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The Opposing Concepts of Spontaneity and Expediency in Improvisation

ISSUE:  Spring 1985

Who has not thought of Johann Sebastian Bach—and please pronounce
That good man’s good name in German, whether you can or not—seated
At the keyboard of who cares what delubrum in the splendor of his isolation
Within the church of sound? The structure mounts, towers upon towers,
Ascensions upon ascensions, and underwards the bass in heavy vibrations
Continually shatters itself, the impendent chaos, and just in time
Assembles again. Just in time. Ah, justice, I used to think you were
Necessarily in conflict with love, but in this ultimate existence you
Join in the one expressiveness, and it is love. Such a medley, such
Complex attunement! Yet the imagination falters, the man is not wholly
Intrepid, the sound reaches toward the terror of impasse. The hands
Tremble in their blindness, searching. Will a precept leap forward?
That is the danger, for expediency in all our humanness is what we have,
Our methodical continuance, and we do not decry it with a bad mouth,
We find it good. We would survive in formulaic love. But these
Moments are vacant, they are holes in the sound, they do not hum
Under the dome with vibrancy. The hands then, just in time, discover
And lead forth a modulation, in astonishment and awe.
My own great
Improvisation faltered too often, and too often sought in fear a busy
Noise. It falls in chaos. What could I do without the love of God?


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