the improvisor

Reflections on UCSD Conference, April 9-11, 1999

Improvising Across Borders

                      By Beth Glick-Rieman, a writer

When I decided to attend this conference on improvisation, I thought it was to enter with my son into his "musician's world" which has always intrigued and fascinated me. In the opening session of the conference, however, I quickly learned that it is also MY world as a writer, an author, the one who "makes her own space and creates her own future."

The musician uses sounds and silence as the tools to create moods and images. The writer uses words. Both know that creation cannot happen unless the creator is fully present in the moment. As LaDonna Smith, one of the presenters at the conference, put it so aptly, "Improvisation is becoming rich in the magic of the moment."

The presenters during the conference kept my interest and stimulated my thinking in dozens of ways. I can't name them all, but here are a few of the statements that apply as fully to my world as a writer as to my son's world as a musician:

"Intent is important; you'll do more improvising if you intend to do it." J.D. Parran

"Improvisation is transcendental; the aim is to go beyond yourself." Eddie Prevost

"Improvisational music did not just crop up; it is evolutionary; blacks have been doing this for 400 years. Improvisation is a way of galvanizing diverse communities. It involves every aspect of being a human being." Douglas Ewart

"Improvisation is a social necessity, a way of life, a means of survival, as it combines two codes: the dominant culture and one's own marginalized experience." Bennetta Jules-Rosette

"Improvisation is the persona of the traveler, the spectacle of the encounter." Thomas Allen-Harris

"It is the enactment of the human context. The artist is someone who does the best he/she can." David Antin

"Improvisation is a means of constructing material; it develops a structure of its own." Catherine Sullivan

There is not one of these statements that does not also apply to me as a writer. This conference was a "shot in the arm," "a breath of fresh air." Best of all, interaction with all these free and creative spirits inspired me to write my next book in-between times at the piano experimenting with the tools of sounds and silence.



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