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Fre-Formation

The Beginnings of Free Form

By Published: May 4, 2012
I could not agree more, and talking to Gustafsson, Brötzmann , Day and many others has taken me a little further along the road of finding out more about free form. Subsequent installments will look at the situation today; the problem of gigs and how once musicians could be on the road for weeks, finding venues readily but now things have changed; the acceptance of free form; and where musicians think it might be going.

If you prefer a scientific approach and analysis of free from and improvisation, there are theories about the processes. When improvising, there is a surge in the activity of part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, according to an article by Jonah Lehrer in The Telegraph from April 15, 2012. This part of the brain controls creativity but perhaps more interestingly, when improvising, there is a decline in the activity of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain which inhibits us, stops us from overreacting or feeling inhibited and self-conscious. So, playing free form and improvising is, perhaps, due to players having more or less active brain centers.

Some things are certain. If you seek conformity, tunes, refrains, chromatics and songs then you are possibly in the wrong shop. If you seek immediate understanding, traditional teachings and compliance, then free form has nothing to offer you. If, however, you seek to extend your musicality, to explore feelings and allow that muse which is free form jazz to lead, then follow that spirit.

Thanks to Peter Brötzmann, Terry Day, Mats Gustafsson, Alan Wilkinson, Ian Storrer and others for their support in this series, with more input to come.

Photo Credits

Page 1 (Peter Brötzmann): Dave Kaufman

Page 2 (Mats Gustafsson): Michael Hoefner

Page 3 (Ornette Coleman): Madli-Liis Parts

Page 4 (Tony Oxley): Sue Storey

Page 5 (Peter Brötzmann): Juan-Carlos Hernandez

Page 6 (Anthony Braxton): Martin Morisette


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