Sync or Swarm: Improvising Music in a Complex Age

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9780826417299: Sync or Swarm: Improvising Music in a Complex Age
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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 swarmlike 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.

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About the Author:

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 won first prize at the 1994 International John Coltrane Festival, has toured through Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the United States, and 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.

Review:

"I am pleased to have had my work subjected to such rigorous scrutiny and I appreciate all the thinking David Borgo has done in an area where it is almost impossible to make any single uncontested statement!" - Evan Parker, saxophonist/improviser/composer

"Integrating a broad range of interdisciplinary considerations — from complex systems and sociological theories to cognition and consciousness — saxophonist/composer/scholar David Borgo's Sync or Swarm makes important contributions to the expanding dialogue about contemporary improvised music." -Ed Sarath, Professor of Music and Chair, Department of Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation; Director, Program in Creativity and Consciousness Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

"Getting excited while you are READING about MUSIC may be common to ethno-musicologists. But for me (a cognitive and computer scientist), music generally lives in one part of my brain while scientific/academic work lives in another. David Borgo's Sync or Swarm successfully lights up both sides of my brain!"- Richard K. Belew, Professor and Chair, Cognitive Science Department, University of California, San Diego

"Not only is this an important book for specialists working in areas of both contemporary music and contemporary science, but it also offers absorbing reading to improvising musicians, their listeners, and the growing cadre of smart, engaged folks fascinated by the human implications of 'complex' music, chaos theory, and other once-foreboding realms." -David Ake, Associate Professor of Music, University of Nevada, Reno; author of Jazz Cultures



"Borgo is familiar with a wide range of the recent literature on complexity, chaos, embodiment, etc. and he's done a creative job of bringing that into his main topic: free-jazz group improvisation." -R. Keith Sawyer, Associate Professor of Education, Washington University; author of Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation



"David Borgo's Sync or Swarm, a provocative, gutsy, and potentially revolutionary attempt to apply chaos theory, fractal plotting, sociological Actor-Network Theory, the concept of swarm intelligence, and other analytical templates to improvised music, wow!"- Christopher Delaurenti, The Stranger, March 2- March 8, 2006

(The Stranger)

"a provocative, gutsy, and potentially revolutionary attempt to apply chaos theory, fractal plotting, sociological Actor-Network Theory, the concept of swarm intelligence, and other analytical templates to improvised music. Wow!"- The Stranger, March 2006



"Worth noting by British readers is the amount of space devoted to Evan, including some new quotations". (Brian Priestley, Jazzwise)

"I am pleased to have had my work subjected to such rigorous scrutiny and I appreciate all the thinking David Borgo has done in an area where it is almost impossible to make any single uncontested statement!" - Evan Parker, saxophonist/improviser/composer 

"Integrating a broad range of interdisciplinary considerations – from complex systems and sociological theories to cognition and consciousness –  saxophonist/composer/scholar David Borgo’s Sync or Swarm makes important contributions to the expanding dialogue about contemporary improvised music." -Ed Sarath, Professor of Music and Chair, Department of Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation; Director, Program in Creativity and Consciousness Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

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Borgo, David
Published by Bloomsbury Academic (2005)
ISBN 10: 0826417299 ISBN 13: 9780826417299
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