Learn to improvise. 2003-2004. Lesson 15: personal expression.

Public wants to hear music it already knows. This simple remark has much influence in the world of improvisation, to which this course belongs. People who play beautifully, but are actually never willing to improvise, don't belong here. From time to time the idea rises, composed music is better than improvised. This is an inspiration killing virus. It spreads easily as it can be expressed in words, e.g. "He only plays boogie woogie". The real emotion of music however is impossible to express in common language. Creative musicians sometimes feel the need to improvise.

The reason is the adventure. Even if you like Bach, you still can be surprised by the sheer beauty of a singing voice, independent of the quality of the composition, or of the 'drive' with which a simple boogie woogie is played. In a blend of a composer and an interpreter one might miss a person.

Improvisation has degrees of singularity. You can learn a piece by heart, but you can put more of yourself in it, if you paste shorter known pieces together. If those pieces are as small as a note, you have the highest degree of singularity. In other words every note, so everything, is completely made by yourself. People who improvise in this way radiate their personality so strongly, it is impossible to explain to someone who has not been actually present. This is the irreplaceable aspect of improvisation.

It is disturbing when an improviser is confronted with the complacency with which supporters of composed music sometimes ignore these aspects. They attach more significance to the construction of the notes than to the soul. They seem to be deaf for the difference in timbre of a singing voice or a 128th note of a rhythm. The abiding renewal of music in the last century has not come from rational researchers, but from the jazz, folk music from the heart. It are the not in notes to grasp aspects that move the soul. Improvisation needs especially those aspects.

The fingers of the interpreter may be as virtuosic as can be, if he operates his pedal a bit too slow, it cancels out his fingering. This will not happen to an improviser who plays listening, as his creation is completely made by himself.

Apart from the note devotion, also the fingering gymnastics reduce the expression. Control of fingering is a blessing for the improviser, but it must remain a tool dedicated to the soul, not something appreciated as sporting achievement. The same holds for knowledge of chords. If but a piece has lots of difficult to nominate chords, it often gets much appreciation.

Play only notes with contents. A note originated from the need to hear it now, so an honest improvised note automatically gets the value it deserves. It has not to be practiced. The nuance will not escape the real listener, but who is eating in the mean time, will prefer something he knows already, in order not to be deviated from his food and partner at diner.

Who wants to be popular for the public, must not improvise. He must practice and interpret known pieces. Improvisation is for the connoisseur of the soul of his fellow man.

Difficulty of improvisation is another reason not to do it. It requires expertise. Your soul may ask complicated things, of which the expression requires a certain skill. You will not build that up by improvising now and then.
HOMEWORK: Try to play honestly what you really want to hear, preferably with a high degree of singularity. Invent, listening, every tone on the spot one by one. Keep the construction simple (a chord scheme is a compromise: it decreases the freedom of expression, but a frame guards from chaos).
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