Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thoughts on Improvisation (3): Is there a WRONG note?

Let's me think about when improvisation "doesn't work", or at least, from my audience point of view in contemporary free improvisation context (not cultural, ceremonial etc).  Is there a wrong note you can play?

Yesterday I talked about the "3rd dimension" or a kind of musical flow that is not on paper or written notes.  I think that in any performance, classical or contemporary, or any performing arts in that matter, needs this "3rd dimension" that is not on the score or text, to bring the performance to life in order to communicate.  Again, I still have doubts that in some improvisation circles, "communication" may not be the goal.  I just don't know.

When you don't have a score, and let's say that you are performing the "3rd dimension", I do believe you could play it wrong, by somehow losing a thread, or a "train of thought" so to speak.   And that may be equivalent of playing a wrong note.   The performer could go on exploring musical materials for a while, but there comes a time the exploration itself becomes some kind of a purpose of performance, and NOT what you are trying to communicate across.  Again, if the performance is meant to "explore" music in front the audience without the regard to the outcome as a musical performance "communicating" with audience, and if the performer-audience relationship is not based on communication but rather, a performer and a kind of "spectator" who is witnessing the exploration, then those "spectator" maybe satisfied.

The "train of thought" is again, like a conversation; you could be talking about an "egg" (for example, I don't know why! :)  cultural significance, old legends, nutrition or recipes.  The point is, when you are talking about eggs, you probably don't talk about a jeep.  But the fun part is, if you did mention a word jeep in the middle of old ancient Japanese mythical story about eggs, then you could somehow tie the jeep into Sci-Fi-esque story!  And that's the fun thing about improvisation as you probably don't do that in real life.  Or you might not tie that in, and decide to have two completely different, parallel world within your dialog.  But in that case, you would probably want to develop both at the same time.   The point I'm trying to make is, it could be random but it still needs to be presented as such.

But if this isn't the case, those who do not wish to be a spectator who takes a pleasure in witnessing the experimental exploration rather than musical communication, and the audience who feel "trapped" by not being communicated to, are being alienated by the performer?

In that case, I am pretty sure the experimental and free improvisation will surely stay in a very small circle of people who like to spectate, and surely will be difficult to get programmed in main stream concerts where at least some audience expect "communication".  And that very well maybe the way to be.

4 comments:

Ben Carey said...

enjoying reading your thoughts on improvisation and performance here on this blog Mari - I can identify with your sentiments about looking into an improvised performance as a spectator - as an interpreter by training - it took me a little while at first to get used to this different aspect of presenting sound and music - I agree it can sometimes come across as quite self absorbed, but at other times, it can be extremely interesting and all encompassing - witnessing and taking part of the journey with the performer... as an audience member I am in two completely different frames of mind depending on these contexts... it has been an aspect of improvised performance that has caused me to question the nature of performance for quite some time so that you for writing about it...

Mari Kimura said...

Hi Ben, me too, I enjoy myself as a spectator often listening to improvised music. My views here are quite subjective and I do expect there are different views as many as the number of spectators! :) I do however, sometimes get tired of spectating while the improvisation continues without much merit and it somehow becomes unproductive worth spectating. It happens quite often...

Ben Carey said...

yes much agreed - it does happen quite often and I definitely know the feeling of getting tired as a spectator... well said...

Bernd Buerklin said...

I too enjoy these posts very much.
I think that what we are witnessing in true improvisation is a becoming one with Source, becoming the Magic Carpet and it's rider at the same time, entering that 3rd dimension.
As a spectator it can be fascinating to witness a performer doing this, and at the same time the spectator is an essential part of it, too. It's a dance that sometimes one or the other becomes tired of. Nothing wrong with that.
And since the Universe can only be perfect (otherwise it would not be) there simply does not exist a fundamentally wrong note in the larger picture, even though we with our small minds do experience dis-pleasure frequently for all kinds of reasons. One of them being the sense that we slipped of the Magic Carpet for a moment, or that we momentarily feel a disconnect from the performer.
Musically speaking, I get great pleasure out of listening to musicians practicing, playing something "wrong", stopping, repeating, slowing down. It is a task full of surprises.
My improvisation for and by myself feels definitely very different from improvisation in an audience. Don't know if the audible result is different.