Improvisation


This is where I write about the interesting things I want to write about. Except I have nothing interesting to say. Nothing interesting happened today. Just a while back I had many original thoughts, magnificent ideas, clever words and much more. I didn’t write them down then. I wouldn’t say they are gone for good. Perhaps with some digging I can gather a few remnants here and there. I may even be able to assemble them in ways that resemble ideas, but they have lost their luminosity and vigor. They lack the urgency and the novelty that gave them birth. They have grown dim and dull.

I am stuck in the past. Not a particular past, a whole bunch of pasts, some as recent as hours ago, others from decades past. This continual browsing of the past may or may not have hindered my progress into future and my experience of now.

How do we see the world? I used to think I see the world, as it exists; that we see the world as it is. But I’ve learned otherwise. I see the world through the eyes my past, my experiences. I see it through the things that I learned along the way, through the eyes of my ancestors. I judge the world as such and assign meaning and value to its people, places and events through the unreliable lens of my memories and my past. This seems flawed, yet undeniably powerful.

Yesterday I sat by my aging electrical piano. Dust and dirt had settled upon its keys, which I attempted to wipe with the hem of my T-shirt. My fingers felt cold and stiff as I began pressing on the keys and here and there a squeak or odd sound appeared confirming there isn’t much life left in the instrument. I was annoyed by the off sounds but kept going. I play the piano by ear and from memory. I do know how to read notes but I am not efficient and relying on my memory seems to be an easier way. However, my recollection favorite tunes and melodies are much like the rest of my memories, unreliable and with gaps and missing parts. I’ve learned to fill those gaps with other tunes.

As I played, the songs of my past took on a different rhythm. I played a favorite melancholy tune in E minor then out of nowhere it changed into E major and took on a cheerful upbeat rhythm. It went on to turn into another tune, then another, without a pause or a transition. I was linking melodies from east and west, major and minor keys in a way I had never done before. It was my creation. I inserted novel ideas of my own, chords, keys and undulations. I was partially lost in the notes. It was happening without much conscious effort. I felt as much a participant as an audience. I was lost in the music. Simultaneously a stream of thoughts was running in the background. It was an experience that I felt in the moment, yet its very existence or effect on me was determined by my past.

I think we are presented with the opportunity for growth, when our past fails to fully explain things. Improvisation leads to discovery, invention and birth of new ideas.

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