I was asked to write an article about improvisation. This is it. A little explanation before you start reading. If you click on the links in this article you will come to my web-blog, which has some music. Click on the photo to hear the music. One warning: if you don't listen to the music you will never understand why I like to improvise. Have fun!
First song – question
Sometime at the beginning of the 1980's (I keep a bad record of my work) I did a performance in which my idea was to try not to 'show' anything to the public. I was only busy with telling them how 'gezellig' (a typical Dutch word meaning something like 'cozy') it was to be here and what a wonderful time we had together. Of course, after a while some people got fed up with my words and started to leave and then I would beg them to stay, I even would pull their arms and say: "Please don't leave me! I need you. Let me do something for you. Tell me what you want." I would jump over a chair or roll on the floor, sing "So happy together", etc, anything to make them stay. Some people indeed stayed. After one hour of many painful moments I hung a sheet on the back wall, distributed raw eggs to the audience, stripped to my underwear, stood in front of the sheet and invited them to throw the eggs at me.
Second song – blues
Oh God, let me be in the moment. Let me be in the present. Let me be in the now. Let me be here, right now. Oh, please God, make me real, make me really real here right now and let me be in the present moment. Oh God, make me real really real.
Third song – reflecting
Let me tell you a little story, a story about my father. He is still alive, he is 87 now and he is doing very well; better than ever I would say. He more or less divorced my mother about 3 years ago, after almost 60 years of marriage. They still live in the same building, an old people's home, but they each have their own apartment. He doesn't want to talk to her anymore. He is relieved; he even has a pal now. God, this guy needed a pal so much. A person to hang out with, nothing big, but big enough to share his thoughts with. Not a person who tells you what's supposed to be good for you and who is on your back the whole day. No, just somebody who accepts you the way you are. Well, he is a character, but aren't we all? I'll give you an example. One day I took my sister's moped. I was still too young to drive. The police caught me and took me home. My father talked to the police, and then he started to abuse me like he'd never done before. The police left when they saw him shouting at me. After they had left he told me in a quiet voice: "Don't do this again." – And that was it. No more words were spoken about this incident. He hated authority, he hated people in uniforms. We, my brothers and I, were not allowed to join the boy scouts. I would have loved to join the boy scouts, but now I understand. He saw some pretty nasty things during the war, and people in uniform did them. He was twenty-one when the war broke out. Just after the depression, which he had survived, things were going a bit better, and again he had to survive. He met this dream girl, my mother, a good-looking girl. He was a popular guy, always in for a good laugh, positive and caring for people (he was the oldest son of a family of 14 people). They loved to dance, my mother and him, dancing to forget. That's what you do I guess when times are rough. Surviving, dreaming and forgetting. Well, they forgot about everything, so they had to marry. Which is not a nice thing – especially when your family is catholic and we're talking about 1944. The worst period of the war in Holland; thousands of people died of hunger. It was a scandal. No wedding rings (no money), no wedding cake (no food), no white (no virgin). Did he love her? Or did he love his dream? I think he loved his dream, but can I blame him for loving his dream? When he woke up he had four children, running a little grocery store which he had taken over from his father, and a wife whose dream had been to be a dancer in the theatre and who now was married to a little shopowner who worked from 5.30 in the morning till 6 in the evening and who fell asleep after dinner. Still the survival instinct was there. They both were so experienced in this. They both went on surviving. And now, finally, he is enjoying himself, feeling relaxed, doing nothing special.
Fourth song - a break
December 28, 2069. Onnozele kinderen dag (innocent children's day)
My daughter, who is 64, plays a concert in memory of her grandfather. He was born 150 years ago. The concert takes place on a boat floating above where once was the city of Amsterdam. Because it is so hot everybody wears summer clothes. Just before he died, her grandfather had told her how he and his mother once listened to the Bolero in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. It was on October 29, 1929, Black Tuesday. It was the start of the depression; stock markets collapsing, millions of people without a job. Her great-grandparents had no money to go to a concert like that. And then a rich uncle visited their house and gave 2 tickets to the family. He was not in the mood for music on such a day. So her great-grandmother went together with her oldest son, while her husband stayed home with the rest of the children. Her grandfather was all excited about what would become the most memorable evening of his life. He was overwhelmed with the whole situation, the building, the interior, the people, the applause when the conductor came in, the silence, the first notes of the music. But what he remembered most were the tears in the eyes of his mother, something he had never seen before. Yes, his little sisters and brothers had cried tears and him too – but his mother, never! First he did not understand but then his body started to shiver and he also felt tears coming into his eyes, his mind stopped thinking, he closed his eyes, it was as if he was disappearing, disappearing into in the music. He had a so-called out-of-body experience.
My daughter concentrates, she forgets what is happening around her, she tries to catch the spirit of her grandfather and she knows that the spirit must be there. She is fine-tuning now, she gets closer and closer, she hears the music, she sees the conductor, she sees the public in the big hall, she sees her great-grandmother with the tears in her eyes, and then next to her a little boy. The boy looks like in trance. Then she gets a shock. The boat starts vibrating; the people on the boat suddenly are full of attention. They look at her, she starts to move, her movements create the music, and the music makes her move. It's hot (the music I mean).
Fifth song – her first composition (2007)
- If you need to prepare, do it on stage
- Without an audience, improvisation does not exist
- Not reacting is usually the best reaction
- Do 'unreal' time composition
- Never try, always do
- Be silent
- Get naked
- Love your audience
- Be embarrassing
- Fuck methods
Last song – advice of your alter ego
Two bonus tracks
Prayer (music version)
God and the Angels (answer)
For more information go to http://www.unitedsorry.com/