Functional Improvisation with Marcus Coates & Terry Day

Terry Day - by Jak Kilby


As part of the Be Magnificent Summer School programme, artists Terry Day and Marcus Coates will be presenting a new collaborative work, Functional Improvisation.

Audience members will be invited to bring to the performance a question they have struggled to answer for themselves. Using improvised percussion by Terry Day and movement and vocalisation by Marcus Coates, they will work together to create a combined language that responds pragmatically to these questions.

Their use of improvised performance as a socially functional tool is an attempt to employ their disciplines as complex and purposeful modes of expression.

The forms of performance that they inhabit offers them a route to non-conscious understanding through physical activity and play, a method that expands the possibilities of creative thinking, bringing thought into the realm of movement and sound making.

Their aim is to work for the audience, to create performances that are insightful, offering new reflections on the questions and possible answers.


Marcus Coates has worked as a performer using dance, sound and image making to address questions for individuals, communities and organisations. He explicitly addresses a need to create functional and inclusive languages where conventional strategies of understanding and rationalisation prove inadequate.


Terry Day is an improviser, multi-instrumentalist, lyricist, songwriter, visual artist and poet. He is a ‘first generation’ pioneer improviser from the 1960s.

A self-taught musician in a family of musicians, he began improvising on the drums with his brother in 1955. In the early 1960s he formed the Hardy Holman Day trio focusing on free improvisation. Later he became part of Kilburn & the Highroads, a band led by Ian Dury.

Sharing their interest in visual art and painting, Terry and Ian both studied at Walthamstow School of Art and later at the Royal College of Art, London. As an art student in the 1960s he was a pioneer of improvisation, free jazz & experimental music.

Day also formed a duo with Derek Bailey in the late 1960s and was a regular member of The Continuous Music Ensemble, later known as The People Band. Since then he has collaborated with many musical luminaries, groups, dancers, painters, poets and performed in theatre, events, and rock & roll.

Some of his musical partners include Derek Bailey, Steve Beresford, Phil Minton, Evan Parker, Charlotte Hug, John Russell, Rhodri Davis, Misha Mengelberg, Tony Oxley, Marten Altena, Phil Wachsman and John Tchikai.

Terry Day plays many instruments including piano, keyboards, alto & soprano saxophones, bamboo pipes, drums, percussion, cello, mandolin, home made instruments, balloons, toys (blowers, whackers & pluckers), African thumb piano, voice, Chinese flutes, plastic trumpet, crackle box.

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