Playing for Keeps

Improvisation in the Aftermath

Playing for Keeps

Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice

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Book Pages: 352 Illustrations: 27 illustrations Published: April 2020

Music > Ethnomusicology, Jazz, Theater and Performance > Performance Art

The contributors to Playing for Keeps examine the ways in which musical improvisation can serve as a method for negotiating violence, trauma, systemic inequality, and the aftermaths of war and colonialism. Outlining the relation of improvisatory practices to local and global power structures, they show how in sites as varied as South Africa, Canada, Egypt, the United States, and the Canary Islands, improvisation provides the means for its participants to address the past and imagine the future. In addition to essays, the volume features a poem by saxophonist Matana Roberts, an interview with pianist Vijay Iyer about his work with U.S. veterans of color, and drawings by artist Randy DuBurke that chart Nina Simone's politicization. Throughout, the contributors illustrate how improvisation functions as a model for political, cultural, and ethical dialogue and action that can foster the creation of alternate modes of being and knowing in the world.

Contributors. Randy DuBurke, Rana El Kadi, Kevin Fellezs, Daniel Fischlin, Kate Galloway, Reem Abdul Hadi, Vijay Iyer, Mark Lomanno, Moshe Morad, Eric Porter, Sara Ramshaw, Matana Roberts, Darci Sprengel, Paul Stapleton, Odeh Turjman, Stephanie Vos


“Casting an eye on the world of improvisation, Playing for Keeps is a major corrective to the latent ethnocentrism of improvisation studies and shifts the field's focus in a revolutionary way. The volume challenges readers to think more carefully and critically about the status of improvisation in various traditional cultural contexts and the intersection of those contexts found in contemporary society. A smart, decisive statement on globalism and improvisation.” — John Corbett, author of Vinyl Freak: Love Letters to a Dying Medium

"This is a rewarding project that is already extended by a special edition of the Journal Critical Studies In Improvisation and is to be further extended in a companion book now in progress." — Phil England, The Wire

"A major academic achievement, Playing for Keeps: Improvisation In The Aftermath is an enlightening examination of different manifestations of improvisation, their transforming possibilities, and of the ethics of listening." — Ian Patterson, All About Jazz

"I was deeply touched by the description of your experience of our visit to Ramallah and the camps together. I would sincerely hope that your book will be read by more than the academics and intelligentsia, it’s very important." — John McLaughlin

"Playing for Keeps collects critical, thoughtfully selected on how musical improvisation can respond to and through trauma. . . . Case studies in this collection illustrate global improvisatory practices, framing them as solutions to encounters with difference that have failed in the past. These solutions seem especially timely for a world reckoning with dual crises: racism and disease. Each case study testifies to improvisation’s power to maintain and restore dignity through dialogic exchanges of creative response to horrific injustices, exchanges that facilitate co-creation of new community identities with an eye toward nurturing rather than perpetuating destruction. . . . Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals." — S. Schmalenberger, Choice

Playing for Keeps explores the emergence and development of musical improvisation in settler-colonial, postcolonial, postapartheid, and postwar societies, with particular attention to the uses of it, successfully and otherwise, in negotiating lingering violence and uncertainty, and in imagining alternative futures, addressing trauma, sustaining resilience, and modeling, if not inspiring, solidaric relationships…. Writing this review in the midst of a global pandemic is an exercise in utopian thinking. Reading the book reminds one of humanity as a reservoir of hope. Robbed of our usual spaces of assembly, dialogue, collaboration and co-creation, musicians will have to improvise their (and our) ways back into a musical commons."

— Lindelwa Dalamba, Herri


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Price: $28.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Daniel Fischlin is University Research Chair and Professor in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph and coauthor of The Fierce Urgency of Now: Improvisation, Rights, and the Ethics of Co-creation, also published by Duke University Press.

Eric Porter is Professor of History and History of Consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and coauthor of New Orleans Suite: Music and Culture in Transition.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Playing for Keeps: An Introduction / Daniel Fischlin and Eric Porter  1
1. manifesto / Matana Roberts  25
2. The Exhibition of Vandalizim: Improvising Healing, Politics, and Film in South Africa / Stephanie Vos  29
3. The Rigors of Afro/Canarian Jazz: Sounding Peripheral Vision with Severed Tongues / Mark Lomanno  55
4. "Opening Up a Space That Maybe Wouldn't Exist Otherwise" / Holding It Down in the Aftermath / Vijay Iyer in conversation with Daniel Fischlin and Eric Porter  81
5. Experimental and Improvised Norths: The Sonic Geographies of Tanya Tagaq's Collaborations with Derek Charke and the Kronos Quartet / Kate Galloway  94
6. Nina Simone: CIVIL JAZZ! / Randy DuBurke  121
7. Free Improvised Music in Postwar Beirut: Differential Sounds, Intersectarian Collaborations, and Critical Collective Memory / Rana El Kadi  129
8. Street Concerts and Sexual Harassment in Post-Mubarak Egypt: Tarab as Affective Politics / Darci Sprengel  160
9. Improvisation, Grounded Humanity, and Witnessing in Palestine: An Interview with Al-Mada's Odeh Turjman and Reem Abdul Hadi / Daniel Fischlin  191
10. Silsulim (Improvised "Curls") in the Vocal Performance of Israeli Popular Music: Identity, Power, and Politics / Moshe Morad  250
11. Three Moments in Ki Ho`alu (Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar): Improvising as a Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) Adaptive Strategy / Kevin Fellezs  275
12. From Prepeace to Postconflict: The Ethics of (Non) Listening and Cocreation in a Divided Society / Sara Ramshaw and Paul Stapleton  300
Contributors  325
Index  331
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0814-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0680-0