Stage Five: Interpretation & Conclusion

To recap the key findings of this research project: although there were pre-conceived ideas, they were mostly unintentional and concerned with preparation for the unknown, and, even though boundaries existed (as with any live performance), they helped shape the arc of each set. A performance mode that challenged the roles of each member and the acoustic possibilities of our instruments, combined with a risk-taking mentality built on trust (Empathic Creativity), were essential to each set of music, and we developed a language of improvisation analogous to moving blocks of sound (complexes) around in real-time, resulting in group form creation. Consequently, transition between these blocks quickened as became more fluent in that language. Lastly, the more attuned the musicians and the audience were to the music being made, the more heightened our collective experience became.

Even though (no)boundaries attempted to limit all pre-conceived ideas, there existed a common mode of improvisation that questioned the misrepresentation that free improvisation is devoid of clichés, boundaries and order:


(…) free improvisation is a species of chaos: anything goes and nobody cares. A fallacy not shared by anyone with any experience of this activity, as far as I am aware (Bailey, 1993: 135)


I assert here that an expert skill set is required to play any improvised music and, even in this freely improvised context, an empathic approach to interaction facilitated group attunement and creativity. 

All improvised music has a historical lineage that can inform its participants. Indeed, even the recorded body of free improvisation has a span of, at least, seventy years at this point. Free Improvisation, similar to other forms of improvised music, has an aural history that has been absorbed and passed down by many musicians, so therefore a common language of free improvisation must exist. Freedom to utilise that language, or not, lies with the individual:


(…) the idea that free improv has a certain language, or way you’re supposed to play really annoys me (pr6, PCT)


However, free improvisers can still be reliant on embodied solutions in live performance:


(…) there’s Hollywood cards that we all know, even in this kind of music, and they’re all in our back pocket. And in a pinch, you can pull them out. Totally. Even the great Cecil Taylor did that kind of stuff (pr6, PCT)


The existence of a vocabulary of pre-existing solutions within free jazz performance creates a direct parallel with other traditional forms of jazz improvisation where pre-learnt melodic solutions are core to many improvised situations. A musical device used in a free context might be less specific than in a bebop-based situation (where there exists a closer relationship between the melodic line and the underlying harmonic form), but its function is similar and equally driven by musical detail:


(…) under the microscope, it’s just hard-wired into [one’s] playing that there’s actually a lot of [harmonically] sophisticated stuff that is happening … that’s what I’m focusing on (pr6, PCT)


Although aware of the unique sensibility needed for free improvisation, an empathic approach to interaction was useful in creating group attunement in this project. Further to this (and resultant of the lack of pre-determined boundaries), we were increasingly pro-active in our attempts to adapt the behaviour of another player to go beyond their perceived boundaries and push the music into new territories. Empathic speculation was evidenced between members in (no)boundaries, repeatedly empowering the music into the unknown each performance.