Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Kalimba Improvisation
Don't Say Too Much

Some improvisers like Charlie Parker could say a lot very quickly. Of course, he usually had an unhealthy dose of heroin in his blood stream while he was saying so much. He died at the age of 35, but the coroner believed his body to be that of a much older man.

When I go to Quaker Meeting to worship, sometimes people get up and speak - if they feel they have an inspired message that is meant to be shared with the whole Meeting. But everyone who has spoken in Meeting has probably also experienced the feeling of having spoken too for too long, to "surpass one's Light" - sort of like Wiley Coyote running off the cliff without realizing he no longer has firm ground under his feet.

That is the point - don't say too much. But what you say in your improvisations should be true to who you are, should be firmly rooted in the ground. Let your ideas and your notes well up from the empty space, and when you are done with a line, pretend you are a horn player taking in a deep breath. Breathe in the essence of the music, and let out a string of notes that speaks as if it were your ministry in a place of worship.

Another reason not to say too much: if you say everything you can, everything you know how to say - there won't be anything left for next time. If you string it out, then you will leave your audience and music mates wanting to hear more, which is always a good thing.