Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Perfection vs. Improvisation?
Lately I've been reading of concerns that Lost is being plotted one episode at a time rather than with a long-range story planned. Yet this off-the-cuff creation is celebrated in jazz improvisation. I have noticed a trend in the arts towards perfection over spontaneity. Recordings and computer-generated music have made listeners used to note-perfect performances, so that even one misplayed pitch can ruin their enjoyment. This makes performers timid, afraid of taking chances that could increase the risk of mistakes. I think this has also bled over into improvisation, both in music and in drama. Attempts to have improvised TV shows have been middling at best, and held only to comedies (The Bonnie Hunt Show, Sons and Daughters, What's My Line?). Likewise, musical improv seems to be only acceptable in jazz and blues. Dramatic shows, such as Lost, cannot be improvised or plotted 1-2 shows ahead of shooting, because audiences are also afraid. Performers are afraid of making technical mistakes, audiences are afraid of making emotional mistakes. Invest in a world that hasn't been fully formed, and run the risk of being disappointed at the end. Perhaps we all need to take more chances. Risk ruining a performance for the opportunity to create sublime art. Risk wasting fifty hours of your life on an off-the-cuff TV show that could end in a way that you and the creators never imagined.