Carl Bergstroem-Nielsen email-interviewed by Aaron Wilhelm

This interview was made for a research paper "An improvisation on improvisation" written at Frostburg State University (Maryland, USA), 2005.

1. Please tell me about your personal experience within the psychological  and/or philosophical aspects of improvisation.

I experienced an enormous potential of communication when I started to improvise with others back in 1971 - so much and so varied feedback could happen within one second! I was doing compositional work at the same time and started to wonder. The dia- or rather, multi-logue of improvisation seemed to be more the real thing of the music process than the monologue of composition which appeared like a more indirect method. Cf. the concept of polyphony, supposedly pointing at different, independent musicians, but so paradoxically most often known from works of individual composers.

2.  What are some of the main concepts, phenomena, etc. that you have discovered during the course of your research?

I've worked a lot with composition being open to, and stimulating, improvisation. In recent years I focused more clearly on how to nourish and provoke the process, not just opening up. I've elaborated on these ideas in "Sharpening the process..." and analyzed a number of own works.

3.  During some of my reseach I have found that many musicians and scholars have said that improvisation helps one to learn their instrument. 
Do you feel this is true, and why?

Yes, because it builds both a secure feeling with the instrument and self-confidence, and the ability to overview elements in their context while playing them.

4.  How does improvisation help with critical thinking?

By stimulating, maybe even forcing you to find your own way and your own solutions.

5.  Can you attempt to explain or provide some insight to the metaphysical (or unexplainable) aspects of improvisation?

Music in itself is non-verbal and thus provides more holistic opportunities for experiencing existence, including the symbolizing processes we associate with spirituality ... and improvised music, additionally, takes you to experience the full significance of the here and now. Not a bad meditation method! I like the saying by Cage that music making is an affirmation of life. And I keep wondering how come we can go together to play and sometimes, maybe even usually, experience such strange meaning from that.

6.  In regards to improvisation: how do personal relationships within the context of a band come into play?

They could do so by fixing participants to certain roles, thus preventing the free flow. I suppose some duos benefit creatively from their close relationships, however. I find that the musical teamwork should be the main relationship during playing!


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