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Chapter 10
And he compared this to the work of visual artists Martin Kippenberger and Albert
It’s about being flaccidly awful, overdone, retarded, and “He has skill and
he doesn’t apply it, or he does?” [...] You’re like “Why’s it wrong?”. And
then you realise maybe it’s not wrong, or it’s wrong because of this. And
then you realise that your value system is correct, or skewed, or not... it’s a
good way to judge things.
However, whilst many musicians pointed to the fact that sounds or techniques that came
out ‘wrong’ could have a positive influence on a group situation (and propel the music
in new, unforeseen directions), there were also ‘mistakes’ which were not considered so
Olaf Rupp described how destroying certain ‘directions’16 or tensions could lead to
‘musical’ failure, adding that:
We all know... it’s a great situation when you have established tension...
it’s gorgeous [and] somehow this is the essence of the magic of improv, when
you reach this... [but] sometimes I realise in other situations you do the
same stuff and it doesn’t work.
And, similarly, in the case of Rule- and Concept-based improvising, departing from
the concept (not following the 15 minute crescendo, playing a pitch outside a cell of
pre-determined melodic materials, or not waiting 60 seconds before playing the idea
you first thought of) could also be classed as a non-desirable ‘mistake’, Valerio Tricoli
describing how:
You have four horns... [and] their improvisation is making beatings over
a sharp note. And then [if], by playing clarinet, at one point it [squeaks],
because he can’t hold the circular breathing - that obviously sounds like a
mistake. [...] It’s not that then he does this and... then somebody else is
going to react to that.
5. Conceptions of Sound
A further set of distinctions and specialist listening strategies emerging from fieldwork
related to the question of sound and meaning, with musicians and ‘expert’ listeners
suggesting four main modes of listening, which applied directly to the intentions of
different individual musicians and group contexts.
The first category, ‘literal’ listening, was the intention of relatively few musicians. JD
The term ‘directions’ is used in the sense of Voutchkova (see p. 185). Rupp also described that
mistakes could lie in decisions made before performance, such as going to the sauna (meaning his nails
would be too soft to play).
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