The Art of Improvisation

Improvisation, for you worrying individuals who do not know, is making up/doing something on the spot. It can be a brilliant idea which frees the mind and, in the case of music, allows you to hear and enjoy the sounds for the very first time – just like the audience. To me it feels like a more instant and raw expression, the kind of organic process my hippie wanker soul craves. It’s the way a lot of songs are written too. It crunches the rigid boundaries set by square killjoys who love a rule book of verse, chorus, verse…

What I consider a genius example of improvisation in music is The Doors’ live performances. I picked up the Live at Pittsburgh 1970 album when I was 16 and fell in love with the seemless transtions between songs. The drawn out solos and free periods between choruses and verses linked the whole album together seamlessly. Their use of relaxed free jam periods worked like the gravy in a shepherds pie, rounding off all the flavours together in one wholesome meal, and man are The Doors one wholesome meal for you!

There are bands like Acid Mothers Temple who are a little more on the far-out of the 4th dimension side, that improvise damn near everything. The tinnitus inspired creations of Kowabata Makoto can be immense sound scapes or total mania, untamable by any being. They’re an example of the fluidity of improv that is so unpredictable – it’s a bit of a gamble at times. If you’re interested in a few bands that do this look to Swans, Sonic Youth, Earthless, Miles Davis and pretty much any jazz fusion/prog rock band.

Kawabata Makoto
Kawabata Makoto of Acid Mothers Temple

I regularly improvise both my guitar playing and lyrics/vocal blathering when performing live. I get a powerful vibration out of it; a freeing experience I explained earlier, which has so far received only positive feedback. Improv isn’t necessarily something for everyone nor is it something that can be pulled off easily, instead it’s a philosophy that can be adopted. I learn music by ear, I blag day-to-day bullshit, I forget about expectations and I never know what I want for breakfast. I like the idea of going with the flow and do so as often as I can. I feel music allows you to present aspects of your life, sending them out into the air in a more beautiful form, and the art of improvisation is the art of the air-headed playing with full hearts.