Saturday, October 07, 2006

why improvise? redux

We addressed the question in class last week.
One person responded that improvisation was exciting, that you don’t (or can’t) get this kind of excitement elsewhere.
This reminds me of a discussion I had a few years ago with AMC—a friend and musician. We were discussing the purpose of improvisation, and, for AMC, spontaneity—the ‘real-time’ element—was an important part of the answer. The social dimension only really works because of the immediacy in interaction.
I’m now wondering if the notions of the social, the spontaneous, and the ‘edge’ are more closely tied together than I may have implied….

When the class moved on to ask in what ways improvisation was different from other forms of music making, a couple of interesting words turned up: ‘Perfection’ and ‘control.’ Composition, say, had the potential to move towards ‘perfection’ in a way that was, apparently, unavailable in improvisation. Additionally, as an improviser, you have less ‘control’ in comparison to someone who creates/manipulates texts/scores.
I apologize to the class for potentially misrepresenting them here (the word ‘perfection’ was, for example, quickly withdrawn), but I think these words are interesting. The words we use were, in many cases, developed to talk about different musical practices (e.g. a composition-interpretation model), and we sometimes stumble and fall over when talking about improvisation. I want to tackle these issues in more depth in a future post, but for now, all I want to say is that whatever ‘perfection’ is, and whatever ‘control’ might entail, each of these words carries with them a rich baggage of ideology and rhetoric which may or may not be helpful to the improviser.

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