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Go Jam, Young Man

Preston Stahly

Classical Musicians Learn to Improvise

By Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim
Wall Street Journal

Bach employed it at the request of kings, Beethoven used it as a weapon in duels, and women swooned when Liszt got carried away. But at some point in the early 20th century, improvisation disappeared from classical-music performance. Now a new generation of composers and performers is rediscovering it as a central part of the creative process – and, quite possibly, as a remedy for the shrinking of classical-music audiences.

For Preston Stahly, a composer and 1982 winner of the Charles Ives Prize, it's one of the most important issues in music today. He uses the term "avant-pop" to describe his own music and that of a heterogeneous group of other composers who grew up playing rock and jazz while studying counterpoint and 12-tone music in college. The wall separating the two worlds turned many composers away from academia and into an alternative music scene that is driven by composer-performers and chamber-music ensembles capable of playing and improvising in a number of styles.

Read more about this at the Wall Street Journal website: