by Stephanie Manning
“A lot of people have preconceived ideas about what free improv is, and that it means everything is totally random,” violinist Leah Asher said in a recent interview, speaking from her home in New York City. “But there is a total spectrum of the amount of determinacy in music, and I like to think about where I am on that spectrum.” Also a violist, composer, and visual artist, Asher recently recorded a series of improvisations for the Cleveland Uncommon Sound Project’s 2021 Re:Sound Festival.
As for where Asher sees herself on the spectrum of determinacy, she said the answer is somewhere in the middle. “I have a practice of developing ideas, either with certain techniques or certain sound worlds, and then picking a few of those to ruminate on during improvisation.” This approach makes for a mixture of planned and spontaneous elements, allowing her to both make decisions beforehand and create form in the moment.