As follow-up to an earlier conversation (Psychotherapy Networker Conference, 2003), Michael exchanged with Salvador Minuchin at The Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference (2005). Salvador insisted that there was something more guiding Michael’s practice than following maps of narrative practice. Michael responded:
This is about skills development. I have always been in awe of jazz improvisation. When I see these musicians improvise, it looks so spontaneous. But it is a meticulous development of certain skills. It is and it isn’t spontaneity. There is no contradiction. Those musicians who seem the most spontaneous are founded on the most practice.
David wrote following about Michael’s approach to improvisation in his Introduction to Michael’s Narrative Practice: Continuing the Conversation (2011), edited by David Denborough.
Michael, you never cared to look over your genius but I would like to consider your genius in improvisation. In your scintillating and respectful conversation with Salvador Minuchin at the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference in 2005, Sal kindly insisted that there was so much more to your practice than the ideas you pinned it on. You accepted this in principle by introducing the metaphor of jazz improvisation but locating that in the craft of musicianship. You insisted that that comes first. Could we take this metaphor seriously? And if so, aren’t we going to have to consider pedagogies relevant to improvisation, once a person has mastery of their craft? Why don’t we read Sudnow (2001), Ways of the Hand: A Rewritten Account together? This is an autoethnography in which Sudnow painstakingly describes how he becomes a jazz musician. And then why don’t we talk to our friends who are engaged with narrative therapy and jazz. Maps of Narrative Practice has no reference to improvisation, but I wholeheartedly agree with what you said: everyone has to first learn how to play and only then can they improvise.
Here we’d like to highlight initiatives that combine skill-building and improvisation.
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