Improvised to composed musics

Ian Ferrier, Amir Amiri & Louise Campbell
Mile End Poets’ Festival 2017
Photo credit: Michael Kovacs.

I make music along the entire range from improvised to composed musics. This includes works by and for myself as a composer-improviser, co-compositions and other collaborative processes with amateur and professional artists, and pre-existing and commissioned works.

I make music as a clarinetist—acoustically and with amplification and effects using vocal processors and guitar loop pedals—and as a conductor.

In Extensio, R, Collaborative composition with Camille Renarhd & Benoît Dhennin

A sound sample is worth a thousand words, so here are sound samples that demonstrate the range of what I do, with accompanying descriptions, ‘cause words do help.


Songbird for half-clarinet and loop station
Louise Campbell, half-clarinet and loop station
Recorded at Banff Centre by head engineer Carolina Rodriguez and assistant sound engineer David Adamcyk during Creative Gesture Lab 2017.

This piece draws inspiration from my first long-distance bike trip along the coast of Georgian Bay. As anyone who has spent any time sleeping in a tent knows, nature is anything but peaceful and quiet; it is frequently very noisy, especially at daybreak when the birds start to sing. I spent that trip listening to birds, biking between beaches, and learning with alarm about water politics in relation to the Great Lakes. I use the half-clarinet and loop station to tap into the cacophonous, alarming and sublime sounds I encountered on that trip. Many thanks to the head sound engineer Carolina Rodriguez and assistant sound engineer David Adamcyk at Banff Centre for their generosity and expertise in making this recording.

Songbird live at petit Outremont
petit Outremont, Montreal Qc
June 14, 2017
BacKpacK MusiQue, self-production by In Extensio

Structured Improvisaton:

Bertold Brecht, Concerto for Clarinet
Louise Campbell, clarinet
May 14, 2015
Centre de la creativité Gesù, Montreal Qc
Racines et resonances, a concert self-produced by In Extensio

I developed this site-specific work on location using a creative process similar to dance. The Gesù is a very large cathedral in which the audience is placed in the middle of the space in such a way that the Stations of the Cross form alcoves around the audience. The final work is a series of miniatures that moves spatially around the audience, exploring the sound and resonance of the venue from the vantage point of each alcove.

Cross-disciplinary Collaboration

O My Sisters
Ian Ferrier, spoken word and guitar
Louise Campbell, clarinet and loop station
Words and Music Series 2017
Casa del Popolo, Montreal
Text from Bear Dreams, Popolo Press, 2016

Singing in the rain
Mary Williamson, dance
Louise Campbell, clarinet and loop station
Words and Music Series April 23, 2017
La Vitrola, Montreal Qc

This work is a collaborative composition drawing on Mary’s and my shared experience of Mary’s daughter Leila’s birth.

Improvised Conducting:

I have developed an improvised conducting process that allows a group to collectively build a vocabulary of sounds and gestures. I see this as meta-composition: I lay the groundwork for vocabulary and then I turn the group over to anyone who wants to conduct. The result is a lot of fun, with people inventing their own gestures and sounds, and conducting surprisingly different works that are all recognizably derived from the same source.

Collaborative Composition with Amateur Musicians
The Highwayman
Sing! participants, 2017

I lead amateur musicians in collaborative creative processes regularly. These people have a great love of music, and often little to no musical training. This gives our work a unique sound not replicable by professionals. I do not consider myself the composer of these works; rather, they are collaborative compositions that I facilitate using the strengths of the people in front of me. This sound sample is of a group with a strong interest in literature (participants include an English teacher, librarian and principal, among others). They selected Alfred Noyes’ poem The Highwayman as a point of inspiration.

This work represents their collective creative work in which I acted as facilitator and conductor.