I’m learning more about improvisation in my musical life – jazz improvisation. In my early days I had thought that the improviser just let loose playing whatever came through his fingers with the rhythm section in the background. Creating music on the fly. I’m learning – not so much. The structure of the tune – melody, chords, rhythm – provide the framework. Then the improviser draws on a library of note patterns aligned with the chord structure that she has repeatedly played into muscle memory. This library provides the material of improvisation. Much structure, much practice leading to better improvisation. Some minutes I think I’m a better improviser, most hours I think not.
In my health journey improvisation helps me understand the importance of melody, rhythm and repetition – structure, muscle memory, habits in care. The melody is the state of the person receiving care, with the rhythm being the daily pattern of care (activities of daily living). The more challenging the care, the more severe the disability, the more importance the melody, rhythm, and repetition. It seems that even with the most severe disability, caregivers can more easily manage and improvise if the pattern, repetition, and muscle memory is there. It’s when the melody and the rhythm frequently change, when the unexpected constantly occurs, that playing and improvisation becomes too draining and almost impossible in the best of circumstances.
Can we help the helpers better cope and improvise if we explicitly clarify and simulate the underlying melody and rhythm?