Slip Stream: Between Poetics and Politics--Improvisation in Cologne

  • Tanya Ury Faculty of the Humanities, Leiden University Institute for Cultural Disciplines


Cologne has a well-established jazz scene that has developed over the last thirty years. But a free improvisation music scene has evolved parallel to the schooled jazz improvisation milieu. This alternative scene throws free jazz styles together with funk, rock, and New Music, but is less bound to academic dictates. My involvement with the alternative scene in Düsseldorf and Cologne started in 2011, when Stefan Nordbeck invited me to improvise some of my poetry as part of a future session. In this essay I reflect on my participation in this scene since then. I describe my process of oral improvisation, which I suggest is similar to the automatic writing of poetry: both are archives of jumbled, abstract, but sometimes cogent ideas that reflect day-to-day life, changing moods, and preoccupations. With this practice, it is possible to approach everyday social dilemmas from a poetic perspective.

Author Biography

Tanya Ury, Faculty of the Humanities, Leiden University Institute for Cultural Disciplines
Tanya Ury is a British-German writer. She studied fine art at Exeter College of Art and Design from 1985 to 1988 and spent one semester at the Institute for Theatre, Film and Television Studies at Cologne University in 1989. In 1990, she graduated from Reading University with a Master’s in Fine Arts. From 1991 to 1992 she was a guest lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, and since 2010 she has been a PhD candidate in Humanities at the Leiden University Institute for Cultural Disciplines. Ury is also a jury member of the Hans and Lea Grundig Prize, administered by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in Berlin. As a writer, activist, and artist, Tanya Ury deals with questions of Judeo-German identity, Germany’s reconciling of its history, and migration and racism as they affect subaltern women. Prostitution, voyeurism and the Holocaust are issues in a large number of her works. Ury has been living and working in Cologne, Germany, since 1993. Most of her family lived here before having to flee into exile to London because of their Jewish origins.