Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Improvisation and the Element of Time

When a painter puts paint to canvass, he is using the constraints of his medium. When a musician creates music spontaneously, he is using his instrument and the element of time to work with. These are his constraints. He can try to abandon the element of time altogether, but then we may not have what most of us have come to call music.

Now, how you use the element of time is important for it determines mood. For example, a lot of New Age music uses time elastically. That is, it's not that important to keep a strict tempo. This is what I like about this style. It's not too concerned with keeping it all together. On the contrary, playing rubato, or robbed time as it is called, is one of the endearing characteristics of this style.

In fact, we can use the element of time to our advantage. For instance, if we finger an Open Position chord, we have all that is needed to improvise with. Now, if we use the element of time, specifically, 4/4 time, we have something underneath - a pulse that gives life to the music.

It's like interplay between the steady underlying beat and what we do with the notes that fall within the meter. Time is our partner in improvisation. Meter is our friend. It helps give shape to melody and form to the music as a whole

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