Friday, January 20, 2012

Called to Improvise

At first glance, the Improvisation Card may seem to be about facility and technique, about being able to “take a solo”  or “hold down a groove” that impresses. While these things – facility, technique, self-confidence, razzle dazzle –  can certainly come into play while improvising, they are not at the heart of it; successful improvisation is about listening and maintaining a flow. In a group situation we must maintain an awareness of what the other musicians are doing; if they are listening in return, a meaningful conversation can take place. If indeed we are “taking a solo,” then yes, what we create is for the moment in the spotlight; nevertheless, we are not an island – as we all know, there’s nothing like a loudmouth who doesn’t listen and is “always on” to spoil everybody’s fun. If we are improvising entirely on our own – solo at the piano, for instance – listening and flow still are foremost: we have to be continually aware of what we just played and respond accordingly; our soliloquy must be coherent.

Drawing the Improvisation Card, I am called to listen and respond. Yes, my aim is important, yes, the big picture is important, if I have one in mind; but what’s here now? What is called for now? What can I bring to this conversation with Life that is meaningful and appropriate – now?

The image on the Improvisation Card is a Flower of Life Labyrinth. Within the flower, much is possible: from the points within the centers of its individual circles emerge all five of the Platonic Solids, which are equated with the five suits of the Muzoracle: Brass/Fire/Movement; Strings/Water/Feeling; Woodwinds/Air/Intellect; Percussion/Earth/Body; and Voices/Aether/Wholeness. Upon entering the labyrinth I am immediately confronted with questions: which way to turn? The point of the labyrinth is not to get out, but to be present while within.

What is here now? What is called for?