If you haven’t ever been to a suddenlyLISTEN concert, I understand that you may think there are a lot of unknowns to embrace for that first try! I mean we’re making it up as we go along, we’re not in a specific key, and we aren’t necessarily locked to a rhythm or a pulse! It’s anarchy out there! And sometimes it is. The key is SOMETIMES, because anything is possible, but listen for it, it might only happen for a minute or two.

Fear not, I’m here to walk you through. We improvisers think that this music is a great expression of our time. It’s got all the complexity, simplicity, technology, communication (and lack there-of) of 2012. We can’t explain everything that happens around us in an average 21st century day, but we can experience a lot of it, one way or another, and that’s what improvised music is about: Experience.

So how do we do it? Well the first time I heard this music, I though it was gobbledy gook!  In fact, my first time was probably my 7th opportunity to try. Before, I’d run from the room and probably gone off to practice a cello concerto or something relevant. When I did finally settle in and listen, and even play the music, I felt like I’d discovered a whole new world.

So here are a few installments of the sLog to walk you through. Please feel free to add comments and hints and resources for us all, music is a lifetime pursuit and we can all learn more.

Lesson 1: The first and most important stage is the listening. Obviously, I guess. Remember, it’s not listening like you’d normally do. You can’t anticipate what might happen, you can’t hum the tune, or know you’ve heard that piece before. We need to approach each piece with an open mind, a mindset that is ready to accept, and be surprised.

I get very still when I listen. I guess I feel like it opens more psychic doors or something (I used to be a real mover, and maybe you are too. Geordie Haley is practically dancing when he listens!). I try to clear my head and maybe I close my eyes to remove distractions. And then I let the music wash over me, I try to submerge myself in the sound and let it come to me, not impose my expectations on it. 

At first it might sound like random sounds happening at the same time, but then we start to hear coincidences of harmony, rhythm, melody. We start to hear sounds that go together and others that really don’t belong. We start to hear who is leading the music and who is following, and we can hear how those roles change, sometimes frequently, sometimes more slowly. Sometime we hear everyone on an individual disconected path and sometimes all the musicians are in the same flow, the same musical stream. (do you notice how many times I’ve typed sometimes? I’m getting a repetitive strain injury here!).
We hear the relationships and the collaboration that makes this music so great.

Eventually we can hear and discern bad from good improvised music. (it’s not ALL good, we work to improve, just like any other artist). Do you have a funny feeling that the music isn’t connecting? It may not be!

It’s all in the listening, the surrender to the sound and the acceptance of the expression.

And those qualities are good ones to embrace these days. Hope to see you at a show soon.