Eroticism and improvisation

My friend David send me a precious gift; the Tord Gustavsen reflections about The art of improvisation. As probably you know, Gustavsen, besides an incredible pianist , is doctor in Psichology. He wrote “The dialectical eroticism of improvisation” in 2008, and it begin with an anonymous quote from an Australian journalist: “Music is all about sex. It’s about tension and release, eagerness and restraint, gratification and generosity, control and surrender, and other delicately opposed forces in a more or less graceful fumble towards ecstasy.”
Gustavsen believes the parallels “between the realm of music-making and the many realms of intimacy”. He establish five basic dialectical dilemmas to understanding the challenges of musical improvisation built from three parallel situation: the interaction between infant and primary caretakers , the adult engaging in intimate relationships ( both as eroticism and as lasting companionship) and…The improviser.
These five polarities, that “mankind is doomed to live with”, are: Moments versus duration , difference vs sameness, gratification vs frustration, stability vs stimulation, closeness vs distance.
He think the dangers arrives when dialectics are “frozen”, when the flow ( of relation, of music) is “stalled in repetitive conflicts”. To the contrary, dialectic potential lies in integration of this opposites forces. The alternative never is the “middle way” but to explore each side of every paradox.
First of them ( Moment vs Duration) explores the dilemma between the here and now and the unfolding in time. When you was a child must go through a process from an undifferentiated state of being towards a familiarity with the passing of time. This create fear and anxiety. Gustavsen write: “For an intimate relationship to grow and last, you have to find ways to unite childlike involvement in the moment with reliability and a sense of rhythm and an appreciation of commitment. When it works, moments gain reliability from duration, and duration gains intensity from moments. When it doesn’t work – you get bored or empty in duration, and the moments become ‘blind’ in their search for fulfillment without perspective”.
The second one ( Difference vs sameness) describes the contradiction between individuality and familiarity, isolation or belonging, dominance or submission, disconnection or contact, power or impotence…: “ the calls for letting go versus let the music play you”. In terms of eroticism this corresponds to the struggle between the “ discontinuous “ ( keeping ourselves as separated individuals ) or “continuous“ (tied to another people) as the classical George Bataille wrote: “Erotic activity, by dissolving the separate beings that participate in it, reveals their fundamental continuity, like the waves of a stormy sea”.
The key could be to find this equilibrium: “we love a picture or a melody when they combine the beauty of the unknown with the beauty of that which is known to us” ( Sterlin, translate by Gustavsen)
Gratification versus Frustration is the third dilemma. The last one has a dual meaning: in the sense of postponing gratification and in the sense of disappointment . Obviously we need safety and satisfaction but “the selft” is built through experiences of limits and challenges. In this context frustration is an opportunity too. As the incredible piano player Kenny Barron says “Part of the act of performing jazz is taking chances, and sometimes the chances you take don’t work. But the craft is taking an idea that
doesn’t work and turning it into something that does work”.
Sterling again, write: “You have to be able to live in forsaking, work with it, to prevent desire from being extinguished in enjoyment. This goes for the gratification of vegetative and sexual needs as well as for the relatively complex and often independent esthetic, affective, social and other human needs. You have to be desire-focused and lust-seekingly present in the music, both as a process and as stationeries of release and enjoyment”
The forth is the contrast between Stability and Stimulation: “Stability through order and rhythm is necessary. But stagnation is just around the corner if we are not faced
with elements of stimulating deviation or novelty”
Closeness versus distance is the last dilemma. “”Desire and pleasure request closeness. However, this closeness will be the end of desire and pleasure proper if one does not work for a certain distance – a distance to one’s own needs, and to the other who can satisfy these needs. It is through this work of distancing that we can over and over again rediscover closeness”.
Regardless of all these peculiar mix between music, psychology and eroticism I am grateful to Tord Gustavsen to give a clear, synthetic and precise definition of Groove. one of the most used and misunderstanding music concept.
“ A groove is an extensively repeated rhythmic motion or pattern that can be varied and ‘stretched’, but nevertheless makes up a stable foundation for the musical unfolding. A groove is also a kind of state. It is something you enter into (‘getting into the groove’) or establish, and, having entered, the groove then is a stimulating space, or environment for activity and enjoyment; a groove is a comfortable place to be, but simultaneously, a groove is a place that can be challenged and transformed”
Life must be…grooving

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