I had lunch with Mike Gordon last week. When the two of us get together we tend to have good life conversations that usually end up relating back to our work -- more interestingly‚ his work as a musician/artist/improviser. When I wrote the cover story on him last summer‚ we had a series of conversations about improvisation‚ especially covering the more abstract areas like peak spiritual experiences‚ how improvisation can trigger different dream sequences and how it can even channel different emotions and experiences all the way back to childhood.
I like to discuss improvisation with every musician that I interview. After getting incredible insight from musicians like Phil LeshBill FrisellRon CarterKurt RosenwinkelJenny Scheinman and so on‚ I still feel like I'm just scratching the surface even though I've heard such vastly different perspectives. I remember years ago Marc Friedman from The Slip telling me improvisation is a lifelong study. So true. Investigating it doesn't end either.
After lunch with Mike‚ I took off in my car and caught the end of NPR's Fresh Air with guest Amy Poelher. I went back and found the interview online because it was so fascinating. About 32 minutes in‚ Amy gets into it with Terry Gross. It was incredibly refreshing to hear her perspective on improvisation from the comedic standpoint‚ and it sounded just as profound as the conversations with Mike‚ but from a different angle. At one point she said‚ "It felt like… you're in control‚ even though you had no control over what was happening at the same time."
Similar to music‚ she also discussed the communal religious experience that comes from it. Great stuff. And then Terry Gross ends the interview. "No!" I exclaimed. We have rules here at the SoM Headquarters - once you get a person talking that passionately about spiritual aspects of their work through practice and improvisation‚ you try to dig deeper and hope that they tell you more. But shit‚ we're no Terry Gross either.
Still‚ it made me think of a whole new line of questions about the exhilaration that comes from performing in the moment without a net.
Group Improvisation - Monkey Boners
Group Improvisation - Weekapaug Boners