Michael Brockman is the sole musician for ROCK, The Improvised Rock Opera, but somehow he pulls off sounding like a full band. In this post, Michael talks about discovering something in improvising music that we also teach in the Hideout classes… you do your best when you lose yourself in the work.
Have at it, Brockman:
There are some things that have been knocking about in my head since we started these shows, so… here you go:
Be you sensei or kohai, master or padawan; improvisation (whether as an actor or a musician) should always be a challenge. Sure, sometimes you get in “the zone” and wondrous things occur seemingly without effort, but when improv (or anything else for that matter) gets easy – one can get bored pretty quickly.
So… the beautiful part about doing the rock operas is I make mistakes. Not little finger slips or the occasional iffy choice – but big, bad train wrecks (and lots of near-misses) that I am hard-pressed to recover from. I’m trying to keep up with what’s going on onstage, stay with the moment and trying to wrestle a rather large musical rig into submission. It’s pushing the limits of my ability, and that’s what makes it – excuse this – rock.
Now, this may be a personal thing; but I am one of those who’s happiest when he is fully engaged in something (or somethings). I don’t do “relax” well. Even as I write this: I’ve got a recording project open in the studio that I keep running upstairs to add bits to, I’ve got a book – “The Years of Rice and Salt” – open and sitting next to me and Bill Maher’s “Real Time” is on the TV across the room. This is one of the things I have always enjoyed most about improv. I have to pay attention to, and react to, multiple input sources. Stray thoughts are necessarily banished and I am thoroughly absorbed.
The litmus test for this state of mind has always been, “Do I notice time passing?” If the answer is, “Yes” – I am not where I should be mentally or emotionally. I sometimes ask people, “What do you do that you enjoy during which you lose all track of time?” The answers vary: video games, exercise, reading, writing, watching movies, various forms of work, even (gasp!) improv… the list goes on. I find that this is a healthy state to cultivate. Using your mind but not in it.
Now that I’ve waxed philosophical, let’s put a bow on this shall we? Doing the rock operas is extremely conducive to the aforementioned state of mind. Does anyone honestly think I’m sitting up there worrying about the electric bill, whether or not I remembered to feed the cats or what I have to do when I get home? Of course not. If someone was to ask me about any of those things my response would be, “Um, little busy right now.”
And “busy” = “content”.
Well said, sir! Wanna see Brockman in the zone? Buy tickets to the next ROCK show.
originally posted at perfectlyreasonabledreams.com.