Music Improvisation Workshop | “IMPROVISATION = CONVERSATION”


Speaking & Thinking In Sounds

Using conversation & language skills to shift the approach from ‘note/genre based’ improvisation, to the wide universe of ‘sound/conversation based’ exploration!

Who should sign up?

Any age. Any instrument(s). From experienced improvisers to beginners, all are welcome. I’m especially interested in reaching people who are “afraid to fail” in improvisation, so we can break down that barrier.

First and foremost, anyone, at any skill level can participate – together. This workshop will shift the participant’s perspective on what improvisation is. We’ll take it from simply being note/genre focused and transform the player’s approach to being sound/conversation focused. It will greatly broaden who the player can improvise with, how long they can play, and how creative they can be!

When it comes to improvisation, sometimes people freeze… “what do I play next?”, “I can’t think of any other ‘things’ to play…”, “what if it doesn’t ‘sound good’?”, etc… In the workshop we’ll address these issues through a progression of group exercises, experiments, and a variety of conceptual in approaches free-improv.

Every single person who uses language is an improviser… So, everyone already possesses the skills required for music improvisation.  When you sit down to free-improv with a group of musicians – even if you’ve never played with them before – it should be natural, music is a language.  We’ll work on communication skills in order to have a conversation in sound.

We’ll touch on Avant Garde & Extended Techniques as a dialect of improvisation. We’ll focus on how, much to the surprise of traditional thinking, experimental sounds can be found in nature everywhere. I have heard many of my improvising collaborators play rhythms & textures that I’ve previously experienced in nature &/or surrounding environments. It is coded in our DNA & can’t be escaped, but rather must be acknowledged and embraced. There is naturalism in experimental sound that needs be explored in order to communicate & relay your meaning to the listener.

In each class we’ll take time to listen to examples of different approaches to improvisation that correlate to the session’s focus.

By the very nature of the word/process, you must be open to failure. You must be willing to “play a wrong note” or “try a sound/technique you’ve never played before”. That’s what an experiment is: you have an educated guess about what outcome may happen, but you can’t know for sure until the experiment is performed & data collected. – Try a new sound or technique, listen… did it work? No? Alter the experiment & try again… still No?  Then, it’s probably safe to move on to a new sound-experiment. OR Yes? Great, it worked!! Keep exploring it, what else can you create from that experiment, and where will it lead you?”


Brian Grimm – Composer, Performer, Teacher

“ … [The Brothers Grimm] compositions are both classical and experimental, both disciplined and exploratory.”
– Isthmus, The Daily Page 2012

Brian Grimm grew up surrounded by Chinese string instruments of every sort.  After initiating lessons in with virtuosi Yang Wei (pipa) & Daxun Zhang (bass) of the Silkroad Ensemble.  Through the help of Dr. Sheung-Ping Lai,  Brian was lucky to continue his Chinese music studies on guqin (zither), pipa (lute), gaohu (fiddle) & daruan (bass lute) in Hong Kong with members of the 香港中樂團 Hong Kong Chinese OrchestraWuji Ensemble 無極樂團.   Brian’s deep passion for music traditions from around the world has continued to grow and recently he has been studying North Indian Classical music from sitar virtuoso Pt. Sugato Nag (Kolkata, West Bengal, India).  Over the last 15 years Grimm has developed a deep language of Free Improvisation & Composition with groups such as The Brothers Grimm, Lovely Socialite, and Brennan Connors & Stray Passage.

Brian Grimm is something of an experimental-music powerhouse in Madison.” – Scott Gordon, Tone Madison, 2016

In conjunction with performing & teaching, Brian runs GrimmusiK Records – a label for all projects involving him & his brother AJ (classical & flamenco guitar).  As an educator, Brian teaches all ages workshops on free-improvisation: “Music Improvisation = Conversation”; & Chinese music: “Melodies of China”.  Brian loves the enthusiastic questions that arise after his performances.  He always encourages the audience to follow their curiosity and learn about more global traditions – thus growing empathy and understanding for the people who have created such wondrous cultures.

more info, pics, albums at Brian Grimm EPK