Sunday, May 08, 2005

Junk food

Elodie Lauten:

Does improvisation have a bad name? I had a discussion about improvisation with a friend who had graduated from Juilliard. He sat at the piano and placed his hands on the keys randomly and laughed... and said improvisation was junk. After years of training and dedication to play anything written for an instrument, doing something spontaneous is a sin, a criminal act, or at least a ridiculous behavior.

It's strange, to me, that after a century of jazz and decades of easy access to improvised musics from around the world and the knowledge of the place of improvisation in classical music, such opinions can be so glibly tossed around. Lauten herself recognises some of the value of improvisation (Improvisation is not junk, it is hard work) but also fails to take it (within the context of a medium-sized blog post) as a practice in itself that needs no other justification (creation of a work, under-rehearsal, cost-cutting).

I wonder if musical training that put improvisation and personal creativity on the same level as it does reproduction would not ultimately be better. Perhaps when Mozart could write "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star" as a child because he felt free to improvise and create?