BookmarkedJazz singer Mira Black recommends book about improvisation in life and art
Posted by MIra Black, singer | Monday June 10, 2013
Mira Black (Tracy Graham)
As an artist and storyteller, the craft and poignancy of an instrumental jazz song feeds my imagination more than any other art from.
—MIra Black, singer
Although she's known as a jazz singer and will be performing at the Jazz Winnipeg Festival, Mira Black's most recent album, Mira, has her delving into a mix of electronica with her unique songs.
Black is one of those singers who lives and breathes her art. So SCENE wasn't surprised to discover that Black selected a book that has had a significant influence on her artistry:
never thought of myself as a jazz musician though that is certainly my
aspiration. Jazz musicians have a particular affinity for the discipline
intrinsic to the mastery of not only the language of jazz, but also the
deep philosophy evolving with its sound.
As an artist and storyteller, the craft and poignancy of an instrumental jazz song feeds my imagination more than any other art form. The emotion seemingly innate in the haunting whole notes of Miles Davis, the heroine-infused melancholy of Chet Baker or the passionate pleas of Billy and her contemporaries made me think about how the very sound emitted, beyond the lyrical stories, could break a heart or lead a room to laughter.
I knew that the jazz masters I admired so much were skilled musicians. It was easy to see how being proficient at their instrument and with the language of jazz fostered their creation.
"Free Play: The Power of Improvisation in Life and the Arts" by Steve Nachmanovitch (Tarcher)
But what I learned in Steve Nachmanovitch's book Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art was something more challenging to define. We call it being "in the zone or the pocket" or sometimes we speak of being "in sync." Mr. Nachmanovitch might say we are lost in the power of lila; divine play.
To be so fully present, fully mindful in the moment music is being created, or to experience a moment of spontaneous creation/improvisation, does take practice.
Nachmanovitch writes of what Buddhists called samadhi which he defines as a stage of absorbed, selfless, absolute concentration...when the self-clinging personality show drops away and we are both entranced and alert at the same time.
Nachmanovitch challenges artists to play like innocent children and to disappear into the creations like wizened monks. The contradiction, practicing to be spontaneous, is how both the practice and the spontaneity can mature.
The more you practice, the better able you are to let go and improvise. The more you feel the magic of spontaneous creation, the more focused your practice is. Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art tells the reader to do exactly that. Play freely and know that mistakes or blocks or fears or history are simply steps towards mastery. All that you have seen makes you the artist you are. Surrender and courage are both called for where great art is concerned.
This book isn't just about music. It's about inspiration. It's about creation. It's about the mysterious connection to the muse and ways to uncover and nurture that connection.
Nachmanovitch writes, "Finding the hearts voice - that is the adventure at the core of this book. That is what every artist is dedicated to - the life long quest - not a vision quest, for vision is all around us, but our quest to learn to speak with our own voice."
Mira Black sings "Crazy" for Madonna's Truth or Dare Fragrance
Hear Mira Black perform at the Jazz Winnipeg Festival on Saturday June 22 at 10:30 p.m. at Rachel Browne Theatre on Bannatyne.