I invite when I play and am on a constant lookout for invitations from the others. I am listening for invitations to form connections, composites, coherence, continuum. Accepting some, rejecting most. How can what I do invite, and yet be able to stand on its own, if that should be needed? I need to be prepared for any of my own invitations to be rejected. Invitations and rejections. This awareness affects my choice of material, my listening.

Gary Peters (2009) writes about negative and positive freedom in improvisation:

(…) a negativity that strives to establish and maintain a regime of non-interference where mutual respect for the improvisatory space of the other is a first principle, (…) conversely, a more risky positivity that recognizes a certain desire for mastery and accepts that issues of power and the freedom to actualize this power aesthetically are an integral part of improvisation.1

Peters elaborates:

… the pursuit of negative freedom is most likely to produce improvisations that are “hyperaware,” improvisations that in their profound concern and care for the other open up a performative space that is attentive to, responsive to, and, above all, supportive of the mark-making project of the other. At its best, such a pursuit can produce improvisations of great sensitivity and delicacy where every mark is considered, every interjection is carefully weighed and weighted, ensuring that participation in an emerging oneness effectively extinguishes the desire for empty theatricality and virtuosic self-aggrandizement. At its worst, there can be witnessed what might be described as an escalation of sensitivity where virtually every mark interferes with or intrudes into the marked space of the other.

And on the conversed approach:

…the best is very good: an approach to improvisation that does not stand on ceremony or wait nervously to be invited into the action but which is decisive, determined, and often disruptive of cozy, considerate communities… 

Again, a two-headedness is required. A combination of the hyperawareness with great sensitivity and delicacy on one side, and the decisive and determined on the other is needed.  A decisive and determined “risky positivity” can also contribute to a “considerate community”. Both collectiveness and individuality.  


Note to self: try to be more
vigilant and ruthless
considerate and ruthless
gently brutal
violently humble

discourteous astute
impolitely discreet
carelessly observant2

Invite and reject


Gary Peters, The Philosophy of Improvisation (The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2009), p53-55 

Musician Sidsel Endresen, dancer Siri Jøntvedt and myself, as part of the research project INTERIMP, discussed such two-headedness in a meeting. The antonyms are based on notes from this discussion.