IMPROVISATION (or Not)
Improvisation, Improvised, Improvising ... mid-15c., "unforeseen happening;" 1786 as "act of improvising musically," from French improvisation, from improviser "compose or say extemporaneously," from Italian improvvisare, from improvviso "unforeseen, unprepared," from Latin improvisus "not foreseen, unforeseen, unexpected," from assimilated form of in- "not, opposite of" (see in- (1)) + provisus "foreseen," also "provided," past participle of providere "foresee, provide" (see provide).
One thing freely leading to another I immediately thought about Derek Bailey's titles for our (his) album “And” on Rectangle Label.
A4 - Titular Bullshit Of The Topographical Kind
B1 - Titles, Titles, Titles...
B2 - T.T.T. (Part 2)
Don't ask me why... Another “great” definition picked up Au Hasard comes here, meaning more or less anything and its absolute contrary (what you like) : “Improvisation is the process of devising a solution to a requirement by making-do, despite absence of resources that might be expected to produce a solution”.
If I start again from the Latin Improvisus, based on provisus, past participle of providere 'make preparation for', but also Provide. One could easily slide down to “Not Provided, Not Prepared”. Who in the hell did inroduce this term, when and what for?
There is an interesting quote from Jean-Luc Godard, when they asked him what he thought of "Independent Cinema", he replied : do you mean Independent of its own will?
Frankly I still can't figure out what this term Improvised is supposed to cover as a practice, habit, group or geo-localisation. If it is to be opposed to Premeditation (as un-premeditated or un-prepared or just free of any prior thoughts), it simply means nothing at all I can musically use or play.
With my early music series (Renaissance and Baroque, sometime classic or contemporary) I started to use a new term for those variations around, which are effectively improvised but again this would be a wrong or too vague term, here it is : “Note: Varians**, Is the generic term I now decided to use when versions includes parts of improvisations on themes and motives.”. I wish to only use Varians soon without any further explanations.
I don't know of any music coming from nowhere before. I know of variations of the same that can be endless and each time pretty different but from the same. I know of playing on canEvas, whatever canevas, whether Broadway songs, Pop songs (its the same), other harmonies (like Renaissance canevas, or different forms like the ones used during New Orleans jazz era).
But each times it comes back and down to Playing rather than just Improvising. I guess because Playing contains Improvising as a matter of fact in it. Playing you do go through various states of consciousness that lets your mind open to all sorts of sources and materials. Some tonal, some rather passing tones or alterations (particularly the art of playing dominant 7th chords), other elements. You rarely think while playing, I mean not more than you do think of your steps while walking, or you'd fall soon. Playing to me is about incarnation rather.
For it the fact that your playing might happen in Free, Hard Bop, Fusion, Mambo or Dub or Trip-Hop context, plays about no role. That fact would affect my choice of gear maybe but not my playing really. So what does Free Improvised Music actually do that any other approach don't? and more important even, what does any other kind of playing avoids that Free Improvised catches only? I really can't tell. I see pros and cons on each sides.
But this because since pretty long Free Improvised Music (to me), has became a field of activity, a genre or style in itself, with about as many (if not way more), predetermined rules as there are in any other styles of music. Would Improvising be possibly the fact of playing without a score? (and derived from Freely Improvised, without any score and any musical rules? that isn't true. Free Improvisations uses as many set elements or traditional materials than others. In some cases like for example Saxophone Screams, Free Percussion or Prepared Guitars, it also did set rather organised vocabularies and rhetorics too).
So Free Improvisation would mean that one is able to totally renew itself, its past, culture, background, techniques, and so on? but if you just played a phrase you liked or sound and naturally (or humanly), tend to start the following line in the same area or basis, its already an element of settlement.
Wrong again... to me music is its own language and being so, music speaks music, music brings more music, more music creates more music and etc. whether its new, free, scored or a dance is not really worth enough a segregation.
I also feel that in the past times this term of "Freely Improvised" as been more often used as sword to divide the good from the bad, the ancient from the supposed to be moderns, the acceptable from the unaccepted, and once again like always with humans left alone in groups : the pure from the impure (I hate that middleagism, those narrows gregarious thinkings and reactions).
For my own, I just play, I try again and again each day, and that's hard enough that I need to slice more into sub-genres. I'd rather have one single term for all types of musics, just name it Music, and let's Play.
Noël Akchoté. French guitarist, violinist and producer, born December 7, 1968, in Paris, active in various experimental fields between drone, rock, jazz and contemporary classical music. Also music journalist and author as well as founder (together with Quentin Rollet) of the French avantgarde label Rectangle. Currently running the label Noël Akchoté Downloads. He is the brother of electronic musician SebastiAn.