Steve Gardiner


Improviser for Piano, Harpsichord, Voice and Indian Harmonium

The Joy of Improvising

I find improvisation exhilarating, as it gives me the freedom to create spontaneously throughout each performance. This is true when I improvise a piece ‘from scratch’, and also when I play a piece I have improvised many times before. At any given moment I can change an aspect of the piece: the theme, rhythm, speed, dynamics, articulation, ornamentation – even the overall structure. I find it impossible to experience this level of freedom when I set a piece in stone by writing it down.

My Style of Improvising

There are two main strands to my style, which sometimes meet:

1) A strand for piano solo which I loosely call ‘minimalist’. This often involves the constant repetition of single chords, themes or rhythms, with subtle additions, subtractions, extensions, or diminutions over a long period of time. The most minimalist piece I have created so far is Journey To A Still Place, on the CD Still. This piece consists of a single chord which is gradually expanded and then dismantled into a profound silence.

2) A strand for either piano solo, or for voice with Indian harmonium, which can best be described as a fusion of various sounds drawn from Balkan, Middle Eastern, Indian and Western European traditions. Notable features include the use of a wide variety of scale, irregular dance rhythms in 5, 7, 11 time etc., highly embellished melodies, shimmering sonorities.

I am enjoying the challenge of exploring and creating my own kind of tonality.

 

My CDs

Each CD contains a cover leaflet giving more detailed information about the pieces.

 

CD1. Still

Total Duration: 68’53”

Four pieces

Solo piano

Style: minimalist (especially in the main piece Journey To A Still Place), trance, and an Eastern flavour in the scales used in pieces 2 and 4.

Info: The first piece – Journey To A Still Place – in particular can only be appreciated if listened to in silence. It is a meditation leading you to a place of deep stillness.

 

CD2. With Open Heart

Total Duration: 68’33”

Eight pieces

Solo voice (piece 1), voice with Indian harmonium (pieces 2, 3, 5, 8), solo piano (pieces 4, 6), solo harmonium (piece 7)

Style: a fusion of sounds from Bulgaria, the Middle East, India and Western Europe.

Info: The opening Call To Prayer is a free improvisation – it is not an attempt to copy the Islamic azan (Call To Prayer). The lament Tsunami was improvised soon after the tragic event.

 

CD3. Ascending Through The Chakras           

Total Duration: 70’59”

Four pieces

Solo voice with Indian harmonium (piece 1), piano and voice (piece 2), solo piano (pieces 3, 4)

Style: a fusion of sounds from Bulgaria, the Middle East, India and Western Europe.

Info: The first piece is a 45 minute creative music meditation, and is best listened to in silence.

 

CD4. Dancing in The Spirit

Total Duration: 71’09”

Ten pieces: nos. 3-9 form a collection called (Entrance); pieces 1 and 2 are both given in two versions, to show how they can vary from one improvised performance to another.

Solo piano

Info: Many of these pieces can and have been danced to …

Each CD costs £10, with an extra £3 to cover P&P. Please email me at [email protected] for further information.

 

Biographical Details

After gaining a First Class degree in music at Merton College Oxford, I went on to study composition with Jonathan Harvey at the University of Sussex, before immersing myself in the music of other cultures.

 I seek to engage with the audience by creating music full of movement and colour, ideal both for dancing and for inner reflection. My style of improvisation blends sounds drawn from a wide variety of cultures, including the Sufi-inspired traditions of Asia Minor and the Middle East, Balkan folk, North Indian Classical, West European Baroque, minimalism and trance.

My music has been broadcast on BBC radio. I have staged many concerts for charity, including twelve-hour marathon performances in 2005 and 2007 for Action Water, and a four-hour concert in 2008 for Shallal, a community dance theatre company based in West Cornwall. As well as performing with other solo musicians I have worked with dancers and Tai Chi groups. For many years I have translated music into braille, and I am the Support Administrator and a Founder Member of the UK Peace Foundation: www.peacefoundation.org.uk