Sunday, September 5, 2010

Form in Improvisation: Part 1

One of my readers asked:  " I wonder if you could say something on your blog about improvisational form. How it emerges either consciously or unconsciously, and different exercises one might practice for developing form in improvisation."

Great topic!  Unless you are only going to improvise in a completely stream of (un)consciousness manner,  you will eventually confront the idea of form, because humans are form creators and sense makers.  It's just what we do.  Give us a mess of stuff, and we will make sense out of it.  Give us a series of random sounds and our minds create a pattern.  Give us chaos, and we will find the form inside it.  

In this universal sense, we are naturally and unconsciously always trying to create sense and form, and it is extremely satisfying when we succeed.  There are three basic skills that give us a better chance of succeeding in the creation of sense and form, both individually and as a group. 

The first is awareness.  You have to be aware of what you are playing without interfering with the flow of it. You have to simultaneously be aware of what everyone else is playing, and it's relation to you, without having it interfere with your flow.  Unless there is an individual and group awareness of what is being improvised, you can't spontaneously compose with it.

The second is memory. Every form besides ABCD etc. involves returning to something that was played previously in the improvisation.  In order to return to something, you have to remember it.

The third is a group willingness and ability to spontaneously compose together, to allow formal elements to occur naturally and fluidly in the course of an improvisation.

I will deal with each of these in the following weeks, and include some exercises to use in practicing them.


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