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Nikhil Hogan Show

Oct 9, 2019

I’m so happy to introduce my guest today, Concert Pianist, Researcher, and Teacher, Professor David Dolan!

In his solo and chamber music performances, he incorporates improvisation into the relevant concert repertoire in repeats, cadenzas, as well as in preludes, fantasias, and improvises on themes provided by the audience.

In addition to performing worldwide, He is the Professor of Classical Improvisation and its various applications to solo and ensemble performance at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, David has been heading the Centre for Creative Performance & Classical Improvisation since 2005. He also teaches at the Yehudi Menuhin School. Since 2011 David is running a programme of classical improvisation applied to performance at the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) in Melbourne based on annual intensive residencies.


1:46 what’s your musical background?
2:14 When did you start playing the piano?
2:48 What were you improvising when young, what kind of music was in the house at the time?
3:06 Did your parents improvise?
3:25 Did your first teacher teach you the basics of playing the piano?
4:37 Do you have Absolute or Perfect pitch?
4:54 Did you still maintain your improvisation while doing your standard piano training?
6:02 Did you listen to traditional Israeli or Arabic music growing up?
7:04 What style of Classical music did you predominantly play in your training?
8:12 Were you the only one growing up that could improvise among your teachers and peers?
9:00 Did Haim Alexander hear you improvise?
10:40 What materials did Haim Alexander use to teach you?
11:20 What was a typical lesson with Haim Alexander look like?
13:24 Was his music theory conventional or did he have his own method?
14:13 Was the ear training Fixed Do or Moveable Do
14:52 What were your Masters and PhD studies about?
17:08 How would describe angry speech in music?
19:01 What year was this research?
19:22 Did you have peers or colleagues that you could relate to and talk to regarding improvisation as a professional, or were you alone?
20:01 Do you know Robert Levin?
20:15 What was it like meeting Robert Levin for the first time?
20:40 Is it very rare to meet another improvising musician?
21:39 Is the scene much different from what it used to be?
22:00 The reason that you’re in the UK is because of Yehudi Menuhin?
22:47 What did you play at that concert, that Yehudi Menuhin watched?
23:54 What did Yehudi Menuhin mean by,”Survive this quartet”?
24:37 What did you make the quartet do, to teach them to improvise?
25:33 Given that you had been teaching classical improvisation since 1990, were you ready for any ensemble teaching situation?
26:41 Do you have set Classical forms or harmonic progressions to get students to improvise with?
27:34 What is a periodic structure?
28:38 How do you tell your students what notes to choose in the response portion of “Call and response”?
29:20 What do you mean by wrong notes?
30:00 Are the bass lines fixed or do you ask them to come up with their own?
31:03 Is this connected with basso continuo?
31:54 Is that how a string player can learn to improvise, by having the bass in their ear or mind?
32:39 Does that enable you to have multiple musicians performing at the same time?
33:34 How would a brand new student, who’s never improvised before, learn to improvise in their first year of Guildhall?
35:07 Let’s say they have no fear in improvising, what would they work on?
38:00 Is this all ensemble or solo?
38:34 Is the singing in solfege?
39:23 How do you distinguish between improvisation and composition?
40:42 What are some differences among the different classical eras?
43:02 So that is a lot of vocabulary to internalize?
44:15 Do you incorporate teaching other non-classical styles of music?
46:54 Has music changed and become more difficult from earlier eras, harmonically?
47:59 As an example, is Messiaen more complex than earlier music?
48:47 What are some common mistakes to learning classical improvisation?
51:38 If a parent is about to start their child learning music, how should they start?
52:52 What would you say to the thousands of children who are practicing for their graded music exams about the pieces they are playing?
54:40 Are there other things culturally that have changed in the music culture compared to previous eras?
56:55 What classical improvisation resources can you recommend for interested people?
58:43 If you could reform music education around the world, what would you do?
1:00:41 Wrapping Up