Wednesday, November 01, 2006

why improvise? the leap off the edge

I started this whole blog out by asking why we might practice improvisation (and again on October 7th). In addition to the social dimensions of improvisation, in both posts, I mentioned the idea of improvisation as a leap off the edge into the unknown…. Here’s the Steve Lacy quote that I was thinking of at the time (the quote also touches on strategies for getting to the ‘edge’):

I’m attracted to improvisation because of something I value. That is a freshness, a certain quality which can only be obtained by improvisation, something you cannot possibly get from writing. It is something to do with the leap. And when you go out there you have all your years of preparation and all your sensibilities and your prepared means but it is a leap into the unknown. If through that leap you find something then it has a value which I don’t think can be found in any other way. I place higher value on that than on what you can prepare. But I am also hooked into what you can prepare, especially in the way that it can take you to the edge. What I write is to take you to the edge safely so that you can go on out there and find this other stuff. But really it is this other stuff that interests me and I think it forms the basic stuff of jazz.
Steve Lacy quoted in Bailey, 1992, pp. 57–58.
I suppose some might see this as an affirmation of the notion of leadership. Well, they probably have a point, but I read this statement as a celebration of change, contrast and diversity, and an invitation to differ, dissent and contradict.


Bailey, Derek (1992), Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice in Music (London: British Library National Sound Archive).

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