Tuesday, April 10, 2007

the art of persuasion

There I am, at the far end of the venue, listening to members of the class performing. It’s (more-or-less) a public performance, and the group is a little nervous—a little on edge. They’ve also been pushing themselves a little hard; everything’s a little longer, a little bit more complex. They’re sometimes loosing concentration; momentarily, but I can hear it, and I think they can too.
Inexplicably, four of the five performers drop out, leaving EC in solitude.
The quartet executed a textbook ending; except, well, it was a quintet on stage—one got left behind. You know how it goes: the texture—the density, the noise level, the information concentration—goes from 100% to 20% in a blink of an eye. If you’re left behind, you can feel vulnerable; if you’ve stopped, you feel like you’ve goofed up. (The key to this is that you cannot be left behind, nor can you have goofed up, but that’s a story of another post.)
I’m there willing EC to go on—go on—do a solo! I’m willing the rest (in rest) to resist the temptation to jump back in. Show some backbone. Come on, people, I think, I’ll give you As all ’round if you pull this off.
Unfortunately they don’t. The four join back in, and not even abruptly, but gently—tentatively. I’m left unconvinced (as I guess is the rest of the audience). It takes nerve; nerves that this group is a little too exhausted and nervous to call upon.
I realize, then, that so much of teaching improvisation is akin to teaching rhetoric—the art of persuasion.

5 comments:

Dan said...

There's something to be said for the independent part of in(ter)dependence. I particularly enjoy the notion of the holon, that is, something that is simultaneously a whole and a part - I've done some writing on it as a useful concept in improvisation. I think systems theory offers some interesting analytic tools as well.

the improvising guitarist said...

Hey Dan,

There's something to be said for the independent part of in(ter)dependence.

Oh, I definitely agree.

I think systems theory offers some interesting analytic tools as well.

I know almost nothing about the holon, and almost as little about system theory. Do you recommend anywhere in particular as a starting point?
To be honest, I’d been avoiding system theory as, although I find its embracing of heterarchy and heterogeneity potentially liberating, its social science applications always seemed to me, well, way too top-down in its objectives—a little too neat. But like I said, I know little about it, so I might just be being prejudiced.
Have you done any writing on system theory in the context of improvisation, music, and/or group performance?

S, tig

Chris Rich said...

Alfred North Whitehead may be an early proponent of systems theory along with Lord Russell. It is a Brit fondness for practical things in philosophy.

Norbert Weiner might be another.

Hey I just did a tribute to you and Dan and Peter among others in my neck of the woods.

The Bosendorfer post is funny. I once did toss the board of an upright off a 3 story porch in a building that was originally the birthplace of American Optics but became a slum apartment my dad owned. It did make an odd messy 'bjanng' sound as it hit the ground.

An acoustic piano players lot is a bitch as the magnificent Zinman would tell you. They are gorgeous instruments and great composition tools for diatonic western stuff but pretty worthless if you are trying a modern vector of microtonal Korean Court Music although Fred Van Hove could probably figure it out.

the improvising guitarist said...

Hey I just did a tribute to you and Dan and Peter among others in my neck of the woods.

Thanks—I’m flattered.

It [piano] did make an odd messy 'bjanng' sound as it hit the ground.

Talking of which, I noticed that I must of accidentally turned commenting off on that post… well, it’s back on now.

Thanks for the comments.

S, tig

Dan said...

Yeah, I do have some further writing on the subject, as part of a larger piece of writing I did on improvisation. If I can recontextualize it I will put it up on my blog. I have to see how/if it stands on its own!