Initially I viewed having these two years of my study as a chance to be able to recognise my capabilities, strengths and weaknesses and then delve into the unknown. Improvisation has been something I have longed to have the confidence and skill to be able to do. I have never had any previous training in improvisation and no chance to experiment with it. However by having the desire to gain fundamental skills in improvisation comes a deep fear of the unknown; that there is a chance of failure – that I would never reach the means to be able to improvise in a way that would bring me satisfaction. While accepting that there is always this possibility, my will and determination to experience improvisation and to find my own way to express myself through it, greatly outweighed my fear.
I have always been greatly impressed by those who are ‘brave’ enough to improvise, especially in public -to be able to experience performing with no pre-conceived idea as to what will happen and to have every aspect of musical freedom at one’s disposal. So long as one can improvise fluently, anything is possible with regard to playing and performing music - to have a unique voice which has not been corrupted by others opinions and musical wishes. This was my original and rather romantic idea of what improvisation was. I have since learned that there is far less freedom and more rules than I could have ever imagined.
Whilst having this uneducated and therefore idealistic notion of improvisation, there has been a deep embedded fear – to play music that has not been previously notated and therefore able to be decoded. A fear of playing a ‘wrong note’ – out of key and being unable to get back on the ‘right path.’
I have always loved musical genres where improvisation occurs frequently, such as in folk music and jazz. Despite being raised in a predominantly classical music environment, I have always had an affinity with music played by the greats, such as Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. As my musical tastes began to broaden, the artistry of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli came into the picture.
Perhaps it is therefore of no surprise that Django Reinhardt’s Nuages was the first tune I thought of when considering improvisation as my research topic. Over the last few years I have been fortunate enough to live in a house full of students studying Jazz. They constantly played records, and introduced me to so many artists and jazz vocabulary. During an evening of listening, we stumbled across jazz violinist Didier Lockwood performing Nuages. I fell in love with his performance and started fiddling around with it in the privacy of my home. It is from Didier’s performance that my research began to take shape.