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foreign correspondence: Improvisational Tourism


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I was walking around Rome today, and I realized a few things. First, I didn't know what street I was on or what intersection was coming up. Second, I didn't care, because I knew in genreral where my main landmark (the train station) was, and because I had a map with me that I could use to reorient myself. Third, the exploration itself was as important as anything I actually found; I might get lost, but I might find something amazing and unexpected (i.e., not on the map).

It then occurred to me that this is what playing improvisational music is like. You don't know where you are (as opposed to a structured song, where you have to know what part of the verse/chorus/bridge/etc. you're at), but there's a general musical landmark (e.g., rhythmic/tonal framework) around which and which you work towards and away from, and you have enough of a map (i.e., musical knowledge) to figure out what's going on and how to get where you want to go. You also explore the music for the exploration itself, not just because it's something people will recognize; you might produce a dud/mess, but you might also make *magic*.

And in both situations, you're having a ball. Further, this works at different levels: the micro (one city, one song) *and* the macro (which city you go to next, which song/musical direction you explore next).



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