Music Without Goals

Posted by: eweiss

Music Without Goals - 05/19/09 01:29 AM

I really love improvisations that go nowhere. Improvisations where there is no goal… just an impulse to follow feelings in the current moment.

In fact, some have described this kind of music as self-indulgent - a kind of musical fantasy world where the focus is more on the performer than the listener.

Of course, this isn't the case at all. You see, most of us are used to having our music wrapped up in nice neat little packages. We aren't used to actually listening to music. We expect an "emotional experience" right away. And it better happen in 3-4 minutes or else.



Take Japanese Shakahuachi music for example. For those of you who don't know, the shakahuachi is a Japanese flute. It's beautiful sound is appreciated by many in the East.

I have a few CDs of this music and everytime I listen to them I hear something new. It's as if each time the CD is played I hear it for the first time. It never gets old. Why? Because of the absence of musical form!

There is not much for the mind to grasp or hold onto. Repetition of musical phrases is almost non existent. Instead, we get music without goals!

If there is a goal at all, it's that the person performing the music remains in the present while playing. What we hear is the "state of mind" of the performer at the exact time the recording is made.

In one of my own piano pieces "Desert Flowers," (listen to it above) I do the same thing. And everytime I listen to it, it seems that it's somehow changed. Yet the music always remains fresh and pliant - waiting to be discovered again and again.
Posted by: Ted

Re: Music Without Goals - 05/19/09 02:51 AM

I rather like form in improvisation but not as a jelly-mould into which musical matter is shovelled. In recent years I have come to suspect the existence of something I can only describe as improvisational form, which is dynamic and organic, as opposed to architectural and static. Put another way, we start with organic instruction and end up with data rather than decide a priori on the finished shape and push data into it.

When I was young I was taught and encouraged to direct my improvisation to imitate compositional form, either old-fashioned or modern. Then later on I went through a stage of attraction to music of the East, free improvisation, complete lack of structure and so on, as you describe. Recently, I concluded that neither of these things really satisfied me as far as my improvisation goes. I crave the transporting surprise and delight, the "in the moment" sensation of improvising but I also like the "emotion recollected in tranquillity" aspect of listening to recorded improvisation and taking pleasure in the ebb and flow of related similarity and contrast, of self-referencing ideas, of perceiving abstract organic form of lasting value which sticks in my mind.

I probably want an impossible best of two worlds but never mind; I'll keep on trying because there is nothing else to do. So to that extent, I agree with you and disagree with you at the same time.