With not much care for football, I spent my Superbowl Sunday at a nearly empty jazz show in Brooklyn.  It kind of got me thinking, though, about training.  Maybe I've already covered this in one of my blog entries, but I'm sure that this improvised writing always flows in new directions, too.

So, Jesse's music is, for me, anyway, somewhere between improvised and composed from top to bottom.  And the parts that are influenced by classical are heavily so.  The reason I bring this up is because watching him play made me think of the way we train ourselves to play music.  I can't comment on how jazz players are trained, because I've never had any of that.  But I can say, from my years of experience as both a teacher and a student, that a lot of classical study is specifically to train muscle memory.

Now, this MUST be the case for jazz players to, in some ways.  I know that they go through scales and arpeggios and so forth as well.  But it makes me wonder if that is why I have had such a hard time getting comfortable with improvisation.  I'm having to trust my hands to play something that they've never touched before.

I remember once that I was trying to get my student to imagine a sound, and then try to make that sound.  Imagery is something I use a lot of with my students, because it's hard to describe a difference in vibration without attaching it to some kind of mood or feeling.  And, after all, why would you care if you made a color change if it didn't provoke something in us?  When her mom came in at the end of the lesson, I reviewed with her the lesson.  She said something like, "well, but how does that happen?  Doesn't it work the other way?"  Well, yeah.  To the listener.  But it's the artist's job to create that image to begin with.  If an image comes from a performance, it's not often just by chance.  I tried to explain that if a musician just works with the colors that happen to occur on their own, the palate becomes very limited... the imagination has to be engaged in order to expand beyond the possible.  I'm not sure she understood, and maybe I'm not even explaining it very well here.

Anyway, all of this I bring up, because this is, I suppose, a classical person's way of thinking.  We develop ourselves to the point where even this, even a color change on a single note, is something that we will spend hours practicing.  So that instead of conjuring static, that one tone conjures despair, or pure joy, or whatever it is we want it to convey.  And that, too, becomes part of the muscle memory.  What is improvised for us could be just having to play on a different instrument.

Someone fill me in here.  I want to know, do improvisors practice getting different colors with the same note, same articulation, same dynamic?  Or are they creating these moods and feelings more with the pitches, harmonies, and flow?  I actually don't know the answer to this, although I do have my suspicions.

What improvisors refer to as "voicing" is basically how one will invert the chord.  But for a classical player, "voicing" is which note or notes in the chord you will bring out in sound and clarity above the other tones, but without changing the written chord.  This is somehow related to what I was talking about, but I'm not sure I can put it into words right now.  My brain is beginning to ooze.  And just like that, I am seeing a really strong connection between jazz voicing, and classical voicing.  The term refers to different things, but I wonder if the effect is somewhat similar.  Hmm.  Questions for later.

And so I guess what I'm getting at ultimately is just the way the brain has to completely shift gears between improvised music and composed music.  This is something I understood when I began this project nearly six months ago, but I must be beginning to understand more thoroughly why this difference exists.  Or maybe I've just completely turned myself around.

Webs upon webs of questions and answers.

Here we go, Day 175: https://ia600802.us.archive.org/33/items/Improv2512/20120205201815.mp3