It’s a delight when things you’re involved in converge and feed one another.
I’ve been working on another chapter of The Overweight Brain and got momentarily stuck (like two days’ worth of stuck) in the middle of writing a section on “the unknown” and “the unknowable.” I’ve also been preparing for a visit with improvisational violinist, teacher and author Stephen Nachmanovitch on August 11-12. I’ll be interviewing him for my “Making a Conceptual Revolution” series on Friday evening, and on Saturday he and singer, improviser, coach and author Cathy Salit will be leading a day-long workshop, “What Can Happen in a Minute?” If you’re in New York City that weekend, you won’t want to miss creating improvisationally with these two master listeners, as they play with you to discover “the beauty of life as improvisational process.”
I enjoyed re-reading (after many years) Stephen’s book Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art. And I loved, loved, loved “Improvisation as a Tool for Investigating Reality,” a keynote address he gave at the 2006 International Society for Improvised Music University conference.
Here’s what converged for me—an excerpt in which Stephen responds to an audience member’s question:
Pieces of art can be built; incredible things can be built from conflict. They can be built on uncertainty; they can be built on fear. That’s the great thing about this kind of work, it doesn’t have to be nice; it doesn’t have to be known. But if you are using your capacity to listen and if you are using the innate structuring ability that’s built into you as a 4. 5 billion year old living organism, then you can use fear, conflict, difficulty, unknow- ability as the basis for doing incredible things, and as you said, at least within a limited sphere changing people’s lives.