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Why is Improvising Important: interview with Maggie Nicols

from Why is Improvising Important? by Caroline Kraabel

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This is the first interview from a 2018 series by Caroline Kraabel, initially broadcast on London's art radio station, Resonance 104.4 FM. Maggie Nicols on improvisation in music, activism and life.


“Everybody gets it in the end. It’s a question of just being authentic.”

“If we’re obsessed by someone else not listening, then we’re not listening ourselves – if you want listening (in group improvisation), then listen, if you want more space, put more space in. Half the time, people get so frustrated with somebody else that they play in a frustrated way, and get even more frustrated. I’ve found that the more you accept whatever arises, the more it DOES self-regulate. I think improvising finds its natural level.”

“The Gathering is just ‘dealing with whatever arises’, and it’s the most PHENOMENAL training!”

“For me as a musician, but also as a human being, improvisation strengthens my ability to respond skilfully in the moment... People often improvise like that out of sheer necessity.”

“When you just want to please, to be approved of, it’s contrived: an aesthetically pleasing general consensus, rather than a real consensus. As you know, when you’re not following others but just following your own impulses, when there is consensus in THOSE circumstances, then whoa! That’s powerful. There’s a synchronicity that’s very different from the grovelling of ‘I’d better fit in’. It’s a process. I just love the process of improvising, whoever or however.”

“Improvising is important because we’re not obeying orders. We’re learning how to share power, how to navigate, negotiate and create.”

“The freer you are as an individual, the more responsive you are to the group... but then the more responsive you are to the group, the more free you become as an individual. Both the individual and the collective are enhanced through the process of improvisation.”

“Awareness is more important than whether you’re listening or not listening.”

the great Maggie Nicols


from Why is Improvising Important?, released January 23, 2019
Recorded by Caroline Kraabel; thanks to Maggie Nicols, Resonance 104.4 FM and John Edwards


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Caroline Kraabel London, UK

Caroline Kraabel is an improviser in music, art, politics and life.

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