Rod Paton:- "IMPROVISING - Unforeseen Magic"


Improvisation is the essential act of music. It is the primary creative function: nothing comes into being without it.

Improvisation means, literally, unforeseen?  so that each living moment requires an improvisatory decision to facilitate movement to the next living moment. Working directly with unforeseen events is a form of magic.

Improvised music is directly in touch with living process hence Lifemusic




In our culture we are obsessed with planning; we tend to believe that planning equals ëstructure so that an unplanned event is easily misunderstood as an unstructured event. This misunderstanding can lead to rigidity of thinking and impoverishment of the imagination: absence of magic.

Becoming over reliant on planning for the future we easily miss the significant beauty of the present. This results in a dislocated sense of meaning and a disembodied sense of self.

Improvisation is unplanned beauty, instant structure created from the sounding resources of our own inner selves.

Improvisation celebrates the here and now!

The Classical Tradition

The musical canon which runs from antiquity via Palestrina and Bach and through to Schoenberg via Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven is truly a wonderful tradition full of beautiful music. But who needs it any more? And when did people begin sitting down to listen to music instead of dancing and singing along? Compared to the joys of group improvisation, this great European tradition often seems like so much hierarchical social nonsense studded with genius!

Notating and Recording Music


Through our need to fix, package and sell musical culture, notated and recorded music has been afforded higher status than improvisation. The aurally transmitted culture which was folk music has itself become a fixed commodity. Classical music (in the broad sense) has become a kind of safe haven for those who require music (and life) to be predictable and unchallenging (listen to Classic FM if you disagree.). The world of orchestras, opera houses, chamber quartets and lieder recitals has become a heavily subsidised repository for tradition - a museum culture.


Despite all of this, improvisation is a thriving aspect of 21st Century musical life. We find it in Blues, Jazz, Rock, World Music, music therapy, playgrounds and any venue where live musicians are engaged in re-inventing and re-creating musical experience rather as opposed to reproducing musical objects. Improvisation is not about musical style: it is an attitude! It re-invigorates music with life energy and flow.

It liberates people…

from notation,

from scores,

from staves,

from clefs,

from barlines (like prison bars),

from fixed notions of right or wrong,

from conductors,

from seated patrons,

from equal temperament,

from composers,

from teachers,

from grade exams,

from analysis,

from all the stuff that imprisons music and renders it unconscious.

It is no accident that a good classical performance is often described as a “well executed performance.”