Improvisation should be at the core of the music curriculum. It should come first and should remain at the core of music education throughout the later years of increasing expertise. Musicians educated with improvisation at the center will have a better-developed ability to think musically —to deeply understand music as well as be better prepared to interpret written scores.
–R. Keith Sawyer
Creativity, which is nothing more or less than imagining something and then executing it, has been virtually removed from all but the most innovative curricula. This raises two questions: If the continuing presence of music is the cause of continuing to learn music; if the cause of music is human creativity, why is creativity not at the center of the music curriculum? Why is the act of thinking up music left just to a select few specialists, while re-presenting it, or over-verbalizing about it, is the province of so many?
–Harold Best, Music Curricula in the Future
In the West… aural tradition has essentially died out in relation to classical music. This great loss has been the result of what can only be described as our obsession with written notation, a clear symptom of our imprudent vulnerability to the power of all visual media from the printing press to the television screen.
I actually got the book some months ago, but didn’t get the chance to do much more than start it:
Musical Environments: A Manual for Listening, Improvising, and Composing by Richard Vella.
There is no book quite like it – it’s very dense with information and ideas on the creative process. The part that I am now reading and taking notes on (I don’t like to read nonfiction without a pencil in hand) is the “Teaching Strategies for Improvisation.” If you are a kindred soul who reads this column regularly (at least whenever I post something), you should probably run, not walk, to order a copy of this book. Let me share/tease a bit and give you some quotes from this chapter (p. 99):
•a valuable tool for understanding creative and musical thinking.
•can involve working with existing or known structures from which one explores new possibilities, or outcomes.
•is a real-time interaction and involves spontaneous decision-making either consciously or unconsciously.