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My experiments with Improvisation - Pratyay Raha

Updated: Aug 2, 2022

Exploration of trajectory

The exploration of trajectory in improvisation was very important discussion/discourse in the Improvisation module during my masters course at UL with Dr. Oscar Mascarenas. This was a question that I had always had which I wanted to address but somehow could not understand how. Just like when we are writing poetry, even if it’s totally improvised, it tries to find a trajectory either from the perspective of the poet or from the perspective of the words or phrases which actually push the poet to move in a particular direction of thought. So, my question remains always on this issue of the continuum. As mentioned in the book ‘Meditations – on the poetics of experience’ by Dr. Oscar Mascarenas, ‘Rhythm is a division of change’. These six words can stimulate a discourse for a lifetime. How to change a response? How to move from one response to the other? What happens in between the two responses? What is the continuum of change? How to understand that rhythm of change? I always have this dilemma of how I can move from one response to the next. Maybe we don’t have to move to the next response. Maybe we can just stay in a particular moment in time which has the answers for the next. But then when we have something, how do we shape it to form the trajectory? Yes, we have the attributes of pitch, duration, timbre and dynamics but how will we shape these attributes to form the trajectory? When should we play with pitch and when should we play with timbre? If we are in movement, we move our bodies in a particular manner in the space of an instrument, but why are we doing it? What is driving force? Is it because we have seen innovative experimental composers do that to generate sound? Is it because we have seen any other person next to me do something? Is it because we have seen our teacher do that in a particular way which motivates us to do it in a particular way? In my limited knowledge opinion, I think the unknown is very challenging and interesting but the condition is that a person needs to be fully equipped mentally and physically to handle the risks of the unknown. I remember the star American artistic gymnast Simon Biles drop out of the Tokyo Olympics and it was a big decision on her part as her country and the whole world were expecting 5/6 Gold medals from her. She said, "For anyone saying I quit. I didn't quit my mind & body are simply not in sync." This was a great lesson for me when I started thinking of improvisation. When I first came into this ambience of improvisation, I thought the whole process is random and arbitrary, but as I started delving deep, I understood there is a tremendous level energy interaction going on in the process. From this module and the discussions on trajectory, I also understood there is a continuum of change, reshaping and guiding thought that goes into the process of improvisation. On the other hand, the body and mind should be in sync for this kind of process to actually realise the journey of transformation/change/rhythm.

The body

As per our sessions in our improvisation module, I had a different perspective of the body. The source of sound generation was the body with myriad dimensions of connections with the past and future. Here past and future means immediate past and immediate future within the duration of few minutes. There was a continuous breaking and making of movements and sounds, connections and a constant effort to understand the space of those interactions.

During the improvisation sessions, I had expressed my response through poetry, I had written two pieces on the sessions. They are as follows:

Switch Connection Connections Making and breaking Giving and taking Splitting and cutting Changing and moving

Switching and swapping

Electrical or musical

Composing or choreographing

Breathing and breathing

Living and dying Living and beyond Focus to defocus Silence and Silence More and more Deep and diving You and non-you Changing and waiting Waiting and time Time to fraction Fraction to fracture Fracture or breaking Breaking and making

Connection Connections

First Note The first note is difficult The first intonation The first accent The introduction Silence is key The lock is the note Who will play it? How will it be played? Something or nothing A flow to disguise A flow to contemplate A flow to follow

How will it sound? How will it not sound? If it’s not played at all Will there be any difference? The birds are singing Do we need more? The morning voices One and two and three and four Shapes and patterns Flight and flying Moving and movement Stillness to the core Listening, The first ray of the sun Dawn or drawn To the first note, It’s there, the first note The first accent, Comes out of nothing, Should we play now? Or should we listen?

After writing these words which I never knew the source of, I felt that we need to understand nothingness more to understand the vacuum of the body. The sound of nothing. The sound that creates the continuum even when there is no external sound. We need to listen closely to that sound to understand the body.

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