By Robin Purves.
The third claim in many treatises on improv that I want to distance myself from is the notion that it is politically significant. The idea comes in a variety of modes including the tentative and vague suggestion that improvised music has a content which do not correspond to or revel in the prerogatives of the present day philosophical/political hegemony. This claim, that a radically ambiguous, sometimes utterly disarticulated and ad hoc ‘language’ is oppositional in a progressive and meaningful way requires more proof if it is to be convincing. To say that it doesn’t reflect or celebrate dominant ideologies suggests only that improv, in its own opinion, stands serenely apart from them. Ben Watson’s admirable avoidance of the tentative and vague sweeps him along to a more unhinged set of slogans, that “Free Improvisation [...] is the manifestation of socialist revolution in music,” or that it is “no more recuperable by class society than revolutionary Marxism.”
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