Monday, November 1, 2010

Thoughts on Improvisation (1)

First off, I said (1) since I probably have a lot to think about.... 

I often think of improvisation as non-verbal communication, speech, or conversation.  "Communication" by default, you have a "person" whom you are conversing with.   That "person" in fact, could be a real one, imaginary one, a dead one, not just one but several people, or even yourself.   There are many schools and tradition of improvisation, and having no so-called 'tradition' such as jazz attached to my background, but just being a so-called "natural" improvisor, I mainly listen to this "conversation".  

People listen to improvisations in different ways.  For me, it is about listening to what is "being said".  I like to think like a dinner table, a dinner conversation with several people.  Two people started to share a topic, or one person started to speak about a topic.  Then they can agree, disagree, talking over each other, speaking in parallel passionately arguing.  Or one can choose not to say anything verbally but silently thinking about it, expressing within him/herself.

When improvisation "works" for the listeners, I think at least one of the above "communication" is somewhat established.  Otherwise, the performance become self-indulgent.  This happens more often, in fact VERY often; the performer starts to improvise in his/her own space, not communicating, and audience is trapped being force-fed the self-indulgent "monologue".   I too often find myself feeling  "trapped" as a listener.  My husband, who is a very open-minded listener of any kind of music, describes it well, "It is as if you are taken as a hostage".

How do you avoid this?  How does one improvise and not be self-indulgent but communicative?  Or, in some improvisation tradition or circles, it is in fact NOT the point to communicate, but indeed to BE self-indulgent?  And some people like listening to the self-indulgence, or don't consider that as a passive-aggressive form of performance? And "like" being taken as "hostage" audience?  


Lê Quan Ninh said...

Mari, Would you be interested to receive my little book about improvisation despite it's in french ? (
If so, I can send it to you.

Mari Kimura said...

Hi Ninh, I would very much be interested in reading your book--I will buy it, but the link doesn't seem to work for USA... Do you have a paypal account?