Avant-Garde » Improvised Music » Creative Orchestra
A creative orchestra is a large ensemble of free improvisers, that is an application of the classical orchestra to avant-gardist group improvisation. To successfully improvise as a large group implies many difficulties -- mainly, it multiplies the risks inherent to listening and concentration by the number of participants, may it be 10, 50 or 100. Creative orchestras first developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s as pools of free improvisers and laboratories to try new ideas. John Stevens' Spontaneous Music Orchestra, for instance, had an ever-changing line-up which consisted of the participants to his workshops. Such ensembles had short lifespans and rarely recorded, mostly because the technology did not allow practical solutions for recording such large groups when they were not backed financially by a major record company -- one notable exception being Keith Tippett's one hundred-piece project Centipede. During the 1980s, a few orchestras were established with a more permanent line-up, like the Walter Thompson Orchestra and the Vancouver-based NOW Orchestra, which became a favorite vehicle for composers who wanted to investigate the border between composed and improvised music (the NOW Orchestra has recorded works by people as diverse as George Lewis and René Lussier). As the outlets for avant-garde music increased in the late 1990s, with more clubs, festivals and independent record labels dedicated to this kind of music, creative orchestras became more numerous, the best new specimens being the London Improvisers Orchestra and the Micro-East Collective.