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Re: PrePrepared vs. Improvisational
at my last looping gig, the gig was fun, but the real magic happened while i was packing up at the end of the night, when Tom Ritchford joined his friend Victor, who had pulled out a guitar, extemporaneously improvising melodies and lyrics to the message of the moment, which was "get the f*k out of here". there were maybe 8 people in the room - the gallery owners and a handful of musicians. a couple of people played other impromptu songs. that was a real throwback to the days when we'd grab a bunch of acoustic instruments and jam under the bridge at 2am, just to do it.
there's different magic in a lot of things. every time i disassemble/reassemble my rig to go play, and then drive back and let it sit around for a week before putting it together again, i wonder whether it's worth it to move it. the answer is that for me, it is often enough.
my goals in performing publicly are different than performing to record at home. when i record (or, more accurately, "produce" - go through the cycle that many of you know: record an improv, edit, trim, listen, maybe process a little, release), my only goal is to make something that i would still occasionally choose to put on if i ever were to escape being narcissistic. i don't even really care if i can reproduce it live. my motives are totally different when i play publicly - it's to expose people to what i'm doing. is it to get attention? no, it's far more altruistic than that - it's for their own good!
ok, the over-the-topness of that statement aside, i think i'm really an "experimental" musician/performance artist in the literal sense of the word - most of my pieces begin with the question, "can i make something musical with that technique or setup?", and most of my looping gigs are - at this point - sociological experiments in public acceptance of strange but familiar forms, and artistic experiments for me in whether i can read the space well enough to do something effective (including spontaneously defining what effective means). I'm playing at the local Farmer's Market on Sunday - I can pretty much guarantee that we will transform the feel of that experience. The art is the transformation of the experience, not any notes that come out. Why do i care about these experiments? honestly, it builds my self-confidence in a very satisfying way.
i have played completely and partially-scored looping pieces with some considerable success, but also experience that (a) the completely scored pieces are hard to pull off when technical issues arise, especially if they are instrumentally or mentally challenging and (b) the partially-scored pieces are usually an idea that was good once, but often fails to take off when repeated, as others have noted. I view this as an indication that i have a lot further to go as an improviser, tho, not as an indication that planning is bad.