Improvising Bow Wave

Day 217 Week 32 Q3 Sunday, August 6, 2023

Although improvising can be seen as real-time composing and, as such, seemingly a shortcut to composition, it also sets up a wave when moving forward. This wave, called the bow wave, as the front of a ship is called the bow, results from the displacement of the medium being moved through.

A composer can be thought of as some sort of ship, airplane or even swimmer moving through liquid-like music creation. This act of creation may also create a bow wave that propagates outward while simultaneously reducing the vessel’s or creator’s speed. 

Here lies an opportunity and a problem. When you are improvising feels at times like you are propagating an outward wave. Still, from a compositional perspective, it can also slow you down as the act of displacement dissipates energy. 

This may be experienced as a creative rush but may not amount to much compositionally. This is especially true when it is not captured in any form or to any degree that can then be worked upon and improved. In general, a piece needs to be improved to the point where it can be considered music by you and by others.  Hopefully, composers have an audience; as a composer, you want others to hear your works.

The act of composing differs from the act of improvising in many ways. One difference between composers and improvisers is the delayed gratification required in developing shareable results. Is this an issue conflating the shareable with the repeatable? What happens to the stream of conscious creative expression of the improviser when transforming it into something repeatable? 

Part of the excitement of the improvisational process is in the joy of stream of consciousness showing up in real-time present-moment expression. There is a searching and a finding which differs from more conventional predefined replayed musical renditions. 

Removing search from the equation makes it much less interesting for the improviser but perhaps more interesting for audiences who tend to like sing-alongs, even if they are only internal more than explorations. 

There is a bow wave when you are improvising created by the speed of ideation that is simply not there for me when I already know what the result is going to be. Perhaps this is why grass-fed live music is far more exciting to me than homogenized processed recorded music.  I enjoy the fantasy uniqueness of the one-of-a-kind non-repeatable, especially when it is the dialog between more than one expresser.