In the beginning, when clouds were God’s breath, and buffaloes roared without fear, and time was uncounted except by death and birth and the sky darkening, there was performance. And it was never counted as special or apart because it was and it was what happened and without it we thought there would be drought and insufficiency and possibly war when you wanted peace, or peace when you wanted war. So we moved and shook and spoke in sequences of unidentified languages and evoked harmony in ourselves and terror in our enemies. And we urged ourselves good fortune and bonded with each other and reinforced ourselves as tribe of reindeer or mountain or lyre bird.
My primary orientation is as an artist, and what that means is that I make things. I don’t make things in order to make money – I make things in order to communicate, reflect, meditate, and connect with people. It’s a personal practice. It’s a spiritual practice. It’s a social practice. And that’s really the foundation of everything I do.
–Jazz pianist, composer, and MacArtur fellowship winner Vijay Iyer
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
Certain people are very mental. They need to have rules and concepts and directions and scales and theory in order to play. But that’s not what music is about. Music has the same significance as beams of light coming out of the clouds and giving information to plants. Every note should be like a beam of light. You’re giving information to the listener, and you’re reminding them they also have light and significance. That’s improvising to me. The other stuff is just like going ‘da-da-da-da-da.’ It’s nothing” – Carlos Santana
I’ve been reading a fascinating book by Talking Heads star David Byrne: How Music Works. 358 thoughtfully written and researched pages, plus Acknowledgements, Footnotes, Suggested Readings, and Discography. Byrne has done his homework and writes engagingly about the creation of music, both his own and about many styles and genres, including pop and classical. I like the book so much that I have made it a required text for my fall course for non majors, Creativity in Music (i.e. where music comes from: improvisation and composition). I want to share in successive quotes some of Byrne’s thoughts on the subject. Here’s the first one, from Chapter Nine, Amateurs!
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