In this session we had two novelties: a couple of visual artists joined the group and we used another space. Those two factors are very powerful to trigger creative impulses, to generate curiosity, to question the modes of acting-reacting inside the group, to densify the symbolic layers. Fantastic material to improvise!
After our 50 min improvisation the discussion focus in two topics: questioning the method of starting the sessions in the empty, I mean without a preliminary rationalization, analysis or introduction of new conditions (space, people, time) and second about a certain existential crisis felt for some of the performers and related with the high levels of entropy reached during this meaningful thick and polysemic improvisation.
Concerning the first point I have to said that I understand very well the need and the logic behind a request of an introductory speaking catharsis which could precede any performative playing. The main justification being an acquaintance with the new: a smooth collective rationalization of the character, features and particularities of the space, an introduction and welcoming to the new members, a kind of agreement of a common ground or base knowledge of the situation. By going through this step–many argue–the group will gather together in a progressive awareness and the previous discussed commonality of purpose will be easily attainable. My answer to this is very simple: I agree on those needs, I disagree on the method. I prefer to do all those things inside the improvisation situation rather than spelling out before hands. I do not want to know all the details about a present that I receive before opening and discovering by myself the present itself. Improvisation becomes a tool to investigate, the human relationships, the space, the hidden meaning of the objects, the potential expressiveness of a situation, the symbols of a place, the imaginary world of the co-improvisers, the multiples layers of the the reality that we inhabit simultaneously. My argument involve also a preference in the order of the relation experiment-analysis first we play then we talk about. Pedagogically I also believe in the learning to “swim by swimming”, learning to do by doing. Perhaps, a more deep conviction about that first free improvisation without any “explicit” agreement involve a conviction on the capacity of a group of performers to self-organize by discovering the rules of interaction and the plot lines on the “flow”, on the time passing and make those rules of interaction explicit without writing or naming them. To this extent I will continue defending the method of start an improvisation session by improvise.
About the second point, the existential crisis describe for some of the performers is in my opinion related with the high entropy of having a large multidisciplinary group producing layers and layers of meaning simultaneously. Then a feeling of many things happening and the conscious of the impossibility to follow all the threads result in an isolation feeling and give to the performance a quality of multiple microcosmos evolving independently. Without adding a judgment value about it, I think this situation of “unconnectedness” should be further explore as well as its opposite: the minimal weightless lighter materials and process. But maybe another important consequence of this observation is about the values of improvisation: how is our concept of improvisation. If that concept is built, shaped and formed by our education, social-historical context, our character or our understanding of art and its disciplines, it means that the concept itself and all its values can be reformulated or at least investigated. With which purpose? with the objective of actively participate in the artistic research. I propose then to make such list of values, positives and negatives, that we use consciously or unconsciously when improvising and submit it to a critical observation and use them as “themes” or topics for conducted improvisations.
I will conclude this post trying to resume in a sentence what I was explaining above: “By keeping the regularity of a meeting for improvisation we enter in the order of ritual, a certain kind of mysticism start to dwell in the space”.
Berkowitz, Aaron L. The Improvising Mind: Cognition and Creativity in the Musical Moment. Oxford University Press, 2010.
Borgo, David. Sync or Swarm: Improvising Music in a Complex Age. Continuum International Publishing Group, 2005.
Hargreaves, David, Dorothy Miell, and Raymond MacDonald. Musical Imaginations:Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Creativity, Performance and Perception. Oxford University Press, 2011.
Nettl, Bruno, and Melinda Russell. In the Course of Performance: Studies in the World of Musical Improvisation. University of Chicago Press, 1998.
Solis, Gabriel and Nettl, Bruno. Musical Improvisation: Art, Education, and Society. University of Illinois Press, 2009.
Williamon, Aaron. Musical Excellence: Strategies and Techniques to Enhance Performance. Oxford University Press, 2004.
Mirroring. At the begging of the session Megan told me a word. Mirroring as a framework. I suggest we play our warming free improvisation that almost all of the time end up being the main corpus of our research. “Investigating multi-disciplinary interactions in a collective-spontaneous-process of creating and performing”. A free improvisation is an utopic territory as a mind state feels to me like a high and quite place in a mountain. I improvise inside my own frameworks. Do I listen to the others? is our utopic place a hyper-tolerant mode of society where every individual–and her frameworks–can coexist peacefully with each other? or is that freedom an ecological metaphor of a rich ecosystem plenty of life? by reaching the freedom individually do I carry the others with me? Well, James was mentioning a feeling of magnetism when being involved in a visual-scenic action. I do believe in opening our modes of perception and being ready to break any framework–our owns–and build from the powder. “Se laisser emporter par l’élan de la liberté“.Here ethics come to discussion. How much I will tolerate to someone else to break my camp of referents and maybe bend a developing line drown early in the improvisation? Eyes contact, talking, moving the scenographic elements, touching someone, interrupting a path, imitating (openly or secretly) someone, shutting down the lights, the electricity, forcing the end, eternalizing the coda and thousands more are modes of interaction that can propel a point of convergence or islands of stability or a commonality of purpose between the performers. I like the idea of mirroring. Being mimetic with another performer on the stage. Imitating?–the old technique of teaching the art of improvisation–but we have to come back to this more deeply.
We also talk about emotions and the limit between the emotions of me as a “private person” and the emotions of the me as “a performer”. Once again: “who we are when we improvise?” Could we perform in an emotional flatness? degree zero of emotivity? Getting free of all the psychological filters by seeing the others as “vegetables in a supermarket”? Another tread to deepen into. And always concerned with the pedagogical aspects of the research I keep asking: What do we learn, when we improvise? Lets put in observation those qualities that make an improviser. Lets investigate the physical, psychological, cognitive, social and mystical aspects of the extemporization of ideas by observing the activity of extemporization and by discussing and analyzing the resultant “works”. Will the academicism kill the essence of the activity? No, in my opinion. No as much as we continue prioritizing in our methodology the cathartic starting no-rule base improvisation. Perhaps the opposite, from inside the university we make breath ideas and models that resonate in our social space.