Jump to content
Baphomet

Your views on improvisation.

Recommended Posts

To me, improvisation is a skill that is developed over time. It is simply what in literature would be called "free-writing" - writing without a particular idea, just whatever pops into mind.

It has several functions:

1. Familiarization with instrument (getting to know the instrument, its limitations and boundaries, ...)

2. Familiarization of yourself through the instrument - improvisation is a way of getting to know yourself, how you express yourself through an aural channel.

It may have many more but I may not be aware of it.

I usually like to listen to my improvisations and see what I like and don't like. What I like I usually transform it into a proper composition (through several techniques not all too different from creative writing). What I don't like - I take it into account and try to analyze why I don't like it and how I can improve.

In a nutshell it is a form of quick thinking that allows you to explore your own expression.

Now, a few questions.

1. What other purposes do you think improvisation has?

2. Does improvisation aid in deliberate, and more careful composition? Should one practice more improvisation to build a better musical sense to incorporate in more serious and more conscious compositions*?

*My definition of composition is an idea that once materialized, is able to be transformed and subfigured through different techniques to form a piece of a certain duration.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If I am to put my point of view forward, mods who prefer fake niceties will crack down on my honesty, but I will take a chance against their oppressive nature.

I think improvisation will never, ever be as good as a composition. It doesn't have the thought put into it to be good. It can be amazing that "someone can come up with something that good on the spot". but it will never be a masterpiece, no where near it. Which means, it is merely a bravura sport.

Does improvisation aid in deliberate, and more careful composition? Should one practice more improvisation to build a better musical sense to incorporate in more serious and more conscious compositions*?
Yes it does... a little. But Schoenberg, nor me play instruments really. You can make do without it easy enough, may just require a bit of extra work.

Is that okay with you Mike? A do apologise for having a different point of view and defending it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think improvisation will never, ever be as good as a composition. It doesn't have the thought put into it to be good.

...it will never be a masterpiece, no where near it. Which means, it is merely a bravura sport.

Sadly, an ignorant but not uncommon perspective.

Music that is good lies only in the ear of the behearer...and fear ignorance of improvisation is something that plagues many a 'serious' composer. I'd rather hear a powerful and emotional improvisation, than the most well-crafted and innovative composition.

;) I was trying not to get involved in this thread...but then you went and said that!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have to disagree with AW7.

...it will never be a masterpiece, no where near it. Which means, it is merely a bravura sport.

Are you an emotionless, soul-less piece of dirt? :huh:

(not to come off as harsh but I just don't see how someone could be unmoved by imporvisation. Maybe he's just sheltered :sweat:)

I find the ability to improvise something intricate and beautiful more impressive than composing. I know composing is a skill but if left with enough time and dedication (and a good ear) I believe that anyone could turn out a work of art whereas with improvisation, I feel it tests the true understanding the individual has of music. I also feel that so much more [emotion] is expressed through improvisation than through composing.

As for your questions:

1. I feel improvisation serves as a mean through which a musician can express their immediate thoughts and feelings as well as, as you said, gain a deeper understanding of the instrument.

2. I think improvisation is just as important as playing the pieces of others when it comes to aiding one in composing deeper and more serious pieces but I think it is far too often overlooked.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I love improvising....but mostly it's for fun. I think of it, usually, in a personal way, that is that I come in with nothing and leave with nothing; the improv. was only for the moment. Of course, sometimes this is not the case and I stumble across something I think I could use for a piece (and sometimes actually set out to come up with a theme by improvising).

Anyway, I think it's a great way to develop yourself musically....hell, it's how I learned a lot of harmony stuff, listening and then playing and listening and playing :P.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Music that is good lies only in the ear of the behearer...
Not entirely ;)
Are you an emotionless, soul-less piece of dirt?
Of course I'm soul-less, so are you! I can separate myself from my emotions, or not. Depends on the music and what I am trying to achieve.
I find the ability to improvise something intricate and beautiful more impressive than composing.
Exactly, you are admiring the ability not the music.
I also feel that so much more [emotion] is expressed through improvisation than through composing.
That's if because of the fact that it is on the spot, not the music.
Sadly, an ignorant but not uncommon perspective.
I thought you said that good music is in the ear of the behearer? Please be consistent....
I'd rather hear a powerful and emotional improvisation, than the most well-crafted and innovative composition.
You have to differentiate between social exercise, and the scientific art of music.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
[re: Music that is good lies only in the ear of the behearer... ] Not entirely ;)

How so? 'Goodness' means so many things to so many people...

I thought you said that good music is in the ear of the behearer? Please be consistent....

Fair enough...

All I'm saying is: 'what is good' , and why have you decided improvisation is not 'good'? I expect it stems simply from inexperience and a lack of understanding of the practice...

:whistling:

You have to differentiate between social exercise, and the scientific art of music.

No I don't.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
All I'm saying is: 'what is good' , and why have you decided improvisation is not 'good'? I expect it stems simply from inexperience and a lack of understanding of the practice...
I have great admiration for there ability.
No I don't.
Well, you are not differentiating from good music and good ability.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I have great admiration for there [sic] ability. ...you are not differentiating from good music and good ability.

I have no need to differentiate...and I wouldn't expect someone with little/no listening knowledge of improvisation to 'get it' ...

[keep in mind, I'm generally talking about a different improvisation than most of you.]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that if you hear a wonderful improvisation performed live, it can have as much or more impact than a beautiful composition.

Hearing a recording of an improv makes it lose some of it's impact. So I guess an improv's charm lies somewhat in something besides it's musical qualities.

Any ideas for where they lie? Is it watching the performance itself? Being part of crowd? being there in the moment? Admiration for the improvisational talent?

It probably differs from person to person, but those are the things I could think of.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I see improvisation and composition as two distinct processes. I enjoy jazz and skillful improvisation, but there is a lot of dreck out there and I therefore don't actively search to listen to improvised music.

I've just heard far too many people approach improvisation as "lick #1 then lick #5, then pedal point pattern #2". I actually prefer to hear slower improv solos because it's harder to prefabricate.

My first symphony had actual jazz improvisation in it, which I thought was rather fun and unexpected. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hearing a recording of an improv makes it lose some of it's impact. So I guess an improv's charm lies somewhat in something besides it's musical qualities.

Any ideas for where they lie? Is it watching the performance itself? Being part of crowd? being there in the moment? Admiration for the improvisational talent?

It's what pushes the music that's important. The energy, power, passion, spirit, soul, emotion. You caught a BIG one there - in the moment. Improvisors feed off the music itself...the energy from another musician affects how I play, and vice-versa. Interaction and reaction occur to an extent that's simply not possible with most pre-composed music.

...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I always found that there's a special beauty in volatileness. The beauty of improvisation comes from the fact that you experience something unique. An improvisation may sound merely mediocre in general, but there still might be this one moment where suddenly everything seems to magically fit together and create a sound that you've never heard before, and will never hear again. An improvisation will indeed never reach the "sophistication" of composed music, but it can create striking moments like few other forms of music. To some degree ArcticWind may be right that it's not about the "music" in the first place, but about the immediacy of the performance. In my opinion the two can't be seperated though. This is also why, like Abigmoron, I have some trouble with recorded improvisations. A recording removes the immediacy that is the real quality of an improvisation, without adding the sophistication of composed music, so to me it is bound to remain "second rate". Recording an improvisation, or writing down an improvisation seems a bit like an oxymoron to me, but that's just my personal opinion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, in my opinion

Composition is a refined art, something bent and twisted to the point where the composer deems it acceptable to the world (if anyone claims that they have written a perfect piece please, just go away)

Improvisation on the other hand is a raw form of this art. It takes years of attempting to understand it before it finally starts to make sense. It's pure emotion, not refined at all, and thats why so many people dismiss it as inferior. If I found a shiny crystal and an unrefined diamond I would much rather take the crystal (I like shiny). But closer examination reveals that the diamond (much like improvisation) is a beautiful, beautiful, thing.

Do I feel that one is better than the other? No, not really, they are similar, but separate processes and really I have no grounds to say one is better.

Thats my 2 cents.:toothygrin:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Then you are watching a sport. Nothing else.

This doesn't make any sense.

I always found that there's a special beauty in volatileness. ....there still might be this one moment where suddenly everything seems to magically fit together and create a sound that you've never heard before, and will never hear again.

A good point. We live on the edge; working without a net adds an extra dimension of danger, intrigue and spontaneity to the music. It instills an element of fear that generally enhances the music - again, working 'in the moment' allows for levels of interaction unattainable in composed music.

An improvisation will indeed never reach the "sophistication" of composed music, but it can create striking moments like few other forms of music. To some degree ArcticWind may be right that it's not about the "music" in the first place, but about the immediacy of the performance. ...I have some trouble with recorded improvisations. A recording removes the immediacy that is the real quality of an improvisation...

The sophistication is happening on different levels. Again, not something you'll notice without seriously digging into the music.

I'll agree that recordings do tend to mute some of the more powerful effects of live improvisation, BUT with true masters of the art, the raw emotion and sense of immediacy will still transmit successfully.

Gardener, I expect you've actually put some effort into checking improv out...ArcticWind, not so much - which is why you can't seem to speak coherently about it. :whistling:

------------------------

Composition is a refined art...Improvisation on the other hand is a raw form of this art. It takes years of attempting to understand it before it finally starts to make sense. It's pure emotion, not refined at all...

It is raw - in the fact that it's spontaneous - but to say it's unrefined is a little misleading. Any decent improvisor has spend years refining and defining his individual voice, and many more years figuring out how to make that voice heard and how to interact with other musicians. It's a MAJOR process of soul-searching and exploration, and only players with ears refined enough to hear can pull it off.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Tell me, could someone ever improvise Beethoven's 9th? Mozart's 41st? etc.

This doesn't make any sense.
Re read what I have said then. Couldn't be bothered re-explaining it to you.
ArcticWind, not so much - which is why you can't seem to speak coherently about it.
Your bias is stopping you from understanding. And I am at a uni that has Jazz, do not wildly assume like you do.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Tell me, could someone ever improvise Beethoven's 9th? Mozart's 41st? etc.

No, of course not.

Re read what I have said then. Couldn't be bothered re-explaining it to you.

Nah, I can't be bothered to try and decipher it.

I am at a uni that has Jazz, do not wildly assume like you do.

You don't get it...this isn't about 'jazz'. You just proved your very limited experience with improv.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You don't get it...this has nothing to do with 'jazz'. You just proved your very limited experience with improv.
I'm providing one example.
Nah, I can't be bothered to try and decipher it.
K, I'll keep it simple then. You are not admiring the notes (which is what music is), you are admiring the skill, and the performance. These are what you do when watching sport, not a composition.
No, of course not.
These are widely assumed as "masterpieces" yet you believe masterpieces can be performed in a improv?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You are not admiring the notes (which is what music is), you are admiring the skill, and the performance. These are what you do when watching sport, not a composition.

But I am admiring the notes...the music; the sound that emanates from a musician's instrument; the interaction between multiple players... The spirit of interaction and interplay - the skill and the performance are all aspects of the music that can't be removed from it.

Again, without significant exploration, you won't get it.

These are widely assumed as "masterpieces" yet you believe masterpieces can be performed in a improv?

Yes, I do believe that. Keith Jarrett's K

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But I am admiring the notes...the music; the sound that emanates from a musician's instrument; the interaction between multiple players... The spirit of interaction and interplay - the skill and the performance are all aspects of the music that can't be removed from it.
So music on paper isn't a masterpiece?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It is raw - in the fact that it's spontaneous - but to say it's unrefined is a little misleading. Any decent improvisor has spend years refining and defining his individual voice, and many more years figuring out how to make that voice heard and how to interact with other musicians. It's a MAJOR process of soul-searching and exploration, and only players with ears refined enough to hear can pull it off.

I wholeheartedly agree, allow me to correct myself.

The "unrefined" nature of improvisation is merely in the emotion behind it. The individual improvisor finds the emotion, the soul, behind the music and expresses it and expresses it MUCH better through refinement of oneself. Phew thats confusing, I hope that makes sense.

These are widely assumed as "masterpieces" yet you believe masterpieces can be performed in a improv?

If I may cast my opinion on this too, improv and "masterpieces" cannot even be compared. Two similar, but separate processes connected by this idea of music.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The "unrefined" nature of improvisation is merely in the emotion behind it. The individual improvisor finds the emotion, the soul, behind the music and expresses it and expresses it MUCH better through refinement of oneself.
Shame the notes aren't doing that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
So music on paper isn't a masterpiece?

Of course it can be.... I said "masterpieces can be improvised" - assuming the tacit affirmation that "masterpieces can also be composed".

YOU however, seem to be saying that an improvisation can not be a masterpiece. Either way, what is a masterpiece? You don't get to decide for me. ;)

You have told others to 'think outside the box' ...now I ask you to do the same. You focus too much on tangible musical elements - the written score.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You have told others to 'think outside the box' ...now I ask you to do the same. You focus too much on tangible musical elements - the written score.
Who was the last person to say it was a sport? I know exactly what you mean. I agree with what you are saying, I however, am taking it a step further.
YOU however, seem to be saying that an improvisation can not be a masterpiece.
Unless, a stroke of luck, a melody invented on the stop, will not be as delightful as something where a composer spends ages making perfect. It will never be developed to it's full extent either.

And, improv IS composition there is no different. One however, involved quick thinking, one involves making the piece a perfect as the composer can.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...