Jason Kao Hwang Unleashes the Improvisors
Do you enjoy prose writing? Your liner notes are articulate and intelligent.
I find writing takes a tremendous amount of concentration to distill. You have to write for grant proposals, which is always tortuous for musicians, but it does constantly confront you with your purpose—the how and the why of your music—in a way that most musicians don’t want to discuss. They see their work in the realm of feeling and instinct, but to crystallize those things into ideas is challenging. I think musicians need to gain more skills to communicate to the public. We have to be our own advocates. Writing also helps most artists examine their creative process.
Every time you write something, you are testing the process, rigorously. Is what I am writing true? Is it good? Worthy? Should I develop that idea or discard it? This adds some negotiation and agony to the process. But in improvisation, the general idea about process is mystifying to most. George Lewis is working on another book that is about improvisation in daily life, and parsing the mental processes of which we make spontaneous decisions. It’s not so mystifying, even in our dialogue. We draw upon our vocabulary, our experiences, our associations—and we spontaneously speak to each other. I think that happens in music, but there’s a particular mindfulness to the craft of that in music. Maybe that’s the mystery—and should remain a mystery—if it’s beyond what we can say in words.
I’d be disappointed if we could actually map spontaneity.
But Malcolm Gladwell and others are trying to study the nature of creativity. It’s good to struggle with that, even though it may be always unreachable. Maybe we can mine our own potential a little more or generate the confidence to say, “Wait, I do have that capacity.” Maybe that line of thought is too academic for a lot of us, but something could be there.
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