Improvisation workshop

Elisabeth Harnik

Elisabeth Harnik
Photo: Bernhard Guenther
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CREATIVE MUSIC: improvisation as part of contemporary performance practice


The workshop is open to all musicians (instrumentalists, singers, electronics welcome) interested in improvisation, active in any musical field, of any technical, stylistic and idiomatic background, of any age and with any kind of training, preferably with a good level of technical-instrumental mastery.

The workshop highlights the moment of spontaneous expression, the pleasure of interaction and surprise, the learning of group sensibility, the importance of taking decisions, the power of memory and the joy of creating music in real-time. 

Through deepening material awareness in musical communication, a playful handling of roles and functions of instruments, working with or against instrumental or formal expectations in different chamber formations, the course shows some of the available options in group improvisation, such as f.e. free improvisation, conducted improvisation or Pauline Oliveros’ concept of Deep Listening – a holistic approach, which comprises guided listening exercises, bodywork and dream work. The workshop gives the participants a creative opportunity to co-compose and perform simultaneously as well as to expand and deepen their musicianship in an atmosphere of sharing and mutual learning.

I consider composing and improvising as a kind of interplay between the calculated and the inconceivable: a reflection about a developed sound vocabulary—be it via preconceived or spontaneous interventions—and a tracing of an inner response through listening deeply. I am in a permanent dialogue with my own repertoire and the associated possibilities of structuring time. This way of dedicated awareness of the material constantly accompanies my artistic process.

Elisabeth Harnik

Elisabeth Harnik - improvisation solo
Elisabeth Harnik/Joëlle Léandre Duo

Elisabeth Harnik

Austria based pianist and composer has created a multi- faceted body of work by blurring genre boundaries through various collaborations in the field of improvised music, interdisciplinary projects, sound art and contemporary compositional works. She studied classical piano and later – with Beat Furrer – composition at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz, Austria. Her compositions are performed regularly at concerts and festivals for new music and since the nineties she appears as pianist at concerts and festivals for jazz and improvised music in Europe and abroad. Harnik works within an electro-acoustic inspired sound world, using specific preparations and extended techniques while pushing the limitations of the piano. Her improvisations draw from physicality and introspection, intuitive playing and high precision. Harnik´s unique approach to her instrument as well as to improvisation and composition has led to many concert invitations. Besides her solo performances she is member of numerous ensembles for improvised music and has performed and recorded with a number of internationally recognised representatives of the contemporary jazz scene in Europe and abroad such as Johannes Bauer, Thomas Lehn, Frank Gratkowski, Harri Sjöström, Tony Buck, Jaap Blonk, Wilbert de Jode, Sergio Armaroli, Carlo Actis Dato, Steve Piccolo, Giancarlo Schiaffini,  Gianni Mimmo, Joëlle Léandre, Mikołaj Trzaska, Vasco Trilla, John Edwards, Fay Victor, Elliott Sharp, Steve Swell, Michael Zerang, Dave Rempis, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Ken Vandermark, Tim Daisy, Andrea Centazzo, Clayton Thomas a.o.  Harnik has performed at various national and international festivals such as the Ulrichsberger Kaleidophon, the Nickelsdorfer Konfrontationen, the Artacts Festival St. Johann, the Music Unlimited Festival Wels, the International Jazz Festival Leibnitz, the Taktlos Festival Zürich, the Comprovise Festival Cologne, the Beethoven Fest Bonn, the A L’ARME! Festival Berlin, the Moers Festival, the Concepts of Doing Festival Herrischried,  the ICTUS Festival Milano, the Visitations Festival Antwerp, the Jazz & More Festival Sibiu, the Audio Art Festival Pula, the Krakow Jazz Autumn Festival, the Ad Libitum Festival Warsaw, the Alpenglow Festival London, the All Ears Festival Oslo, the Umbrella Music Festival Chicago, the Okka Fest Milwaukee, the Catalytic Sound Festival Chicago,the Musicacoustica Beijing, the SoundOut Festival Canberra or the Jazz na Fábrica Festival São Paulo.

Elisabeth Harnik
Photo: Petra Cvelbar

Her work as a pianist and composer is documented on many recordings and she received a great number of rewards and prizes. Most recently she held the Austrian SKE Publicity Award 2017 and in 2019 a portrait CD with works by Elisabeth Harnik was released by the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation »Edition Zeitton«. In 2022 she was awarded the Andrzej-Dobrowolski-Composition Prize of the Province of Styria. 

Elisabeth Harnik is a Deep Listening Certificate Holder (Center for Deep Listening at Rensselaer in Troy, New York). Since 2011 she is a lecturer for “Performance Practice in Improvisation” at the University of Music and Performing Arts, Graz.

Il corso

Attendance as an actual student is €300; free access for auditors (subject to availability). Lessons begin on 28/07/2023 and end on 01/08/2023 (total no. 5 effective days). The course will be held in English. Lessons will be held at CDM’s premises.

The cost of the course includes:

  1. Daily group lessons (ensemble or chamber groups) with Elisabeth Harnik
  2. The possibility of attending all the lessons and/or seminar and lectures s held during the course
  3. The performance of the pieces presented during the masterclass in a public concert organised by Foresty International Music Festival
  4. The use of study spaces, whose hours will be self-managed by the students and coordinated with the activities taking place. 
  5. Issue of certificates of participation authenticated by the teacher and the organisation
  6. The possibility, in the days following the course, to stay at CdM San Michele to professionally record at an advantageous price. For further information, please write to

Deadline for registration is: 15 June 2023.
A fee of €50 must be paid at the time of registration.

Payment details
Account holder: APS Montaldeo Musica
IBAN: IT02V0326848450052776248700
Reason of payment: Name and Surname, music masterclass 

By 6 June you will be informed about the selection of the participants to the masterclass; in case of non-selection, the registration fee of €50 will be refunded. Payment of the fee, amounting to further €250, must be made by 12 June. The accommodation fee of €250 will be paid on site, upon arrival. Any payment and bank charges are the responsibility of the applicant.
In the event of late payment, for which bank transfer date of sending is decisive, a late payment fee of €75 will be charged.

Board and Accommodation (€250)

Casa San Michele offers accommodation in affiliated facilities (flats) in the village of Montaldeo (AL). If necessary, the structure is available to those who wish to stay the nights before or after the beginning and the end of the course (upon reservation) at an additional cost of €25 per night. The cost includes accommodation in a shared flat with a room with bed linen and dinner (the latter at the CDM facility), served in the dining room or in the garden. Water is always available in the common area of CDM; other consumptions will be considered extra. The lunch break is at your own discretion: two affiliated restaurants and a grocery shop are within easy walking distance, so you can choose from sandwiches to traditional dishes. The cost of lunch is not included in the cost; however, the use of the SPA is included, limited to the times agreed on the occasion of the course and in accordance with current regulations. Rubber slippers (non-slip) and a swimming costume are compulsory for use of the SPA.
The balance of any extras can also be paid on the spot by credit or debit card or bank transfer.
Please note that in the village of Montaldeo there are no tobacconists, pharmacies or ATMs; all necessary services are easily accessible by car or bicycle in the neighbouring villages.

How to reach us

The nearest railway stations are Ovada, Novi Ligure, Arquata Scrivia; a transfer service is available from the arrival station to Montaldeo at a cost of €15. The nearest airports are Turin, Milan, Genoa, with respective train connections. For those travelling by car, Google Maps shows the exact location by searching for “Casa San Michele Montaldeo”; the nearest motorway exits are Ovada (A26), Novi Ligure (A26/A7), Arquata Scrivia (A7).


Registration fees, net of bank charges, will not be refunded under any circumstances (save for the initial fee of €50 in case of non-selection), except in the event of cancellation of a course due to force majeure or failure to reach a minimum number of participants. The accommodation fee will not be charged in the event of cancellation by the member.

Covid-19 regulations

CdM San Michele, in addition to taking all possible precautions and necessary equipment on site to prevent contagion and to comply with current regulations, will communicate after the registration the protocol to be followed for a course and a stay as safe as possible.

Apply for admission to the Improvisation Workshop Elisabeth Harnik