R1 Improv

Out of all the readings, Cornelius’s Towards an Ethic of Improvisation was a wider approach that covered many different facets of the topic of improv. All three of the writers (Cornelius Cardew, George Lewis, and Pauline Oliveros) express the idea that improvisation is an extension of the humanity within the medium; silence and off compositions moves the music away from a traditional structure and embraces an experimental, open, sort of Cagean view to it. In a lot of European paintings before the Dada era, composition dominated the narrative structure of the piece. Dada-ism was a response to a mixed bag of situations, mainly World War I. Looking back at the structure that history is broken down to makes it seem like it is human nature to seek out work that breaks the grid because it feels innovative and more appropriate for the times. The argument that the musically uneducated makes for a freer form builder sounds pretty conclusive. If I think about it in terms of my design education, where I have been taught the basic formalities of grids, typography, spacing, and the like, there is a structure towards what comes across as untouchable, and with composition we learn that you can create tension through graphics. All form comes with a visual evidence, and is supported by our memories, memes and exposures of the times. Once you are conscious of the formalities and existing academic ideas stemmed from layers of education passed down, you can become more flexible within that knowledge, but Comic Sans will always be used in an ironic way rather than innocent. I guess the difference between an education in graphic design versus music is that music is always time-based, so that rhythmic structure becomes the inevitable foundation to everything due to exposure and practice. Because my practice is mostly visual, hearing is becoming a fascinating medium to me, in the same way the radio leaves a lot up to the imagination.

Improvisation is a performance. The way I interpreted the sentiment from the reading that once the improvisation is complete, a recording will never provide the contextual information, is through the process of taking a picture. When you take a picture, the narrative is stuck within the confines of some dimension. Some photographers even argue that to photograph is to kill a subject, because the photographer is reinventing it. Even in the aftermath, when you look at a photo you begin with looking at the image in its entirety, and then you begin to examine the photo deeper. All the viewer has is the photo, and all the listener has is the recording of an improvisation to read from. It makes me think of Cage’s works, which appear like improvisations, but he had a composition to them that he would create in his own way, so that he can recreate his work in performance. Cornelius mentions that there is a layer of knowledge in these kinds of compositions which is either ‘do’ or ‘don’t do’. Cage is making predetermined decisions on the set that gives viewers some context, and the stage sets up an expectation and creates a formality to the event.

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