Interactive Improvisation in Times of Isolation 

photo one top left: a musician sits on a sofa with their bass; photo two below: a musician sits reading books with plants and instruments; photo three below: a musician with their upright bass with a backdrop of nature; photo four middle: the bottom of a striped skirt and feet; photo five top right: the shadow of a person with their arms in the air; photo six below: the bottom of a snake on a pink rug; photo seven below: a scene of trees, sky, clouds, and the sun.

Interactive Improvisation in Times of Isolation Collage Photos provided by the artists.

The aim of this project is to creatively showcase the realities of living in isolation. The group will produce a series of 14 short audio-video recordings of individual improvisational responses to ambient recordings (e.g., early morning birdsongs) and responses to each other’s improvisations in lieu of collaborating in person. The ambient recordings signify the current reality, where nature exists, even thrives, with muted human intervention. The responses to the soundscape recordings signify our awareness of that reality “out there”, with our emotional responses to the isolation we are experiencing. The interactions to each other’s responses signifies our adaptability, where we find ways to listen and engage, when in a “normal” situation we would interact face-to-face in the moment. Deep and critical listening can still be undertaken, even acting in physical isolation. The project also draws on awareness of neuro-diversity, where autism (and other assessments such as FASD) engenders creative responses to other, ongoing forms of isolation. Isolation can be uncomfortable when enforced, but can provide space for reflection and creative engagement.

James Harley – Producer
Judit Csobod
Marcela Echeverri
Erin Felepchuk
Ben Finley
Brent Rowan
Carey West
Reza Yazdanpanah

Marcela Echeverri – Audio-Video Assistant
Ann Westbere – Project Assistant

“Frogs, Insects (Foreground, Background)” – Ben Finley – Cool Hearts

“Frogs, Insects (Foreground, Background)” – Ben Finley

“Footsteps (Watch Your Steps)” – Erin Felepchuk – Cool Hearts

“Footsteps (Keep Your Distance)” – Erin Felepchuk

Rain, Poetry – Reza Yazdanpanah – Cool Hearts Band

Rain, Poetry – Reza Yazdanpanah

Waves – Carey West

Waves – Carey West – Cool Hearts

Country Sounds, Found Subjects – Judit Csobod – Cool Hearts

Country Sounds, Found Subjects – Judit Csobod

“Waterside” Marcela Echeverri – Cool Hearts Band

“Waterside” Marcela Echeverri

Dawn Birds – Brent Rowan

Dawn Birds – Brent Rowan – Cool Hearts Band

IF 2020 Performance (Pilot Project)

James Harley & the Cool Hearts Band (Judit Csobod, Marcela Echeverri, Ben Finley, Brent Rowan, Carey West, Reza Yazdanpanah, James Harley- producer)

The premise for this project was to creatively respond to a recording of local birds at dawn. With human activity more muted during this period of COVID-19-enforced isolation, such soundscapes are more prominent. Each participant produced an improvisation while listening to the bird recording. Because of isolation, no one was able to listen to anyone else’s contribution until they were compiled. The shared history of the musicians, however, was present in the background. The unplanned synchronicities of the performances add a poignancy to the music. As an additional layer of creative response, the audio mix brings the different performances in and out of focus. Cool Hearts intends to produce a series of these isolation projects over the coming period of ongoing social caution.


U of G capturing the changing world of the pandemic through art – []

U of G Awards Funding for New Creative Works That Explore the COVID-19 Pandemic – [University of Guelph News]

The Improvisation in Times of Isolation Project received funding from the University of Guelph’s Creating in a Time of Coronovirus Fund, College of Arts, and Private Donors.


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Team Members