Improvising the beat on the go with Derivative Sessions

2 minute read
An outdoor jam session from Derivative Sessions. (Photo by Max Hoenig.)
An outdoor jam session from Derivative Sessions. (Photo by Max Hoenig.)

COVID has greatly changed the way performers and their audiences interact. While many now rely on the internet to do most of the work, Derivative Sessions takes a different route, bringing together groups of musicians for improvised live jams and recordings. You'll find these groovy, short-notice sets in (mostly) low-key outdoor locations around Philadelphia.

"Deriv is a project that aspires to create new styles of music, hybridizing existing influences through sessions with various musicians," the group's creator, Soren, says. "Improv is a pure representation of whatever's real in that moment; it’s music first-hand. It’s also incredibly exhilarating to engage with something as vivid as a good jam and have no idea which direction it’s going." In the recordings, the unplanned nature of the music doesn't make it inaccessible. There's always something to latch on and nod your head to.

Regarding where things go, I wondered how quarantine mode for this largely studio-based project came about. Soren says "It’s been interesting… All we really needed was a generator and to adapt to the elements. Location takes the most consideration. Most places that're appealing to shoot at aren't exactly sanctioned, but there's a massive gray area for this in Philly. We did just get booted off an abandoned middle school last week, though, so we're figuring it out as we go along."

What's next for Derivative Sessions, since they're figuring it out as they go?

"Currently, we're publishing sessions as full albums/videos every other week, so everything we’re recording now will be released throughout the Winter. Once COVID eases up, we’re definitely getting into interactive livestreaming, traveling to other regions and there’ll probably be a podcast."

While the project is still somewhat new, Derivative Sessions already has plenty of audio and visual content to offer.

What, When, Where, and Accessibility:

Derivative Sessions is a Philly based improvised music/recording collective actively organizing sessions every few weeks throughout the city. The events are free of charge, as long as you can make it to the locations as they share them (at a somewhat erratic pace).

The locations aren't compliant with ADA Accessibility guidelines since they're generally hosted at abandoned outdoor spots.

You can find their audio recordings and videos through multiple platforms online. Anyone interested in participating can contact via Instagram or email at [email protected].

Image description: five people play on instruments, including a guitar, drums, saxophone, keys, and a singer on a mic, outdoors, distanced, on graffiti concrete by a body of water.

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