Improv Quote of the Day: Only Natural


Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci, Galleria d...

Improvisation is the most natural and widespread form of music making. Up until the last century it was integral even to our literate tradition in the West. Leonardo da Vinci was one of the great pioneers of improvisation on the viola da braccio, and with his friends put on entire operas in which both the poetry and the music were made up on the spot. In Baroque music, the art of playing keyboard instruments from a ‘figured bass’…resembled the modern jazz musician’s art of playing over themes, motifs, or chord changes. In classical times, the cadenzas of violin, piano, and other concertos were meant to be improvised – a chance for the player to put his own creative display into the total artwork. Both Bach and Mozart were renowned as very free, agile, imaginative improvisers, and many stories, both moving and amusing, are attached to their exploits in the field. Beethoven, when he first came to Vienna, became known as an outstanding improviser on the piano, and only later as a composer.

–Stephen Nachmanovitch

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