My ears perked up. The commentator on the radio mentioned Marian McPartland who died this past week at the age of 95. Marian McPartland hosted a show on NPR called “Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz.” She was well-known for jazz improvisation. A day or so before I heard this radio segment I was part of a conversation about music improvisation. Since the conversation and the radio program I have thinking about improvisation and how music improvisation relates to other aspects of life.
What is improvisation? What does it mean to improvise?Improvisation: “The art or act of improvising” To improvise: “to compose, recite, play or sing extemporaneously, or to make, invent, or arrange offhand, or to make up out of what is on hand.”
How many times have our own life circumstances invited us to improvise? How often have life circumstances invited us to change course, to find a different rhythm, to step to a different beat, to imagine something different? And how many times has improvising taken us deeper within to tap a source greater than ourselves?
Where does the inner energy come from to improvise and to make the changes needed in life: adjusting to the death of a loved one, dealing with the illness of a loved one, living with the uncertainly about a loved one, channeling changing life circumstances with a spouse, perhaps illness or memory loss, adjusting to the birth of a baby, facing the loss of a job, navigating changes in friendship. The examples are endless just as our life circumstances are endless. Where does our energy come from to improvise in the midst of life?
Jesus invites us to improvise in the midst of life circumstances when he says “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. (Luke 13:22-30) We are often not strong enough to navigate changes in our lives alone. Just as physically going through a narrow gate is difficult so going through the narrow-gates of life are challenging.
In music improvisation the artist opens herself or himself to the spirit and rhythm coming from within to create beautiful music. So it is with life’s improvisation as the divine spirit within taps the deepest recesses of our beings bringing forth the changing music of our lives.
Our invitation is to embrace improvisation.
Blessing and peace