Blog – words and music about music and words.

Improvisation/evolution.

They say “start small”, which seems like good advice, apart from when you’re loading the car. Sometimes it’s definitely best to go big first, then come back for the small stuff – I’ll come back to this. They also say “the devil’s in the detail”. Is that good? We rarely aim for devilishness.

The thought that ideas should evolve seems pretty well stuck in (the enlightenment, development, progress) perhaps to the extent that this idea itself hasn’t changed much for a while. And with this comes the view of evolution; you start small, and get gradually bigger. Or is it; start off a bit simple, and get gradually better? Either way, the journey appears to be begin as ameba and end as Attenborough, or something equally wonderful.

Perhaps because this is so engrained in our consciousness, or maybe because it’s easier, Music has a habit of following a similar path. We start with the simple stuff, and we build complexity throughout until we peak. A kind of audio ‘march of progress’. Which is fine, apart from when it isn’t fine. Or when it was fine in the last piece, but yields diminishing returns (like the March of progress spoofs which end with a  contemporary human at a desk/skateboard/guitar/barcode).

The more I learn about both improvisation and evolution, the more I enjoy it when they are alike. I like it when things surprise us and start really big. When things disappear unexpectedly. When the same idea evolves in parallel many times. I like it when multiple parts in the music work towards the same point, and resolve simultaneously, but also when the change comes unexpectedly soon, or not at all. I love to remind myself, and anyone who will listen, that music is just air wobbling around. Just nature very slightly shaking our ears and tickling our brain. For me, music is the most fun when it represents the physical world in this way, with symmetry and logical beauty, but also the chaotic and unpredictable way that ideas, people and sound can interact (or not) with each other.