Improvising music involves a leap into the uncharted, but its success relies on abilities honed through experience and on an unwavering commitment to the moment and context of performance. Improvisers synchronize their intentions and actions, all the while maintaining a keen sensitivity to and connection with the evolving group dynamic. At times, performance can evoke a swarm like quality in which the individual parts are moving in very different ways, yet the musical whole evolves with a collective purpose. "Sync or Swarm" provides a fascinating study of musical improvisation, using theories from cultural and cognitive studies and the emerging science of chaos and complexity. David Borgo explores his topic with a systems approach, as individual chapters expand outward in scope: from the perspective of a solo improviser (English saxophonist Evan Parker); to that of a group interacting in performance and over time (the Sam Rivers trio); to the network dynamics that bind together performers, listeners, educators, and promoters into a musical community.
Each chapter is paired with a different aspect of the emerging sciences, including perspectives from the study of embodied cognition, nonlinear dynamics, self-organizing systems, social networks, and situated and distributed learning. "Sync or Swarm" looks through the lens of contemporary science to illuminate the process and practice of improvising music and explores the ability of improvisation to offer a visceral engagement with these emerging scientific notions, ultimately offering us new ways of engaging with and shaping the discourse that surrounds music in general. The book comes with a 74-minute CD featuring performances by Evan Parker, the Sam Rivers Trio, George Lewis, and the author's own improvising collective, "Surrealestate".
Table of Contents
List of Figures I List of Audio Examples Acknowledgements 3 Preface i The Sound and Science of Surprise 1 The Age of Complexity; 3 Sync or Swarm; 6 Reverence for Uncertainty; 13 Exploring Uncertainty; 14 Performing Uncertainty; 24 Experiencing Uncertainty; 27 Documenting Uncertainty; 31 Evaluating Uncertainty; 33 The Embodied Mind; 39 Taking the Note for a Walk; 39 The Body in the Music; 42 It's a Bit Like Juggling; 53 Thinking about the Laundry; 57 A Chameleon on a Mirror; 61 Rivers of Consciousness; 65 Complexity and Emergence; 67 Time and the Qualia of Experience; 71 The Phase Space of Improvisation; 75 Hues of Melanin; 82 A Delicate Balance; 87 The Edge of Chaos; 91 The Turbulent Mirror; 93 Fractal Worlds; 97 Self-Organization; 134 The Rage for Chaos; 143 Sync and Swarm; 149 Coupling and Entrainment; 151 Insect Music; 157 By Lead or By Seed; 163 A Web Without a Spider; 174 Harnessing Complexity; 189 The Map is Not the Territory; 190 Group Creativity; 202 Surrealestate; 209 The Shores of Multiplicity; 216 References; 221 Notes; 221 Index.
David Borgo is a saxophonist/composer/improviser, ethnomusicologist, and an Assistant Professor of Music in the Critical Studies and Experimental Practices Program at UCSD. He has released four CDs as a leader and many more as a collaborator. His scholarly work appears in Black Music Research Journal, Journal of Consciousness Studies, and the edited volume Playing Changes: New Jazz Studies.