Improv1@halas.am by Harold Rubin & Ophir Ilzetzki
Experimental Israel is an ongoing research project by Dr. Ophir Ilzetzki. In 2016, supported by Mifal Ha'Pais and the Israeli Center for Digital Art, Ilzetzki was commissioned by Daniel Meir and Halas Radio to create an original radiophonic study centred around contemporary Israeli music. As a composer identifying stylistically as experimental, Ilzetzki chose to focus on other Israeli artists who are, in some way, identified with experimentalism. In the two official years of research, Ilzetzki met weekly with prominent figures in the Israeli new music scene - composers, improvisers, sound and multi-media artists. With them, Ilzetzki ruminated in unofficial conversations regarding the main research questions. Yet, Ilzetzki prompted the artists not only to tackle the research questions via interviews, but also artistically; and so, Experimental Israel became one of the most extensive call for new works in Israeli music to date.
The main research questions are: How does experimentalism manifest in its artistic form, and specifically music; does the Israeli experimental practice differ from that practiced abroad, and is it possible to detect a distinct Israeli style? Despite its conclusions, the research does not attempt to suggest definite answers, but to place the opaque and widely used term in a clearer context. Since the early 90s, a bustling new music scene is active in Israel, bringing together artists of different genres. Today, these same musicians have already taken their rightful place in the international music scene, making them a fertile ground for queries such as raised by this research. Accordingly, and seeing the research could serve musicians worldwide, Ilzetzki makes sure to summarise each of its interviews into a short article in English. Each article includes the main focal points of the interview, a chronological reconsideration of the fixed research questions, as well as a look at those added during the course of research. Seeing the Israeli experimental scene is constantly growing, and hence, in flux, this research does not, and truly cannot, have a definite conclusion. Therefore, even after its official course has ended, Ilzetzki continues to add new voices to the research archive, so as to expose and clarify the topic even further. In fact, in its inception, the research was introduced as ongoing, and it is our hope that future researchers will refer to it, and continue its course. Thus, at any given moment in time, the research will serve as an up-to-date 'screen-shot' of the constantly developing Israeli experimental scene.
Experimental Israel is broadcast live from Halas Audio. All interviews, alongside interview summaries, are available in this archive. The programs are also available for download on Spotify.
Experimental Israel was made possible due to the kind support of Mifal HaPais Council for the Culture and Arts, and the Israeli Center for Digital Art.
On Israel’s independence day (God knows of who), Experimental Israel had the rare treat to meet with a true titan of improvisation in our parts - the clarinettist, Harold Rubin. Rubin, celebrating his 84th birthday a day after our interview, is hailed by several generations of improvisers and jazz musicians in Israel as a true inspiration and mentor.
A native of South Africa, Rubin is still more comfortable with communication in English, and so we have the rare opportunity of presenting to you, our listeners, the complete interview without summing up a thing. However, I would like to take this opportunity to simply share my personal thoughts on my meeting with this wonderful man.
As we planned our session, it became clear that Rubin was aching to simply get into the studio and play. It was my manager and friend, Daniel Meir - the executive producer of Halas Radio, whom at some point prompted me to finish the setup as soon as I can and simply get on with it, as it was clear that Rubin was getting restless. Not being an improviser, I approach this practice with a feeling of trepidation, and yesterday was no different. I was not intending on playing at all that day, but at a certain point, realizing that Rubin would very much like to play in ensemble, invited Daniel to join me and together create a makeshift trio for our show. In an act of chance, Daniel’s instrument simply didn’t work, and suddenly I found myself in a position where I am to improvise with Harold Rubin, on my own, right now!
On suggesting to Harold that we start playing, he simply picked up his instrument and got to it. He wasn’t interested whether I was ready, or whether the microphones were on – he simply started playing. It was a true lesson in jovial freedom. Immediately I understood why so many musicians love playing with Harold – he simply wants to play, and as soon as he seems to have finished a substantial musical moment that could potentially call the session to an end, he started initiating the next moment. This was a true lesson at “taking it easy”. It’s as if his entire approach was “who cares if everybody listens or no one at all – we’re searching for something together and having fun. If it comes, great, if not, great! During our short interview I too noticed that Rubin, albeit answering my questions politely, was actually waiting for us to continue playing. It was so wonderfully strange to see an 84-year-old man aching to get back into it as if on the brink of an imminent discovery, vis-à-vis a 37-year-old man trying to postpone that moment as much as possible although the greater opportunity was obviously mine!
At the end of our second improv session and the conclusion of our show, I asked Harold how he manages to be so cool about playing? I mentioned that coming from a very stuffy classical tradition, I still find it very hard to let go and accept the fact that in improv I have no control over the outcome. I mentioned that I feel this fear, in some ways, confines me. Rubin’s simple response was: “This is who you are right now, so try to use the fear”. One simple sentence, containing so much truth, and probably the most useful lesson I have received regarding improvisation to date.
For the complete program with Harold Rubin please follow this link: http://halas.am/programs/experimental-israel-harold-rubin/
Improv1@halas.am by Harold Rubin & Ophir Ilzetzki is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License.