Have you ever been amazed by the thought of improvisational music? Have you ever considered it almost magical how a group of musicians could get together and just freely play, jam, listen, react, respond and create music?
In other words, have you ever wondered how some musicians can just make it up on the fly?
They reality is, they don’t. This is largely a musical myth.
In nearly all improvisational music, especially jazz, there is an incredible amount of practiced, structured and rehearsed rhythmic and harmonic form behind the sonic freedom. Even during musical performances which are truly unplanned, each individual musician posses strong fundamental musical knowledge and skill.
So why has this musical myth spread?
Many years ago, I had a summer musical gig at an amusement park. My roommate for the summer was the park magician. When I first walked into the room, he said it was nice to meet me, and he only had one rule for our room. I was not to attempt to open and look into the footlocker under his bed which was where he kept his magic tricks. He didn’t want me to know how he did what he did.
I also remember he used to practice new tricks on me whenever I was obviously exhausted and tired!
Think about the parallels between magic and music. Magic, done really well, fools us into thinking a sleight of hand or an illusion is real. When we can't comprehend or figure out how a magic trick is naturally done, we ascribe supernatural qualities to the magic. Since we know there is a magician behind every magic trick, the supernatural elevation goes to the magician.
Great musicians are a lot like great magicians. Great musicians have put in years of practice and rehearsal toward developing the knowledge and skill necessary to create the illusion that when musicians get together, they're just freely jamming, listening, responding, reacting, creating and making it all up on the fly. But, the overwhelming majority of the time, it's really just a sleight of really skilled hands!
When we can't comprehend or figure out how music is naturally created this way, we ascribe supernatural qualities to the music. Since we know there is a musician behind every piece of music, we ascribe supernatural qualities to the musician.
The danger is this is when the musician often becomes a god we worship.