Improvisational Magic: a TED Inspiration

26 March, 2008 by No Comments

I often use improvisation with my students in acting classes. It is never entirely ‘free-form’ as is often thought. Improvisation bears fruit when allowed free rein within a ‘cage’ of understood rules … what we tend to call in acting the given circumstances or GCs … the who, where, when and what of a scenario. Add an understanding of the character to these GCs and with improv as the tool you have the opportunity for an artist or a group of actors to let rip imaginatively.

Now I know next to nothing about musical improvisation, though I do get jazz. Here though is one musical improvisor who will make your jaw drop. Jennifer Lin was a 14 year old pianist and composer invited to present at the TED (Technology Education Design) Conference in February 2004. I’d strongly recommend that you get to know more about TED and the treasure trove that is the series of TED Talks. You won’t be disappointed.

Anyhow, Jennifer Lin performs, discusses how she composes and then gets into the business of demonstrating improvisation about 16 minutes into the 24 minute video. She produces 7 cards with the 7 notes of the scale (ABCDEFG) and asks an audience member to select 5. Goldie Hawn obliges … TED attracts lots of interesting people … and Ms Lin then proceeds to improvise on the spot a quite lovely piece from Goldie’s selection of 5 notes (her improv ‘cage’). It’s riveting stuff. There’s more on the site about this talented young woman and the selection of pieces in the talk.

I hope she is still working at her music. She must be all of 18 by now!

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