21 ago. 2008

Improvisation is a troubled category.

We improvise when the phone rings and we have to respond to that situation in the moment. There is no script. All conversation is improvised. When a student asks a question that is unique (for which a prescripted answer does not exist) the answer has to be improvised.

An exam answer has to be improvised, if the question is a unique one, not prepared in advance in exactly this form. The opposite of improvisation is not preparation: we are prepared, presumably, for the exam. Improvisation is competence in the forms of conversation, whether written or oral.

Is the opposite of improvisation revision? The improvisation is a performance, it happens in real time. So going back later is a different thing. Improvisation, then, would be more like writing something the right way first, rather than thinking: oh, it doesn't matter how I write it now, since there will always be time to re-write it later. We can always fix it with pro-tools later. Improvisation in writing, then, would be more disciplined, not less.

6 comentarios:

Thomas Basbøll dijo...

Isn't "scripting" the opposite of improvisation.

And doesn't that mean that "writing" is never an improvisation.

Which might mean that a great deal of blogging is not really writing

precisely because it is so improvised.

A lot of emails are barely writing
and surely improvisations.

One could imagine someone being very good at writing emails, i.e., not writing (scripting) but improvising, so that it looks like writing.

It would reveal itself as improvised on a second reading.

Jonathan dijo...

No, the opposite of improvisation is not scripting, but following a script. In other words, not composing the script, but following it. Surely you wouldn't say that reading from a script is the same as writing one?

Thomas Basbøll dijo...

I guess I'm assuming that the speaker is in control of the content.

So the opposite of improvising your own utterances would be scripting them and then, yes, performing them.

But if the script is given in advance then there is no such thing as "improvising it".

I think your telephone/conversation analogy is what threw me off.

"Improvisation" in music and theatre usually involves a pretty fixed framework within which to improvise. In that sense, participating in a conversation is not really improvising.

Matt dijo...

Don't conversations have pretty fixed frameworks? I mean, if someone asks you about your favorite Melville novel, you can't really respond by saying, "Aerosol cheese is the shiznit." Unless your goal is to confuse and irritate the person.

Jonathan dijo...

Yes. They are the Gricean maxims. Relevance, helpfulness, etc...

Thomas Basbøll dijo...

A conversation about a Melville novel in a play may be either scripted or improvised. But either way it will have to incorporated into the plot. So it may or may not make sense for one of the speakers to say, "I've never read any Melville."

The question "What's your favorite Melville novel?" does not constrain the answer. The true answer may be: "Melville leaves me cold. I don't have a favorite." Or, "Did he write anything other than Moby Dick?" Or, "I guess the right answer is Moby Dick but I really think Omoo is underrated."

There are basic norms to follow, yes, but they apply to any conversation. The scripted/improvised distinction only gets off the ground when content of the conversation is more or less fixed.

We might say, we need something against which to judge the performance as successful or unsuccessful. Not just intelligible or unintelligible.