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The creation of composer, teacher and performer Sarah Stiles, Free Improvisation is a radical approach to instrumental teaching that strengthens the core values of musicianship and ensemble playing through a flexible, creative approach to style and technique.
Sarah, who studied at the Royal Academy of Music, brings to Free Improvisation the fruits of a varied career that has straddled the worlds of classical, folk, jazz and pop music. Valuing above all the qualities of spontaneous music-making common to all these styles, she has created an approach to playing together that can be combined with traditional teaching methods as an additional tool for learning, or can be used as a source of relaxation and fun in lessons. Because the source of Improvisation lies in each player’s relationship to his or her instrument, it’s as well suited to absolute beginners as to advanced students. How it works in practice in string playing for teachers and pupils is neatly summarised in the introduction to Impro:
‘The method of Free Improvisation is built up in just a few stages, using basic ideas consisting of only a handful of notes, techniques of imitation and question-and answer themes. These can also be developed into more complex patterns, depending not only on the skills of the individual players, but also the broader creative aspects they bring to the mood for their shared improvisations.’
For many students, learning to play without the security of ‘written-out’ music has proved immensely liberating. They quickly take to the idea of building on their own creativity to invent rhythms, pitches and original sounds, thus strengthening their imaginative approach to notated music too. The nine violin duos of Dual Band take Free Improvisation a stage further, and mix improvisatory violin duets with passages composed in Sarah’s own distinctive contemporary idiom, and reflecting her skill at writing for the fiddle, her own instrument. Any violin duo of Grade 3 standard upwards would find much to enjoy in these pieces – in which both advanced and aspiring players can meet on equal terms. Sarah is active in Britain and the continent, promoting Free Improvisation through consultations, composing, teaching and workshops. Details of these activities, and other publications, may be found on her website. She also writes on the subject fo many distinguished international journals. Her own website can be found at http://www.sarahstilesmusic.com.