh! I just did not expect that, and now I’m really intrigued and I’m waiting for the next surprise.‘ So that leads to anticipation, which generates a forward momentum. It’s like the music´s got energy, it’s moving forward.

As a listener, I want to feel there’s an energy that’s moving or building. Even in a static kind of real super reductionist improvisation, there is still a tension. It may not feel like it’s moving anywhere, but it’s tense and building the energy of anticipation.

„TOM DJLL“ weiterlesen



Carl Ludwig Hübsch: „Lisa, from the point of view as a listener, how do you tell whether an improvisation is good?“

Lisa Mezzacappa: „You’re starting with the tough ones right from the beginning…“

Huebsch: „What do you listen to if you sit in a concert?“

Mezzacappa: “I think as a listener, I can’t separate the feeling of being also a musician and improviser from being a listener. So I think even as a listener, I might be listening for the same things, which is a sense of immersion and a lack of self-consciousness on the part of the performers. I think that translates to me as something successful.“

Huebsch: “Can you explain that a little bit to me?“

Mezzacappa: „Sure. I guess when I can hear improvisers thinking, it has less of an impact on me. If I feel like they are getting lost in the moment and the interactions, that’s most powerful. Then, I’m also kind of transported as a listener, and in that sense, I feel like being a listener is „LISA MEZZACAPPA“ weiterlesen


(homepage c.brown):

photo @ Lenny Conzalez

Carl Ludwig Hübsch:“Chris, from a point of view as a listener, how do you tell whether an improvisation is good?“

Chris Brown: „I think there’s more than one way probably.  The first thing that comes to my mind is that I’m hearing ideas. I’m hearing something that’s developing, an idea that grows in some way. If that is in the solo situation, it’s like that. In a duet situation or a group situation, I’m usually listening to the interaction between the players, which shows me that they are listening and that together they are creating a conversation, but more like a structure by means of their responses to each other –  that you can feel and hear the growth of ideas in the music. Maybe that’s the most inclusive definition I can respond with.“

Huebsch: „So, is there something that an improviser needs to know that a person who plays written music doesn’t need to know? Is there a different qualification?“

„CHRIS BROWN“ weiterlesen


Carl Ludwig Hübsch: „From the point of view of a listener, how do you tell whether an improvisation is good?“

Karen Stackpole: „I think that the sounds have a flow to them. You can tell that everyone’s connected by the musical conversations that are taking place – you could have a certain type of sound and someone will reply and then you get a conversation that seems to be happening amongst the musicians.“

Huebsch: „So, is improvised music conversation?“

Stackpole: „To me it is. It could be more like André Breton’s Manifesto of Surrealism, where you just have a stream of consciousness happening. It doesn’t have to make sense – it doesn’t have to be like sound of like sound, but something’s happening that’s flowing, and you can tell when people are relating to each other. I think that’s the best of all, when people are listening and responding to that. You can tell when someone’s not listening or running all over everything. I guess that’s a method as well when someone just kind of runs all over everything.“ „KAREN STACKPOLE“ weiterlesen


Carl Ludwig Hübsch: „Scott, when you listen to improvised music, how can you tell it’s good?“

Scott R. Looney: “Probably the best moments are for me when the whole thing becomes a sort of an amalgam and the individual personalities disappear into the totality of the sound. Those are my favorite moments, when it doesn’t sound like it’s like an ego fest by anybody. I think in general for improvised music there’s a very communal kind of approach, and I find that my favorite moments of improvised music are when that approach makes it so that I almost don’t know who is playing what. Like I get very similar kinds of textures or even feelings from everyone and it just seems like a big communal whole and I don’t feel like identifying anyones part as much.“

Hübsch: „Is that the difference to composed music?“

Looney: „I don’t know. I would certainly say that a piece of composed music has this stamp of the composer’s attitude. But it depends of how the composer is leaning as to whether that comes out as a very individualist kind of response or someone that that encourages improvisation or some variance of interpretation of the music.

„SCOTT R. LOONEY“ weiterlesen


This blog contains a collection of interviews I made during my AIR Residency in the Headlands Center for the Arts, in September / Oktober 2017, with improvising musicians from the Bay Area. I met Tim Perkis, Karen Stackpole, Gino Robair, Tom Djll, Chris Brown, Aurora Josephson  and some other improvising musicians from the Bay and asked them pretty much the same questions.

The main interest about this work is driven by the idea that listening to improvisations does partially focus on other topics than listening to composed music. In composed music the use of the material and decisions can lead to a reflection on the ideas underlining the composers work. In improvisation the analysis of the material does not necessarily lead to any conclusions. Nonetheless many reviews of improvised music focus on nothing but playing techniques, involving awkward word inventions to describe what kind of noise was made. And unfortunately much too often that´s where it all ends.

I believe that improvisation is put together by interaction (of all kinds) rather than by material. So if you want to speak about improvisation you have to look at the interaction.

The interviews will be published one by one.

Meanwhile, in late 2019, these interviews are published as little booklets in pocket size. If you wish to support this work please order the booklets per mail to the prize of 7 € / booklet plus shipping.

(Please note that this prize is a solidarity prize, means I wanted to keep the prize low no matter whether it covers the costs I had in the production of the booklets. If you have enough money and it makes you feel good, please feel free to pay more. If you can not even afford the 7 € write me and I make you a better prize (this applies for students etc.))


Carl Ludwig Huebsch: Tim Perkis, from your point of view as a listener, how do you tell whether an improvisation is good?

Tim Perkis:  As a listener? I probably listen as a player, but I think the sense of intelligence and energy. When improvisation is bad usually it feels boring and listless and uninspired, and when it’s happening is it’s sparkling with some kind of energy.

Huebsch: Is there something an improviser has to know that an interpreter doesn’t?

Perkis: Yes, I think an improviser has to have a broader sense of time and of understanding how long things should go on, when changes have to happen.  One must have an expanded picture of now that includes anticipating changes and understanding the form that’s been implied by what’s come before and so on. An Interpreter has all that written out for them and they just have to make it sound good and keep the moment connected, but they don’t have to think about that broader „TIM PERKIS“ weiterlesen