• Claudia Alexander

Improvisation and the Cultivation of Faith.


Improvisation is defined as “the ability to create and perform spontaneously without preparation; to produce from whatever is available”. It is a celebrated skill within art and entertainment, specifically within music—as demonstrated in Hip-Hop, and most notably Jazz.

The ability to improvise is a key signifier of merit of a jazz artist, and is an attribute that is synonymous with the art form. The creation of new melodic and harmonic language within the closed vocabulary of a song is the ultimate demonstration of artistic and intellectual depth that speaks to the creative insight and ingenuity of both musicians and vocalists, in being able to reinvent and personalize a song through the individual creative lens.

Jazz improvisation can appear to be mystical at first introduction, in the abstraction of an established song form; however the ability to improvise is preceded by an innate comprehension of music theory and the academics of jazz language and syncopation. The understanding of tonal relationships within chord progressions yields a discernment of consonance, enabling an artist to lead the evolution of a song through the art of language and storytelling.

The principles of improvisation extend beyond the arts and are universally inherent throughout life--particularly within spirituality and faith. Throughout life, there are opportunities that are provided in the form of disruption that will necessitate improvisation. These seasons in which there is an absence of clear direction amidst the silence of unanswered prayers are ultimately meant to cultivate growth by eliminating reliance upon human understanding and fostering humility and a trust in the hand of God. In these seasons, whether momentary or extending over the course of months or years, the melody of familiar life experience will drop out and the hallmarks of improvisation: discernment, patience, insight, creativity and affirmative language will become crucial in successfully progressing forward. These qualities are cultivated through the observance of the well-known proverb: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding.” The act of trust and reliance on a higher wisdom outside of your own understanding, coupled with positive action rooted in faith and humility, ultimately lead towards the resolution of unanswered questions.

Jazz trumpeter, Miles Davis, was celebrated for his mastery of improvisation and creative intelligence in his use of silence during solos. He intuitively listened and played with confidence and integrity, waiting on a word from within his spirit to speak--his style denoted an aversion to anxiety and self-involvement, centered in the sanctity of the moment. A life of faith principally follows this dynamic, requiring a trust in God and an active life of creativity, ingenuity and perseverance, during the silent seasons of life.

#creativity #improvisation #Jazz #faith #spirituality #MilesDavis

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