July 11, 2009 – Bard College
So it’s been quite a while since the conclusion of the Merida project with Jackie and Nadia yet oddly enough the place I’ve been for the past month seems very much in line with what was started at the beginning of June. In reading back on these posts about our triad project, I see many of the same ideas that I’ve been working on within my project here at the Bard MFA program. Its fitting that the project in Mexico was focused on the mouth and that has led to a project developed here at Bard that started inside the mouth, in the voice. The first instrument.
I’m trying to unravel what it is that I learned from the Mexico project with regard to collaboration, improvisation, text and sound. I think part of our project’s artistic impact for me was just working through collaborative strategies applied to text and the voice instead of improvised electronic music. I keep finding that improvisation is the process and the focus and the materials can often be of any origin – sounds, text, images, movements. I wonder what this says to the end result? I wonder how improvisation works with performance and writing in this way? Improvisation in this collaborative project seemed to serve a generative function but the end result was more scripted and there were less moments of improvisation except within the parts of the piece where there were readings. And yet I still think of this project as largely an improvised effort.
I mean improvisation is really just a matter of human function right? Wikipedia manages to have a useful definition actually – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Improvisation and I appreciate the comic diversity of actions where improvisation can contribute significantly – flower arranging and romantic relationships.
It’s interesting that improvisation speaks to the ability to have ‘intuitive” and “technical” knowledge as well as bringing “awareness” and “understanding” into the same realm at the same time. What then is this state of mind that is improvisation? I always thought of it as the ability to both listen to yourself while also playing music. To be both the player and the audience at the same time. To be able to abstract your own actions. I wonder then how that plays out in the act of writing. Could it be said that this state of being is somewhat inherent in writing. This abstraction of action necessary in order to produce language on the page/computer screen what have you.
It seems as though improvisation is seen as decision making “on the fly” within the idiom of the instrument – the realm of what is known about the isntrument – it’s limits as an instrument and limits on the human body in playing that instrument – but there’s another meaning that is often used that refers to music that works within a specific idiom/genre/style. That explores through improvisation the limits of that genre/style. I guess what I find more intriguing is the general problem of genre in music these days. Particularly thinking about a genre of improvised music. Particularly when improvised music tends to jump outside idiom, culture, and body more often than not as the musician interacts and dialogues with other artists within a performance. I’m starting to become interested in what happens when musicians who do not approach from shared common experiences/shared knowledge work through creative collaboration and improvisation.
Also what does it mean to improvise with text? Improvise with poetry? Is that an action an artist takes / makes or is that an action that is somewhat tied to writing anyways? Intuition and technical understanding of the idiom… and the decisions made within.