The Importance of Responsibility - Part 1


I'm writing this on Friday, with an improvised gig scheduled for Sunday. I've been invited to play as part of a monthly series called, Unrehearsed. I had expressed my interest months ago when I saw a call for musicians. The e-mail invite amused me, as part of it said, 

Things are TOTALLY improvised (hence the name Unrehearsed.) I'm not sure if you've experienced one of these performances before, but they are really exciting and alive and a lot of fun to take part in.

Improvisation, it's one of my favorite things to do. I've been improvising for 40 years. Yeah, I've done this before, and it is "exciting and alive and fun to take part in." Obviously, the person writing the e-mail doesn't know me, but what they wrote is important, especially for those not experienced in improvising.

I'd like to add to this,

To be an improvisor, one must be responsible. And by responsible, I mean that you must be accountable for your own actions. What you play, or don't play, affects what everyone else plays, or doesn't play. While there is no right or wrong, there is appropriate. You are responsible for listening to the other musicians and playing, or not playing, something appropriate for what everyone is creating together. THIS IS NO PLACE FOR EGO! Too often, I hear younger musicians playing inappropriate licks and riffs in a "look at me, I can play cool shit" sort of way. Trust me, most people don't care about your "cool shit." Really. What they care about is how everyone works together and creates something beyond the individuals. Yeah, I can play "cool shit" too, but I see no point in it. I'd rather play what the collective music calls for, than to try to wedge in my favorite licks.

So listen. And listen some more. And if you don't have something appropriate to contribute, don't play anything! Listen some more, and when you feel like you finally have something, play it, contribute it, make it happen. But only if it's right. I've been known to just stop playing and to listen, because I don't want to get in the way of things. Sometimes things sound better without me. I don't mind. I'd rather not play, than to stomp all over something beautiful.

So remember this: 


Memorize it. Make it your mantra. Live it, especially when you play improvised music. 

Part 2 will be a look at what went down at the gig.

~ MB


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