Improvisation: Reaching Out

Here’s an improvisation I recorded last week.  I call it Reaching Out.  I hope you enjoy listening.

Technically, I’m playing in D Dorian over a quartal accompaniment.  I’m playing the solo line on a steel string — my Borgeois Piccolo Parlor strung with La Bella Silk & Steel.  The accompaniment is a separate track that I played on my Stephan Connor classical.

Music never ceases to surprise me.  I tend to think of music as a language, and I bring some of the same expectations to my communication through music that I bring to my use of English.  When I speak in English I’m usually able to find words to express, or at least to approximate what I’m thinking or feeling.  When words don’t come to me on the spot it’s usually a matter of sitting down with a blank page and experimenting.  And when I get writer’s block, the problem is rarely in my facility with English — it’s somewhere else inside me.  Learning something new about English may help me communicate with more precision, but it rarely opens up a whole world of possibilities that had been unavailable before.  But musical communication is different for me; on the one hand, it feels much deeper than English or any verbal communication, but it is also laden with obstacles (and corresponding leaps) that I don’t experience when communicating in my verbal mother tongue.  And sometimes I do find entire worlds opening up as I gain bits and pieces of technical knowledge in music.  I might go on for years wanting to express a certain thing musically, and feeling ready to do so, as if there were a river of music in me waiting to flow out; it cannot flow because I don’t yet have the technical foundation to realize it.  And then, at some point I’ll learn something new — maybe a new chord progression, or a new approach to melodic embellishment — and with this little bit of technical knowledge I can now begin to release what had been pent up all that time.  Something like this happened with the recording I’m posting here.  The solo line that I’m playing, and whatever feeling it carries, was unlocked for me by the accompanying chord progression that I’m using here: a simple sequence of quartal chords.  I had gone on for years feeling ready to “make sounds” like what you hear here, but without having come upon this quartal progression, it wasn’t possible.  And then, with guidance from a wonderful teacher, I began exploring this region of the harmonic universe, and finally the technical elements were in place so that this particular music could flow.

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