Re: freewriting/jazz improv

Albert Rouzie (rouzie@CCWF.CC.UTEXAS.EDU)
Thu, 25 Jul 1996 12:29:10 -0600

You are right about the tedium element which jazz as metaphor might pave
over. The word "fun" is a problem. It's such a degraded term, usually
meaning escapist pastimes. Not to trounce that idea in the writing
classroom, but it can't stand the weight of writing processes. Yet, as Mer
points out, it doesn't take much expertise to get into the swing (haha) of
playful discourse on-line. Composing in hypertext brings up other issues
and is perhaps more akin to the extent of probing and experimentation,
imitation, and revision required to produce a successful composition. I
don't know that all the elements of the jazz metaphor need to match for it
to lead us to good places. It can have some polemical force, getting us to
see how we might represent writing (in its expanded sense) as a complex
process yeilding frustration and joy.

Maybe Czicsentimihalyi's (sp? don't make me write that again!) idea of the
flow experience is better than "fun." Flow, according to Czich, is
pleasurable, involving, embodied, even maybe fun, but it's pleasures issue
from the challenging aspects of the activity, and the learning is really
not tedious like skill and drill practices because it occurs (ideally) with
the doing or at least in simulation, AKA active learning.

We shouldn't try to fit narratives of writing processes into a
predetermined metaphor or concept, but we can look through them to see what
they bring forward.


>on the subject of jazz improvisation:
>i am no musician, but i am a young fan of jazz trying to learn some of the
>nuances of its improvisational heritage (as well as its slippage into
>composition). MER very adeptly points out, though, based on his own
>experience as a jazz guitarist, that the process of formal jazz learning is
>not just "fun" but has its own elements of tedium.
>i followed MER around after his presentation for a while in logan, and as he
>spoke about the process of learning jazz "standards" it was clear that one
>must reach a certain level of expertise before one was encouraged to
>improvise. transcribing others' improvisations, endless hours getting
>performances "right," *plus* learning immitations, then moving on to
>what i find so interesting in this model is the devotion individual
>musicians have for the repetitious skill-based practice of scale playing and
>transcription of performances. seems to be skills and drills involved in
>jazz too. and i wonder if this model works as well after careful
>consideration for writing -- seems more like a creative writing model, where
>genius is studies, deconstructed, then reconstructed in order to produce
>more genius.
>i'm concerned we take too easily an image of improvisation without
>understanding the layers of process and hard work that are built into what
>an audience only sees as a "great improvisation." there are years of work
>behind that performance; do we mystify the process if we don't share the
>story of the long term struggle?
>perhaps MER and our other jazz-educated colleagues will share more on this
>topic. i thought, at one point, that i understood the jazz/composition
>metaphor fairly well, but i am no longer so sure.
>mike, listening to another version of 'cherokee'
>At 09:43 AM 7/25/96 -0600, Albert Rouzie wrote:
>> Mer's jazz image gives us a
>>play/improvisation metaphor suitable to the list's improvised mesh and it
>>raises other terms, like bricolage, with the similar sense of improvisatory
>>flair for constructing emanings out of whatever materials are at hand or
>>eye. I think we need to explore the idea of pleasure in writing,

Albert Rouzie
University of Texas at Austin
Soon to be at: Ohio University, Dept of English, Athens, OH. 45701
(614) 593-2838

Home: 386 Rolling Hills Drive, Athens, OH 45701
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