February 04, 2013


Submitted: Monday, February 4, 2013 - 11:54am
Iconic Maestro John McLaughlin on improvisational genius.
How does a creative genius specifically go about improvising creatively within a recognizable identity? John McLaughlin speaks the recurring truth as told by all creative improvisation masters. Ney Mello writes on specific questions on how it is done.
“Ney Mello has got all the elements that I like to hear in is playing”
-Al Di Meola
This article presents some details and some clarification on the key points about real improvisation made during the interview in the video clip.
When one speaks of mastering the instrument as much as possible, it means to practice the phrases and harmonic movement that characterize our voice in music. Every musical artist who improvises or composes has musical phrases and harmonic preferences and rhythmic preferences within any given style (s).
These constitute his/her "voice" and his/her identity. It is how one can tell him from another improviser. Very much like one can tell Olivier Messiaen from Bach or Mozart or Beethoven, or Debussy and Chopin who are all examples of master improvisers. And off course Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Fred McDowel, John Lee Hooker, Django Reinhardt, Duke Ellington, and Archie Shepp or Jackie McLean in rock, blues and jazz.
Where do these phrases come from? Where do the rhythms and harmonic choices come from?
They come from an inner place unknown to most westerners and in today's context not very well know to most contemporary easterners.
The inner world is the world where genius lives, yet it is precisely the world that is unwittingly suppressed in modern societies as well as it was in ancient ones. Humanity's fixation in 5 sense experience has continuously robbed it and cheated it out of accessing it's natural genius and inspiration at the mass level.
As it stands historically, only the true artists and scientists and the most profound philosophers have been able to access genius ( the source of real inspired improvisation ) because they had and have the character and courage to live in their truth as they experienced it from childhood, before the socialization and very limited educative process available to most children disconnects them from it.
The main point is that there is no external intellectually polarized procedure or method that can produce inspired improvisation of a timeless nature. External procedures can, and do, produce mediocre results that have no trace of musical power. These results lack life and do not captivate our imagination and our feelings or even our physical bodies.
What one must do is what has been done by our predecessors: To go inside ourselves and listen very attentively to what spontaneously arises within.That is genius in action. It is self-generating and self-composing, musically speaking.
As one listens and attempts to perform this music, one will find that part of it is too unfamiliar technically to be playable. This part becomes, at that moment, one's practice material and what one works at to "master one's instrument as much as possible"
Hence the significant courage and trust one must have. The mediocre and inhibited musical mind cannot trust this. It requires being told what to do by either copying the harmonic choices, rhythms and phrases of a real artist or by blindly following musical composition rules and regulations.
These regulations are detailed descriptions of specific pre-existing compositions, styles, and musical scenarios. They are useful, and at times, even necessary as study mechanisms and as generators of musical copies of already existing works by real artists who created them with their genius and not by following theoretical stipulations or by copying the work of others and merely re-organizing it shallowly.
Suggested reading and partial Bibliography:
Werner, Kenny "Effortless Mastery" - Jamey Aebersold
Stephen Nachmanovich "Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art" - Tarcher.
Hazrat Inayat Khan " The Mysticism of Sound: Music, The Power of the Word, and Cosmic Language" (The Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan, Vol. 2) - Servire
Music Genres: