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Navigating through Harmony

Name: Karst de Jong Main subject: Music Theory & Improvisation Research coaches: Michiel Schuijer & Thomas Noll Title of research: Navigating through Harmony Research question: How can spatial representation of harmony contribute to the understanding and teaching of harmonic progressions in tonal improvisation? And does the application of the directional approach provide an effective navigation tool for the improviser while shaping the harmony? Summary of results: The navigation system can help in the choice of logical harmonic progressions while improvising. As a navigation tool it allows harmonic movement to be felt as opposed to calculated. As a tool for invention, the arrows challenge the obvious progressions one makes habitually as an improviser and one develops a sense of the basic movements in harmony: prolongation, movement and consolidation. It is clear that a simpler organization of harmony in the improviser's mind stimulates an active imagination, stands less in the way of the creative process, and leaves more time to anticipate what lies ahead. The research experiences have reconfirmed the importance of playing with one's ears wide open while improvising. As a teaching tool the directional approach is promising, although new materials have to be developed. This is work in progress. Clearly this research is not finished here. The next step is to take the results as a starting point for changes in the teaching of improvisation. One wish is to integrate the directional ideas with certain elements from the Partimento tradition. Then there is further research needed on the relationship between the upper structures and the underlying fundamental melody, dealing with stylistic elements such as chord forms and voice leading. The presentation has the format of a report (45 minutes) as it is in fact a portfolio of many activities leading up to this very moment, including a case study and experiments with teaching an ensemble. The presentation will consist of a summary of the theoretical background, followed by improvisations played on the piano and by an ensemble to demonstrate the ideas behind the directional approach. Biography Karst de Jong studied Classical Piano with Geoffrey Douglas Madge and Music Theory at the Royal Conservatoire of The Hague and started teaching early at the conservatoires of Amsterdam and The Hague. In 2003 he was appointed professor of composition techniques and improvisation at the ESMUC in Barcelona, and has since been pursuing the practice of improvisation as an integral part of the curricula of higher music education. He has given many concerts with improvisations for solo piano or with ensembles in Europe, China and Japan. He taught in many international festivals, among them the International Chamber Music Festival Schiermonnikoog, the Piano-Pic Festival in Bagneres de Bigorre and the Paul Badura Skoda Vila-seca Music Festival in Spain. In 2012 he released his first solo CD with improvisations entitled "Improdisiac". Karst de Jong currently lives in Barcelona.

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