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RE: process threads . . . or what have you

Here are some quotes from JACK WRIGHT on free improvisation. I received   
them from the project4newmusic mailing list and thought they might be of   
some relevance to this discussion. Not being a "trained" "musician," I   
consider myself to be a free improvisor, as well as a looper, and, like   
John Cage, believe that all sounds have merit as music. It all depends on  
how you listen.

Jim Bailey

I now turn you over to Jack.


This music is a relatively recent phenomenon of the last few decades
and is still practically unknown.  Most people seem to be puzzled by
it or have misconceptions, even fear.  All other forms of music,
including Jazz improvisation, have a tendency towards conscious
differentiation and identification of the player with the musical
choices made, that is, at least some structure (song and style) that
is decided upon that has an identity and meaning set apart from others
and given a priority.  Free improv tends on the other hand to dissolve
the importance of such priorities at the musical moment of choosing,
since all choices are valid and all standards of good music are put in
question, including that played moments ago.  Our limitations --
attachment to clinched formulas, our best ideas -- are what stand in
the way and we struggle against them.  Technical development on the
instrument in the traditional sense is optional, for some even
hindrance, to the extent it predisposes our judgment as to what is
musical.  A kind of musical insecurity is even good for improv.  A
careful and attentive choosing is involved but not as means to an end.
 Since choice can go any direction, this music tends toward an
exaggerated full ear-open listening to what is going on around you for
guidance; in fact since you do not identify with and defend your own
sound, you find yourself listening to your very own playing with
interest and surprise, reacting to it as you do to others'.  Free
improv opens the door to dissolution and immersion in sound and
silence, in which we hear a playful voice behind us always suggesting,
"why not this?" We find with surprise, given our previous experience
with music, that rather than resulting in a breakup into
individualized units, improv tends toward a whole since we have
nothing to go on except each other.  It is a music that fully reflects
a disillusionment with the fundamental impulse of previous musics to
organize and control nature, and for this reason cannot be expected to
advance its players in the so-called music world of career and
conquest with which such control is allied.  Free players are open to
being inspired by others regardless of experience or status; the true
teacher is the learner...  What I have described here is only the
empty form, the energy, not what we end up with.  What fills it and
gives the music its meaning and character is our individual struggle
with it and with ourselves.  This is a new music and has hardly begun
to be explored; it is what we make it.  The potential for transforming
our relation to music and to each other is not fully imaginable.


October, 1996

Each free improvisation, and this pertains especially to the solo, is
a very particular, unique path, all laid out in advance.  However, we
do not know the way, and we are, some might say, hampered by the
deliberate loss of whatever one sense we should usually consider the
most reliable.  We are not allowed to see where we are going, that is
the only rule, so all the other, unaccustomed senses scramble to the
forefront.  We have our eyes (ears) closed as if their normal
configurations would surely mislead us; our feet or our nose will have
to do all that enormous work.  We might have the impression that we
can only witness what happens, that we have let the path take over; if
so then how could we be so highly engaged.  At any rate, we can only
feel our way, imperfectly of course, shifting from tense confusion to
relaxed and ecstatic awareness to the humiliation of finding ourselves
utterly lost.  There is not a single position that our consciousness
can take that is left out; the path covers the whole topography from
start to finish, that is, it certainly can. Even and especially our
lostness is right where we should be, hardly a consoling thought.
Only afterwards are we allowed to think we knew what we were doing,
even to know we were on a path at all.