About Creative Music Foundation
THE CREATIVE MUSIC FOUNDATION facilitates the experience and expression of our deep connection with the transforming, liberating and healing energies of music, a universal language that we all share and is as essential to our humanity as the air we breathe. CMF does this by providing creative space where musicians from different backgrounds and traditions explore together, share and pass on their most personal musical expression and understanding, emphasizing keen awareness, focused practice, listening and communication. CMF pursues its mission through workshops, residencies, coaching, concert performances, recordings and archival projects in the USA and around the world.
The Creative Music Foundation was founded in 1971 by musicians Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso and Ornette Coleman. Its initial advisory board, comprised of legends from all aspects of music, the arts and philosophy, included composer John Cage, conductor/musician Gil Evans, philosopher/educator Buckminster Fuller, composer George Russell, and composer/conductor Gunther Schuller. Their goal was to establish a nonprofit organization focused on improvisation and musical cross-pollination that complemented musicians’ academic studies, a place where music as a universal language could be explored and expanded.
Established in New York City as a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization, the Creative Music Foundation’s mission is to foster the keen awareness and focused practice of musical expression and interactions, and to support the understanding of music as a universal language by providing environments where musicians from different backgrounds and traditions share and explore together their personal musical interpretations.
For most of its 40 years, CMF's main program was the Creative Music Studio, a physical location in Woodstock, NY where musicians from all over the world lived, played, interacted with each other and created a body of music broad and deep. Based on a 45-acre campus with multiple residences, workshop rooms and performance halls, hundreds of Guiding Artists, including several MacArthur ‘Genius’ Award winners (George Lewis, John Zorn, and Cecil Taylor, Charlie Haden), lived, played and shared musical wisdom with thousands of participants, many of whom are now well-known musicians, from Steven Bernstein and Cyro Baptista to Peter Apfelbaum and Marilyn Crispell. Over 400 concerts were recorded and are currently being digitized as part of the CMS Archive
Project. The CMS Archive is being housed at Columbia University’s Library, with some performances being included on upcoming recordings, the CMS Archive Selections Series, a co-production of CMF and the American Composers Forum.
Even without a physical 'campus,' the Creative Music Foundation has been remarkably active. In addition to the CMS Archive Project and CD compilations, CMF Programs include the CMS Oral History Project, a partnership with Columbia University Jazz Studies Program; The Improvisers Orchestra Fellowship Program, ongoing residencies, workshop and performances in New York City, Woodstock and around the world. And to celebrate its 40th Anniversary in 2013, a variety of educational and artistic activities are planned, including: a CMS Documentary; Creative Music Master Awards; Scholarship and Fellowship programs; initiation of an annual commission for compositions; a CMS Reunion/four-day 'intensive' retreat for Guiding Artists, alumni, and students; and a 40th Anniversary Concert tour. And, finally, the Creative Music Foundation hopes to find a new, permanent facility in which musicians can live, play and learn from each other.
Please help us reach our educational goals by supporting the work of the Creative Music Foundation by making a fully tax-deductible donation. Thank you.
Creative Music Studio: Birthplace of “WorldJazz”
During the 1970s and 1980s, the Woodstock-based Creative Music Studio was considered the premier study center for contemporary creative music. Founded in 1971 by Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso and Ornette Coleman, CMS brought together leading innovators in the jazz and world music communities. Creative musicians came to CMS from Asia, Africa, Europe and South America. Unprecedented in its range and diversity, CMS was an acknowledged phenomenon in the international music world, providing participants with the rare opportunity to interact personally with the musical giants of improvisation and musical thought on a daily basis.
"There was obviously something going [at CMS] on that inspired people,” said flutist and CMS Guiding Artist, Steve Gorn. “This brought in a number of
musicians who were really exploring with ways to integrate non-western music into a jazz context. Practically everyone that has been significant in exploring in that direction passed through CMS, at some point or another."
“In the history of contemporary improvised music it (CMS) was a very, very big thing. It was a totally unique place in the world, totally nonbureaucratic — a hands-on experience, free and creative,” - Marilyn Crispell, pianist and Guggenheim Fellow.
It was at CMS where the Worldjazz, the improvisational and compositional expansion of the world's musical traditions into a jazz idiom, was born and evolved. Now one of the main driving forces in many styles of music, WorldJazz was pioneered very early at CMS, guided by artists with musical backgrounds as diverse as all the world’s cultures. Hundreds of live concerts were recorded, many heralded as landmark performances. Thousands of workshops, master classes, concerts and colloquia inspired a generation of musicians who took with them the ideas, concepts and practices developed at CMS.
Key among the concepts guiding the practices developed at CMS are the “Gamalataki” system of rhythmic training, and the “Music Mind” concept of focusing on intuition and spontaneity in listening to and utilizing the total spectrum of sound. This leads musicians and non-musicians to the “Music Universe” experience of music being a common language with countless individual expressions and dialects.
These teachings are at the core of all Creative Music Foundation activities, and can be heard in music as far reaching as Frederick Rzewski’s compositions to the rock band Phish, that claims the gamalataki system is at the core of its celebrated “You Enjoy Myself” vocal jam.
“Certainly the discoveries of the students — there were never more than 30 a term — were matched by the discoveries of the teachers. The studio did not promote one style because its teachers were too stylistically diverse. But a handful of important bands or records would not have happened without the studio as a spur, where the players were introduced to one another and the ideas were hatched. They include Mr. Holland’s “Conference of the Birds,” from 1973; many of Mr. Braxton’s albums from the ’70s and ’80s, including “Creative Orchestra Music”; the String Trio of New York, founded in 1977; the early-’80s jazz-rock band Curlew; and Codona, the trio of the multi-instrumentalist Collin Walcott, the percussionist Naná Vasconcelos and the trumpeter Don Cherry.” – Ben Ratliff, New York Times, October 21, 2008
A typical day at CMS would start with early morning bodywork such as Tai Chi or yoga, followed by gamalataki rhythmic training and focused instrument practice. Afternoon sessions included master classes and ensemble workshops for instrumentalists and composers. Evenings would include a meditation session as well as an emphasis on participants’ own creative musical expressions in rehearsals and exploratory sessions. Two performance presentations with Guiding Artists, most recorded for posterity, would conclude each week’s session.
“A typical visitor to CMS might encounter a conversation or performance among a diverse array of musicians, including members of the AACM, such as Roscoe Mitchell and Woodstock neighbor Anthony Braxton, Indian flutist G.S.Zachdev, Japaneze Zen shakuhachi artist Watazumi-doso, Sengalese drummer Ayib Dieng, Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Nana Vasconcelos, and composer and improviser Pauline Oliveros. Other area residents, such as Dave Holand and drummer Jack DeJohnette, were regular visitors and instructors, as were the memebers of the best known of the live electronic music ensembles, Musica Electronica Viva. This hybrid conception from the 1970s constituted one obvious model for John Zorn’s 1986 declaration that ‘We should take advantage of all the great music and musicians in the world without fear of musical barriers.’” – George Lewis, MacArthur “Genius” Award winner, vice chair, Columbia University Department of Music, from his book “A Power Stronger Than Itself.”
CMS closed its year-round facility in 1984, largely due to the restrictive economics of the time. But the music never stopped. The Creative Music Studio has flourished through workshops, residencies, performances and presentations throughout the world. Today, a thriving CMS community lives on in a remarkable network of players in the Woodstock area, in New York and around the world.