April 14, 2013 ~ Improvisational OFNR

 Drawing inspiration from La Divina del piano, Gabriela Montero, my musical improvisational muse

Sunday, April 14, 2013 ~ Improvisational OFNR

As may be quite apparent, this blog — as with my practice of NVC, more broadly — draws heavily from improvising (on the template of OFNR, for example, among other things).


Web definitions
(improvisation) a creation spoken or written or composed extemporaneously (without prior preparation).

As I’ve written about before, bearing witness to Gabriela Montero‘s improvs piques my imagination especially as to how one might convey the components and principles of NVC, yet crafted with a degree of originality rather than formulaic predictability,  as a kind of mindful dialogic dance (or as Kit Williams has put it, “NVC as an awareness practice masquerading as a communication process”).

In alignment with our quest of how to avoid being a Muggle (Giraffe)…

(drum roll please)

Gabriela Montero Improvisations on a theme from Harry Potter

See also:  Gabriela Montero – Improvisation @ Koln Philharmonie – YouTube

We’ll explore how to self-expressively ‘riff’, whether it be improvising from an OFNR template, (hopefully a self-explanatory proposition?, but just in case – I’ll flesh out what I mean): namely it’s the practice of identifying what you’re observing, for example (rather than evaluating/interpreting/judging, bracketing and having discernment of the distinction to convey observations), and allowing this awareness to serve as a guide, as a kind of mindful focal point (then doing the same, whether singularly, as in piecemeal fashion (one component at a time) or all at once with the other components of feeling/needing/requesting, being mindful of each and weaving strands into the tapestry of what you’re communicating, just as Gabriela Montero wove the Harry Potter theme into a broader tapestry which she composed spontaneously.  We’ll also borrow from the Three Layers of Empathy to imagine the sequence of what we may convey.

Another kind of NVC improv might be conceiving of a version of integrated honesty (that acknowledges intertwining perspectives).  So let’s imagine a scenario such as that Miki Kashtan writes about in her current blog post, when she poses, “The core question that was so unsettling for me is remarkably simple: What does it mean to accept something we don’t like?“:

This can come up right in the midst of a discussion.  Here we can imagine a dialogue where there is a difference of opinion, say around the seemingly– at least to oneself — self-evident hypocrisy of Gitmo’s indefinite detention:

Op-Ed: Gitmo Is Killing Me
Published: April 14, 2013

ONE man here weighs just 77 pounds. Another, 98. Last thing I knew, I weighed 132, but that was a month ago.

I’ve been on a hunger strike since Feb. 10 and have lost well over 30 pounds. I will not eat until they restore my dignity.

I’ve been detained at Guantánamo for 11 years and three months. I have never been charged with any crime. I have never received a trial.

I could have been home years ago — no one seriously thinks I am a threat — but still I am here…

The situation is desperate now. All of the detainees here are suffering deeply. At least 40 people here are on a hunger strike. People are fainting with exhaustion every day. I have vomited blood.

And there is no end in sight to our imprisonment. Denying ourselves food and risking death every day is the choice we have made.

I just hope that because of the pain we are suffering, the eyes of the world will once again look to Guantánamo before it is too late.

See also:  U.S. Engaged in Torture After 9/11, Review Concludes

While engaged in such a debate, acceptance of another’s readiness to continue to hold those who have been deemed — by our own government — as ‘not a threat’ might seem like a bridge too far (or quite a stretch).  Our inclination, instead, may be just to reiterate our own point of view.  However an alternative, perhaps requiring a bit of the ingenuity and (NVC consciousness on display) dexterity of a Montero at the keyboard, may be worth experimenting with such as identifying an observation — for example that, ‘yes, harm has been enacted on U.S. soil’ (albeit more than a decade ago on 9/11 and we might temporarily bracket the irony that flashes across our mind of the ‘collateral damage’ now being enacted in our name by drone warfare) continuing on, ‘yes, and by extremists from that region of the world’ (in the case of current detainees, largely Yemeni, which might conjure the attack of the USS Cole bombing, a country like a tinderbox, as noted by the CIA’s Brennan), and, indeed, we’d acknowledge that it ‘cannot be known with any degree of certitude what may unfold in the future, once these detainees are released’ (again tabling momentarily any interior sentiments that arise, akin to those of Maureen Dowd who has wryly noted, how we currently resemble something from the film Minority Report where punitive measures are taken, in advance, derived from foreknowledge offered by “precogs“) — or any of the other components: the feelings/universal-needs/etc. (for example of apprehension/sense-of-safety), that may be fueling the contentiousness on the other side.  Then, rather than just repeatedly championing our own preference (likely, largely to no avail) for say integrity and congruity or freedom, dignity and civil liberties (that are indeed a cornerstone to the conception of our nation), one might — improvisationally — find the space to mirror back the validity of these concerns held in common, acknowledging both vantage points with a kind of ambidextrous empathic attunement (incorporating the core “tune” so-to-speak and then riffing off of each).

Gabriela Montero Improvising “Gone with the Wind”. The Aldeburgh


(in popular music and jazz) A short repeated phrase, frequently played over changing chords or used as a background to a solo improvisation.
Play such phrases.

Musical Toronto | Concert review:
Pianist Gabriela Montero’s Improvisations Trump Interpretations


During her performance, divided evenly between published music and improvisation, Montero made a much more powerful, confident statement when freed from the shackles of interpretation. It was when she let her imagination and fingers have free rein over the keyboard that her musicianship glowed with the most brilliant colours and pulsed with the most energy.

Even Montero herself appeared to come out of her shell, growing in stature and animation on the bench.

…She managed to weave something fresh and unexpected, yet still tinged with the familiar pianistic fireworks of Romantic and late-Romantic music…Rather, the pianist approached this music as if it were springing from her fingers in the moment. Instead of a large-scale shape, Montero provided sharply contrasting detail and dynamics.

Addendum — April 27: Boston, Guantanamo Bay, and the Bush Library

Up with Steve Kornacki – MSNBC.com

As Gitmo detainees starve, solutions remain elusive

What can the hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay teach us about empathy for those accused of terrorism? Read More

This entry was posted in Activism, Arts & Literature, Expression, Taking on the World - Social Change Agency and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s