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Monday, October 17, 2005

The Fundamental Interconnectedness Of All Things

Ah, solo improv. The art of going nowhere in particular. Ah, the great art of going wherever.

I like to start by just pressing a note repeatedly, or maybe a fifth, or something along those lines, just to get a feel for it. If I'm in the right mood for a good improv, it gives me a sense of thick atmosphere. It all works out better when I've got a starting point, a setting in which my story will take place. Everything will flow naturally from these few notes, which I play repeatedly, generally while holding the pedal. But I don't think of it as a starting point. In fact, I don't think about it at all. I just start playing it, and let myself get pulled in. As far as I am concerned at that moment, that note is the entire world.

Somehow, that eternity of a setting passes in an instant, and I start playing. It doesn't matter what, just so long as I like the way it sounds. Which is not to say it necessarily should make any sense at all, because the nonsensical can be just as satisfying as the sensible, as long as it is controlled. Contradictions, confusion, despair, vagueness- these are my playthings. All of them are more interesting than some simple melody, although if that melody has been on my mind lately, that's what I'll go with. Those improvs are generally less interesting, since they mostly consist of too many variations on the same theme. But if I like it, I'll remember the theme. Maybe one day I'll even write it into a complete composition.

You know, this post sounded more meaningful in my head, with my original plan. Oh, well.

I've found that whenever I just start walking, I eventually get to where I should be, without actually trying to get there. What I'm actually trying to do is enjoy the hike, and the way I enjoy things is by trying to find the most meaningful path I can. Vague, I know, but generally I only have the vaguest idea of what I'm doing until the end, and it turns out I was right. (This only applies when I'm wandering around by myself, though.)
-from a letter I wrote a year ago
Now, there are a few things I've learned about improvisation. First, the more complex the structure the better, but if I make it too complex I mess it up. Improvising demands enough flexibility to radically alter the plans as soon as a new idea pops along. If worst comes to worst, you can always just hop right back to the
original plan
whenever it's convenient.
Is it just me, or is Myst more real than the real world? My deepest desire is to see the words "Game Over", and be allowed to move on with my life. My real life, as a gamer. To move on to games worth playing.

Believe it or not, I am not emotionally crippled by the thought that I will not be getting another Myst. My life is just so much fun right now anyway that it's hard to care too much.

The guiding principle behind all successful improvisations can be summed up with the sentence "I meant to do that."
The aftermath of the first season only wraps up in the seventh episode of this season, so maybe this should still (story-wise) be considered part of the first!
Believe it or not, the music always sorts itself out, thank God. The full meaning of the BSG connection only hit me just now, not only months after I had written it, but even after I had decided to point it out in this post- imagine that!

If other people don't understand what I'm playing, but it sounds great to me, then I know I'm on to something. What's my playing worth, if it's exactly like everything that's been done better before? On the other hand, if something I play sounds perfectly natural, yet it hasn't been done before, then it is clearly something which needs to be utilized. I am proud to have invented several techniques which I have not heard from anyone else. Naturally, I use them at every opportunity I get.

Anyone who has played [Michel Ancel's Beyond Good & Evil], understood why it can switch between so many different, well-developed types of gameplay without the player minding, internalized the new concepts it brought to the table, and recognized the significance and wider implications of these concepts is way ahead of his time. Essentially what Ancel is doing is using these various full-fledged Forms as if they are no more than colors on a palette he is painting with. This flies in the face of all conventional thinking about art!
-from a recent post on the "Adventure Gamers" forum

Taking a cue from Ancel, one such technique is to blend one style of music into another.
I compose music- don't ask what style, because it switches from classical to modernist to impressionist to pop sometimes all within one piece.

Another technique is to play, to a certain degree, completely randomly and chaotically, and still make it sound nice. It's not all that hard- my fingers have picked up which notes are wrong at any one point, so if I let them run free I can be fairly confident that they'll press the right keys. This technique can leave the listener (who happens to be me) feeling like he is in a light fog, which is a very nice effect-
Feh!- Couldn't this kid have written more sensibly? Like this whole post, for instance. I mean, at the beginning it sort of made sense, but look at it now!
What am I looking at again?
I wish I could say! First he starts talking about improv- I guess he means on the piano, and then this nutcase gets to this!
To what?
To this!
What was he thinking? I mean, did he think there could possibly be people bored enough to sit around and read this stuff?

If I come up with a good idea, it doesn't matter so much whether it is vital- as long as the improvisation is being conducted according to my guiding principle, it'll progress on the right track. The only problem is keeping the train of thought going, ensuring that the link between mind and keyboard is never severed. If it is, well, the quality suffers tremendously.

There are lots of loose threads in this blog which I never did tie up. And yet certain events in my life did the work for me! The reason "I Am Not..." is such a mess is because I didn't write down all the remarkable chain of events of my life, as God laid them out. I didn't mention the day in which both my "counselling sessions" and my upcoming drafting into the army were both cancelled. (That was a very good day.) I didn't mention the week in which three paths in different areas became clear to me, which clearly was meant to be written down. I didn't mention my decision to not follow any of these paths, either. As a result of these inexcusable ommisions, my work is flawed. There is a clear lesson to be learned for improv here.

Finally, one must reach the end of the session. Okay, so that's not entirely true. The improvisation never really ends. I've seen people improvising who just refuse to stop, because a new idea is always popping up.
Hey, I just had an idea.
Why don't we actually go out and do something?
Because we're lazy.
Oh, right.

But every work has to end somewhere, to make way for the next one. Ah, here's my station. I'll be getting off now.



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