I love improvised music. It is the music I am most passionate about, though I love playing all different types of music with all different types of musicians. I believe that when you can let go of all fear, inhibitions and preconceptions, you get into a mental place where the music you are playing is completely pure and true to the moment. Mozart, a legendary improviser, felt that he was simply a conduit for God’s music and that he himself played no part in the composition of what he wrote and played. That is a place I would like to get to, but my musical facility is not nearly as great as Mozart’s, and I’m afraid that I taint the ‘true’ music with my imperfections and lack of skill.
Listening back to recordings of my improvised performances is usually surprising for me. In an improvised concert I feel like I go through phases where I will be hindered by fear and over thinking, and phases where I have let go and am channelling ‘God’s music,’ or ‘the music of the spheres,’ or whatever name you ascribe to it, to the best of my limited ability. All things are vibrations at their most basic level, and I believe that the vibrations that make up all of existence resonate with each other and create a literal ‘celestial music’ that can be tapped into and channeled by anyone. I believe that that should be the goal of every artist – to allow for the unhindered transmittance admittance of the music of existence through the artist’s chosen medium.
I’m afraid that not many of my peers share this goal, while I feel that a lot of them share my ideas. Most of them like to play songs, and usually other people’s songs. I really enjoy playing composed music with skilled musicians, and I love interpreting other people’s ideas in my own way, but I don’t get nearly the fulfillment doing that as I do improvising. When I go to see other musicians play, it is always the improvised bits that are the most interesting to me. I think that my peers are generally afraid that the audience wont like improvisation; that people want to hear songs that they know. And that’s true a lot of times. When I play a wedding with my cover band (which I do every weekend), it would be totally out of place and we would probably get fired if we started improvising. But for any gig that I lead, any gig that I put the ‘John Ray Presents:’ label on, we will be improvising completely, trying to break down all of the barriers we have spent our lives putting up to block true music, and letting creation happen. It is an experience you wont get anywhere else; one that is satisfying and completely fulfilling for audience and artists alike, and one that I believe is critical to maintaining an artistic society.
Here are a few excerpts from the most recent John Ray Presents: Star Truk concert at Krankies in Winston-Salem. Unfortunately, Krankies has decided to stop doing music and this was also the last session there. I will find a new home for Star Truk though, maybe even a new name! Stay tuned.
Leave a comment below to let me know if you would go see an entirely improvised concert.