I teach at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm and regularly give presentations, guest lectures and workshops in various other educational settings. The following subjects are my areas of expertise.
Creative Improvisation - This course is based on a set of 30 exercises for group improvisation that I have designed, using a variety of improvisational “frames”, from verbal instructions to graphic notation. The exercises involve exploring (a) how musical ideas can be tweaked through methods of differentiating, contrasting and superimposing layers or phrases; (b) how to use micro-details of dynamics, rhythm, ornamentation and intonation; (c) how improvisation is not just about conscious choice and control but also about allowing for non-control, reciprocal interaction, coincidence and ultra-fast reactions; and (d) how certain skills such as “scanning” (changing mode and direction of attention) and “planning” (creating a variety of transitions and roles) will contribute to collective improvisation.
Reflection Seminars on Improvisation - How can we reflect in a creative way about improvisation, composition and artistic development? How can we develop our listening skills? How can we develop non-judgemental modes of attention that do not rely on attaining immersion or flow? How do we practice improvisation in an efficient way? How can we achieve empowerment and motivation in practice and musicianship by reflecting on our own needs and personal strategies?
Free Jazz Theory – This subject combines the perspectives of history, theory, listening and composition, simply because they benefit so well from each other. An understanding of theory profits from a historical perspective of the views and experiences of musicians and composers: What motivated them to make their particular music? How did they come up with their ideas? By gaining some insight into such questions — through documentaries, interviews, and biographies — we will be more inspired and motivated in our own music-making. Moreover, theoretical concepts are better understood by “stealing” and “playing around”; by reflecting on deeper principles rather than on general examples; and by listening closely to how different musical contexts brings forth a variation of expression. The combined approach thus emphasizes a deep understanding of methods and concepts, so that we can create our own versions instead of simply imitating the past.
Ear Training - Modal ear training – by singing to a drone – gives us a deeper understanding and appreciation of tonal material. We learn to hear both vertically and horisontally, as well as more intuitively and imaginatively. Using inspiration from North-Indian Raga and various forms of microtonal music we deepen our experience of intonation as an important dimension of creating music. Chromaticism is accomplished by increasingly advanced superimpositions of pentatonic structures rather than by atonal techniques. This gives freetonal chromaticism a more affective character.
COMMENTS FROM FORMER STUDENTS
“It is very rare to find a teacher who influences you long after the lesson has ended. By being patient and listening, Klas has helped me understand music in ways that go far beyond your usual music lessons. His courses on free jazz history, ear training and free improvisation have proved to be an essential part in my musical and philosophical development.” – Laurens Smet, double bass (Belgium)
“Thank you very much Klas! I think you are doing a fantastic work and I mean it when I say that this course was probably one of the best that I had in my educational life so far!” – Angel Vassilev, saxophone (Austria)
“With the listening skills that Klas introduced to us I felt that I got more out of music, both as a listener and as a musician. For example, I could start to hear how improvised pieces were constructed and became more aware of how musicians reacted to different musical events. I was then able to take advantage of this ‘knowledge’ in my own improvisation. I was very impressed by Klas’s ability to clearly and concretely discuss and work on different aspects of improvisation and creativity. Every time I heard Klas play piano and various other instruments, I was also incredibly inspired by his presence, flow, energy, dynamism, variety and boundless creativity. For me he is the ultimate improvisational musician and improvisation teacher.” - Oskar Nilsson, drums (Finland)
“In the improvisation classes I had with Klas Nevrin I learned a lot about self-confidence, trust and reaction. It helped me to focus more on letting go, listening to others while playing and trying out how for example time stretching can feel. As we talked about how it feels to improvise in a free context in a group, I learned to react fast, to change roles, to trust in myself and just play. I can certainly say that this class improved my playing a lot!” – Judith Ferstl, double bass (Austria)
“.. it opened my ears. .. to learn why we are touched by certain musicians, not to copy them, but in a way to understand what resonates from them to ‘our way’, why the echo exists. And with musicians we ‘don’t like’, to learn why we feel uncomfortable can bring new lights.” Hëloise Divilly, drums (France)
“I really liked talking about the several possibilities of expressing yourself! In combination with the different musical styles of the differents musicians, it definitely made me thinking of my way to express/write/listen to music!” Julia Strzalek, saxophone (Germany)
“I learned that working with certain limitations (in composing and improvising) can be a great strength instead of a weakness. It gives a sense of direction and continuity. One of the nicest things that the course provided was a bigger understanding of the development of this music. It has somehow given me new hope and inspiration for my own music. I was already very influenced by the musicians we talked about in class, but I didn’t understand why.” Anonymous Swedish student.
“What you are conveying is something that I think is among the most important things in order to be able to develop … to reflect on what is happening around us and to try to put it into words. This is something that I am often avoidin, but I’m forced to do it when I have you as a teacher.” Anonymous Swedish student.
“The course has blast away many deep-rooted old limitations in how I learned to approach music. Probably the best required reading I had at school for all three years (!). The compositional exercises felt relevant and gave an in-depth knowledge.” Anonymous Swedish student.
“The course was extremely valuable and interesting – having a lesson on improvisation where you can discuss not only music but also how life plays a role in what we do daily. You need more of this type of teaching to feel hunger for music!” Anonymous Swedish student.