Sue Miller – Cuban Flute Improviser, Writer & Academic

BfE and AAWM Conference in London on 1-4 JulyJune 21st, 2014

I will be attending the joint BfE and AAWM conference 1-4 July in London

More details here:

Analysis, Cognition and Ethnomusicology Conference

My paper is on 2 July:

Title: Analyzing Clave feel within melodic-rhythmic ‘mambo’ improvisation


Clave feel’ is often cited as one of the main elements of Cuban and salsa improvisation yet very little to date has been done to demonstrate this concept analytically whether using notation- or purely text-based analysis. The mambo-style solos of flautist José Fajardo are analysed here in order to demonstrate this clave concept using annotated transcriptions of recorded solos to demonstrate the relationship between the two-bar timeline of clave and melodic-rhythmic improvisation characteristic of Cuban and Latin popular styles. Conventional techniques from the classical instrumental repertoire are aligned with an understanding of Cuban clave organisation in order to analyse cross-rhythms, clave accentuation, call and response sequences and percussive motivic development. An African aesthetic as expounded by Henry Louis Gates’ Signifyin’ theoryand Samuel Floyd’s Call-Response concept is similarly explored, and these theoretical approaches are combined with more traditional analytical methods. As a practitioner of the Cuban flute style, ethnomusicological methods also inform the analyses of transcribed solo improvisations. Thus through these interdisciplinary methods the clave sensibility of one of Cuba’s most renowned soloists is described in detail using analytical techniques from a variety of musical contexts.


Key words: rhythmic-melodic improvisation, ‘classical’ analytical techniques, clave, Cuban music, ethnomusicological fieldwork, Signifyin(g)