It can be difficult to write about what we do as improvisers. Perhaps it’s easier to explain it through a series of questions we’ve been asking, ourselves:
What is composition?
What is chamber music? Is it repertoire, or rather an approach to creative collaboration?
What is musical time? Is it linear? Cyclical?
What is jazz when you remove its canonized instrumentation and approach?
What are the essentials in the musical language we like to present?
What are the styles and ideas that motivate us? Abstract art? Schumann lieder? Eliot Carter?
How do we evoke these ideas without mimicry?
What do you call this music? Is it chamber music; is it jazz? Is it Mahler? Is it free improvisation?
It’s everything we love.
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I’ve worked with Tanya Kalmanovitch on and off for ten years and, of course, our musicality together has strengthened in that time. That being said, our very first encounter was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Two violas (an unusual instrumentation) improvising with no genre or premeditation, producing fully realized gems. How was this possible? Sometimes I feel there’s a hint of magic in it, but the best definition I can come up with is ‘exponential experience’ – a kind of super-consciousness, rare in even the best of musical collaborations, that involves some sort of alchemical transformation into some element much richer and deeper than we could each find on our own.
In some ways, we’ve had very similar backgrounds: string players in the classical realm, both fighting our way into the jazz hierarchy, and both passionate about the extreme diversity in the music this world has to offer. We’ve also had many dis-similarities along the way, whether geographical (Tanya grew up in Alberta’s isolation, while I came of age in the environment of New England Conservatory), educational (Tanya studied at Juilliard, while I leaving the conservatory at 17 to work with the Joe Maneri Quartet) and gender (which was a big deal when we were coming up in through the jazz ranks). Through these differences and similarities, it was our hard-found empathy that allows for the shared, exponential experience that we are continuing to explore, fine tune, and share with others.
- Mat Maneri, January 26, 2015