The Magic of Group Free Intuitive Sound Improvisation
There are many different interpretations of sound improvisation. For many, when the word 'improvisation' is mentioned, jazz or Indian music may be brought to mind. Others may have experienced music improvisation through music therapy. The classically trained are often expected, as part of their practice, to develop skills in extemporisation. These are all forms of improvisation but not the only ones.
However in the last few decades a new phenomenon has emerged which might be called free intuitive group improvisation. Whilst this form of improvisation has its roots perhaps with Stockhausen and others in the 1970s, it has now emerged as a form of music making available not just to the specialist musician but also the community at large. Because of the special conditions that make free intuitive sound improvisation possible to the skilled performer it also makes it available to the ‘beginner’.
Intuitive free improvisation makes it possible to consider ways of creating group ‘pieces’ on-the-spot. Unlike traditional forms of composition there is very little structure or formality. As Dr. Rod Paton says in his excellent book on music improvisation ‘Living Music’ (2000) “we might associate improvisation with ‘working in the dark’, with a notion of unpredictability or uncertainty” which means that the significance of intuitive free sound improvisation is that one can be placed directly in a position of actively working with the unforeseen, with the unknowable.
Although the trained musician, due to their familiarity with their instrument, can bring a particularly extensive array of ‘sound offerings’ it is often the so-called novice who most quickly takes to the notion of improvisation. This is largely due to the fact that the novice often has fewer preconceived notions as to what constitutes ‘music’ and as a consequence is freer to explore its possibilities. The skills of improvising develop during the actual experience of improvisation rather than necessarily needing to have been acquired as a result of previous ‘practice’. If the novice group has access to high quality ‘easy access’ musical instruments then their lack of facility is often overcome by the sheer magic of the sounds they can easily create.
Through free intuitive group improvisation participants have the shortest root possible to experience working with others directly ‘in the moment’, making instant decisions intuitively. Through the approach, a sense of trust is developed, not only in the other members of the group, but also in the realisation that they have an innate ability to organise and create something beautiful and fulfilling almost at will. In the improvising situation there is often an instant when the piece seems to just take off and develop a life of its own. The group seems, at this moment, to have become something distinctly more than the sum of its parts.
For many of us, as we get older we may steadily lose touch with our imaginations. Ultimately, for the participants, free intuitive group improvisation reawakens their facility to create and to imagine. Experience like this has spin-offs into other areas outside of the field of music. Professionals who need to work creatively find their ‘imaginal’ juices refreshed and with added zest. Team members who need to work closely together will find hidden resources within themselves. Individuals who find themselves at a junction in their lives and need a new direction will find themselves refreshed.