“Humans have been around for 200,000 years. For the first 99% of our history, we didn’t do much of anything but procreate and survive. This was largely due to harsh global climactic conditions, which stabilized sometime around 10,000 years ago. People soon thereafter discovered farming and irrigation, and they gave up their nomadic lifestyle to cultivate and tend stable crops. But not all farm plots are the same; regional variations in sunshine, soil, and other conditions meant that one farmer might grow particularly good onions while another grew especially good apples. This family, a farmer might grow only what he was best at and trade some of it for things he wasn’t growing. Because each farmer was producing only one crop, and more than he needed, marketplaces and trading emerged and grew, and with them came the establishment of cities.”
-Daniel J. Levitin, the Organized Mind
I love this paragraph and use it when I lecture. Levitin, in one paragraph, manages to succinctly wrap up the function of humanity from pre-historic times to roughly the 1st century AD. And it really just states that the meaning of life was to survive, and the evolution of the human brain allows us to see more and more clearly that we can survive better if we do it together, using as much collaboration as possible.
The transference of this idea to the work of compositional improvisation is direct: Gather, share what you have to offer, see what else is there, and use all the things to make something.
I wonder sometimes what it is I have to offer to The Lovelies. Are my apples still worth bringing to market? Am I interested in what other ‘wares’ are available to trade? I love that I am willing to exercise these inquiries– and much darker ones – I am fearful that I don’t always tell the truth in my responses, but I am privileged and fortunate to have the opportunity to
do so. This country, world and Earth is so fucked. And I get to make things that allow me to practice reversing what is fucked up about this whole situation.
This evolution of the brain that Levitin speaks of makes me think that like many aspects of the human brain, Compositional Improvisation is something that has always existed, but was yet to be unearthed as a study and form. When Judith Dunn and Bill Dixon began working simultaneously in spaces in the 60’s, I would like to think they were simply using their advanced brain systems to piece together a more elaborate and articulate way of approaching the evolution of man: gather, share, listen + see, make something together.