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The Moment As Teacher

by LaDonna Smith


the improvisor

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Vibrating in the moment, we are our own teachers. Shortcuts to learning can be achieved through the experience of others, but it is only through the Self, vibrating in the moment, that we truly learn, whether it be encouraged by external teachers or through direct experience.

Music is the grand extension of the inner vibrations of the soul.

As our soul vibrates, our mind and bodies respond with their own movements…

(not unlike the amorphous and flagellate movements of amoeba and euglena in the waters of their world.)


The imagination, activated and alive seeks to express itself. We could be talking through any number of disciplines ranging from artistic endeavors to sports, to loving, to developing, to planning, programming, philosophying, computing, etc. to survival (whatever it takes) but in the interest of the subject of this moment, we will pursue the avenue of musical expression.

Our over-developed society has made the mistake of limiting by catagorizing music into periods and styles, completely undermining the true nature of the soul. In defining music in this way, one can have in our technologically advanced audio world just about any kind of musical style known to the history of man merely by playing sound reproductions on any number of technological media devices. Sound waves containing this "information" is prevalent and accessible. Man can "sponge" the spiritual qualities completely out of this "music" and no doubt, derive great benefits both therapeutic and pleasurable. Or he can participate in the trends and powers inherent in the commercial uses of music deriving from the souls, spirits, egos, and minds of practitioners. But in this development of the accessibility of all musics through this media, the normal person has lost the ability to bring the music directly from his own inner vibration as an extension of himself. Too many musicians with "learned" instrumental and marketing skills are creating from the formulas of power and profit.

But what of tapping that inner vibration to let the soul sing or grieve in its own language? This is the basis of this article. Why, but of course! And using anything at hand!


Musical instruments were invented as an extension of the body to resonate sound. And now electronic instruments are an extension also of the mind in technological expression. However, with all the inventions, came conventions as to playing technique. But it seems to me that one of the most difficult things for modern musicians with their rich training, background, and development is to let go of convention and come back to invention. It too often assumed that any historical instrument is married to its conventional technique. (Case in point- violin). The playing "how to's", step by step lessons, tradition, critical review, teachings, and practices define so much of what is the modern perception of music today. As well as the popular-idiomatic realm as heard on MTV and commercial radio, the general masses as well as many "trained musicians" have equally lost the connection. This places improvisation as a musical practice, and as an attitude, in the forefront as a potential "savior" for our society.

The improvisation movement in the U.S. and Europe has been growing in practice and acceptance since the 1960's , building steam in the 70's, attracting more attention in the 80's and becoming a "buzzword" in the 90's. This is a welcomed departure from the control and regulation that has been seen in musical development throughout the history books.

Instead of outward political rebellion against academic or market control, improvisors tend to be an a-politically motivated group, and generally are spiritually or recreationally oriented. They turn inward, connecting in their personal experiments. Taking instruction from no one, they invent their own techniques, play what they want-feel-need to play, break many of the conventional rules of technique and protocol, and just "re-create". It's very close to "recreation". No wonder it's called PLAY!

This is a basic human need. Just as animals call and play, so do humans need this release from the structured world. An activity of finding an inner joy, release, freedom, pleasure, the place of no restraints, no rules, no conventions; but touching, sensing, feeling, allowing, and noticing… And from this point of awareness comes recreation and inspiration. Recreation is the freedom to form a new image, a new vibration rising from the soul to make outer evidence from inner ambience. The message here is the taking over of the ownership of one's soul and its expression through the invention of one's own music. To do this, one must shed the skins of past accomplishments and live in the moment. Let all notes fall where they may!

All sounds: pure and clean, fuzzed, split and dirty, thick, thin, high, low, loud, soft, free, fat, limited, or loaded belong to the larynx of the soul and the mind's rational counterpart, the imagination.

Unleashed, every human being is equal. Every soul possesses a depth of feelings, love, resistance, openness, and intuition. Given freedom, the license to be right by being wrong, awareness and attention to changing conditions creates the deposition of discovery and therefore at the same time, learning.


raw experience is the teacher


Improvisation is a way to approach learning from an interior view. Not waiting in the "don't know state" for external information, but exploring impulses opens new doors and pathways with many more windows to open. Discovery is exciting, and it's O.K. to be a beginner. The fact is, the less you know, the more you improvise. But, you can know your instrumental technique very well, and with open attitude transcend that and still be a great improvisor. One can cultivate the quality.

It is the technique of observing and listening, and simultaneously letting go of previous "education", pre-conceptions or criticism, and let the mind re-create the wheel. Why not?


In this way you can TEACH YOURSELF. The truth is in trust. Trust that you are alive and have an organismic natural response to stimulus, conditions, and circumstance. You, as a human entity, will respond naturally, and whatever comes will be the truth. Listen and observe without judgement and continue….

You will discover your own music is there already. It only needs a vehicle for its transport. Pick up a violin and resonate its strings. Discover how it works, and simultaneously it sings…Let the first sound carry you to the next and follow still its contour. Your ear will lead your fingers, deriving your next moment only from the last, and alter again the avenues of your perception. In the moment of creation you will be learning, and

The important thing to remember is that the music is within us. Direct experience and our own intuition is the greatest teacher.