"By itself, free playing does not directly require practice and study, which when self-constructed provides the seedbed for exploration and change. Practice is associated with what most of us remember from study: repetition aimed at perfection, essential for a music where one will be punished for mistakes. For many, free playing is a release from that disciplinary system. The career orientation encourages practice to keep one's chops and bag of tricks competitive. As free improv has increasingly attracted only non-career players, private work on the instrument is not on the agenda. Lacking the incentive of potential recognition, why should they spend hours on it, when whatever they do will be accepted? Moreover, the increased time required for income work affects everyone. Few have the option to spend time studying and practicing that earlier generations had. To create in the moment easily becomes what people do when they have inly the moment of performing available."p199 Jack Wright, The Free Musics.
That's me. Jack's book has had the effect of opening up real thoughts as to why I do what I do musically. Why I have driven down this lonely isolated road, even receded into the background and shunned performance...more out of fear and anxiety than anything else. And markets don't respect either of those two. SoundCloud, or the net, offers a last bastion of space to hurl my shit into the world, without attaching my physical living self to it, almost anonymously.
Wright, like Bailey, has made me think about my solo playing. The technique, the tightness, the development of a style that is maintained because that is what I can do. The anxiety of not wanting to make a "mistake" so you do what you know best, where your fingers are used to travelling. Almost the opposite of the attitude one needs to free play. Another one of those annoying contradictions. The extreme of "anything goes" is kind of forgotten in favour of the familiar. But there is a freeness in that as well. Something I think I got from Bailey: to not worry about sounding the same from one play to the next...a blessed relief! To be rid of the tyranny of novelty, which seems to me to be part and parcel of conventional notions of good art and market exchange. If you don't sound new, you must be shit and not worth a cent. When one plays the familiar however, technique and craft come into focus and judgement, sometimes harsh, flows into the room. This constant dialectic of conventional orientations, notions, desires and being free of them is always at play. Is it as de Kooning said, "To desire to make a style is an apology for one’s anxiety."
Playing with others doesn't necessarily change the way one plays or will play, but it does offer a different comfort that softens the harsh self-critic and makes for more surprises when listening back not to mention feeling less alone.
But underlying all this is the feeling that often comes, that I am only doing this because I can't really play the conventional well enough, from the folk song to the most complicated and perform it. I can't find a place to inhabit and societal economic arrangements remove more and more time to search for it and one is only getting older and more tired and eventually even this becomes a lousy excuse sometimes. "No James, you are lazy." Markets have an uncanny knack of causing self-hatred, a kind of useful attribute that places blame for lack of success, comfortable survival and poverty, squarely at the individual rather than institutional structure. And this is the spot where anarchists and Marxists are right and come together. They diverge in the search for solutions.
And perhaps in some way this is where free playing intersects with revolutionary politics. Or maybe this is just me grasping at something to make me fell better or important or something. It seems that if you don't do that it's always just work and more work and doing stuff 'round the house. Anxiety again!
"How can anyone live in the real world without wanting respect, and who reaches the point of having enough? It is virtually impossible to be a human , functioning even grudgingly, and not be at least tempted towards respect and achievement. A vision that goes deep enough to divorce one from the all-too-human is something no one can do consistently."p200
"A monkey wrench has to be thrown in to make free playing worth doing over a continuous period. That begins with "This is boring." The slightest intimation that something vital is missing prompts the search for ever more partners, tools, materials. It's still free playing, but has escaped the stagnation that infects the music of our culture." P200
Vitality and novelty are not the same thing!