Posted by Mariana Scaravilli on Aug 6, 2017


A few words on the qualities of improvising with reference to the tetrad of the participants in any orchestra, The OCGand ourself. The tetrad…

Section Leaders
& Principal
  Rank & File  


This also applies to how we each comprise our own personal orchestra; those parts of our personality, the many smaller persons, that are our own rank and file; those parts of us that assume responsibility for overseeing the actions of the smaller persons; the principal player among the section leaders; the conductor of our life; and the part of us that is represented by The Composer.

The different qualities of improvising might be referred to as…

  Spontaneous Composition  
Developing Variations
  Riffing / Jamming  


… and correspond to the degrees of musicianship…


Professional / Craftsman                                       Master / Mystery

Happy Gigster / Journeyman

… acknowledging the gendered language; redressing this to some extent in recognising that mastery in musicianship confers a sense of the mystery which is involved in being part of the musical process, the bringing of music into the world.

These degrees of musicianship are characterized by the quality of volitional attention that is available to each; a corresponding Present Moment and region of geographical influence that is appropriate to each degree of intensity of personal presence, integrity or Being, and capacity to bear suffering.

The primary modes of extemporizing: to initiate, to respond, to do nothing. Examples of these: soloing, accompanying, tacit. Doing nothing, properly undertaken, provides a necessary field within which the action takes place. This particular role is generally overlooked and, when effective, is sometimes referred to as radical neutrality: the doing nothing that enables doing everything.

Forcing our tricks and licks and riffs onto the other members of an ensemble is a form of force, and for them amounts to musical imprisonment.

The primary importance lies in the connections between these degrees of musicianship, as exemplified in the players, rather than in the players (or stations) themselves. For example, the distinguishing element of the connection between Master / Mystery and Journeyman is discipline. In our own lives, when the Master / Mystery Person in us undertakes a commitment, it is in the knowledge that all the smaller parts in us may be relied upon to follow direction, and the totality of what we are will discharge that commitment: even God can count on this! The connection between the Professional and the Journeyman is flexibility. The connection between what is represented as Professional and Genius is spontaneity; and between Master / Mystery and Genius (the creative spark at the centre of who we are) is the capacity to see what is Right Action in any particular confluence of time, place and person: right judgement.

One small example: in a piece of music at the Master / Mystery level, each note is necessary. At the Happy Gigster level (perhaps Level Two – Three in GC terminology) there are notes that are, musically, superfluous; albeit possibly serving a functional utility, as in continuous cross-picking to hold time.

A few rough words, roughly indicating the centre of gravity of the subject, from a working player’s perspective.

Wednesday 28th. October, 2009;
All Saints Retreat Center,
Raft Island, Gig Harbor, WA 98329.


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