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From Out of Philosophy, Music, Dance, and Literature
Process and Temporality in Ethnographic Fieldwork

james m. banner, jr. Historian, Improvised Some historians come by their immersion in the past by virtue of someparticular characteristic of family, residence, or historical background. I didn’t. I came from circumstances possessing a history that no family mem- bers considered to be of much interest—to them or to me. Like members of many American families, especially those whose earliest members ar- rived in the United States in the nineteenth century, my grandparents and their parents, and taking after them my own parents, meant to put the past behind them. As

14 Deleuzian Improvisation One launches forth, hazards an improvisation. But to improvise is to join with the world, or meld with it. One ventures from home on the thread of a tune. Along sonorous, gestural, motor lines that mark the customary path of a child and graft themselves onto or begin to bud “lines of drift” with diff erent loops, knots, speeds, movements, gestures, sonorities.1 “One launches forth . . .” This beginning is, of course, about the nature of a beginning. To launch oneself into an improvisation has a familiar ring to it— this, after

itself to be “forgotten.” The ultimate goal then is to supplant both instinct and knowledge with habit. And un- like instinct and knowledge, both of which are value- neutral, habits can be good or bad, happy or sad, sane or mad, and most of all, they can be broken and changed again and again. And we certainly need to get into the habit of understand- Improvisation and Habit15 C H A P T E R F I F T E E N 114 ing habit as a form of transformation rather than, as is usually the case, mechanization, determination, and stagnation. It is this that will allow us to

Conclusion: Improvising, Thinking, Writing I believe in improvisation, and I fight for improvisation, but with the belief that it is impossible. Jacques Derrida : : : As even a cursory glance at the word will make evident, to conc-lude is to bring the ludic dimension of the text into a state of collusion with itself so that the differences within it, the contradictions, errors, and absurdities are made to make a certain sense. But this is by no means the same thing as the sense of an ending, one that would do justice to the sense of (or for) a beginning

Dynamics Dynamics: Passive- Aggressive Improvising There are interaction dynamics, and there are just plain dynamics. In any kind of music, dynamics is a technical term that covers the range of possible volumes at which particular sound might be made, from pia- nissimo (very quiet) to fortissimo (very loud). In lis- tening to improvisation, it’s a valuable tool to be at- tentive to dynamics. They can tell you a great deal about what’s going on, and watching skilled impro- visors handle subtleties of volume is a special treat. Manipulating dynamics is

On the Moral Superiority of Improvised Music It isn’t. I find sanctimonious free- music followers un- bearable. Improvised music is not better than other kinds of music. It has a long symbiotic rela- tionship with various species of popular and clas- sical music from around the world, and in most cases its practitioners are respectful of those dif- ferent traditions. Some of them could be classi- fied as super- fans of other types of music, collect- ing and cataloging and learning as much as they can about other lineages. I think of saxophonist Michael