Saturday, April 16, 2011

Rant in All Clefs

Since free improvisation is not, de facto, avant garde anymore, we shouldn't assume that what we're making is somehow innovative or new. Currently, this mode of performing is problematic because it can act as a haven for perfectly talented and learned people to make music that lacks the furor and prescience of truly avant-garde music, while there still being the assumption that it is somehow "different" from other kinds of music. And by furor or prescience, I'm not referring necessarily to volume, density, or speed. What I mean is a personal or personal-political furor (because the personal is political and the act of collective improvising has political implications), or the prescience of a music that leads one (performer and audience member alike) to think in a more sensitive or simply different manner. So let's do it. Let's go somewhere truly exciting and take an audience with us.

Part of the issue is the inherent revolutionary attitude that is presumed by free improvisation. It is, for example, a valid question to ask whether this kind of music must actually do something new, every time. Can't we simply be good at it? But when I ask this I come to the conclusion that for it to be good it must at least be vigorous, which, in a way, aligns it with other forms of music (isn't all truly "good" music simply a perfect expression in its time, extending beyond its temporal locus?).

There is a much larger discussion to be had outside of this post. But I should take this moment to point out that there are people who specialize in free improv that do not rest on its history in order to prove its relevance. Let's be sure to follow their lead, in the spirit of what these performers do.

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