The Art of Improvisation with Pianist Tom Donald: Music Documentary (Full version)

The Art of Improvisation with Pianist Tom Donald: Music Documentary (Full version)


As one thing starts, another thing ends. And
then that thing ends, another thing starts. And this is constant perpetual motion with
these two things taking place. Sometimes this is such an alarming speed that you just have
to submit to the music and let go and get yourself right into that zone. Improvisation is a type of music making and
experience where you draw deep into your subconscious mind to find the music that is floating around
us, that is in the air, that is in the audience and bringing the audience and everyone an
incredible musical experience that can’t be repeated again. You really have to just trust that music that
is around you, that is in the air, it’s everywhere. You have to just pick it up, grab it and bring
it into your instrument. Pure improvisation is completely having a
blindfold over your eyes and not knowing what you are going to go to next and just taking
each moment as it happens and submitting the control over to the music. You have to really
trust yourself, you have to trust the music you have to trust the bigger picture, you
can’t let finite details stop you and drag you down. And that is the challenge any improvising
musician has. But the risk factor is part of the fun. That’s the drug of the experience
for the improvising musician. This notion that improvised music is chaos,
anarchy is not true at all. There is a lot of beautiful order and structure that actually
comes out of the instrument as you take these risks. Some things are so profound sometimes – you
thought you couldn’t have composed something better yourself if you’d actually planned
it. And that’s the magic of it. There is that fusion of the mastery of your
instrument and the unlearning of your instrument to create something new every time you play.
There is a tension between those two worlds that you are constantly exploring. You go
too far one way, you lose a bit of the other. It is a bit of a balancing act. On the piano there is this constant struggle
between your love for the instrument and the way you think it should be played and the techniques
of it, and what is pure improvisation. You are living between those two worlds. It is
a balancing act. It is an extraordinary balancing act. I am influenced by music that goes deeper than the music whether that’s a Mahler symphony
or a great John Coltrane record. Its is music that goes far beyond what music just is. It
becomes an experience, a human experience. Genre is like a colour of our skin. It’s not
that appropriate in describing who we are. If I call myself a jazz pianist I feel uncomfortable
with that because it is like neglecting the whole other world of music that I like to
explore. And if I call myself a classical pianist that’s also is not particularly accurate
in the way I play. Labels can really only take us so far. If a jazz pianist to you is
someone that improvises, perhaps that’s what I am. But I think if we go beyond the music
and even deeper you realise that these labels are just ways of trying to describe a musical
experience. I am interested in music that goes beyond
just music for basic entertainment purposes. I am interested in music that gives me a higher
feeling and sense of purpose in life that you can’t explain in words. We can move into
a new paradigm where the music is around us, it’s within us, it doesn’t have to be all
just written down for the sake of writing it down. We can move deeper than that and
find things and resources in our playing and the music we experience just by letting go
and exploring our subconscious mind a little bit more. And that gives the audience a new
experience with music that they would never have had before. My improvised piano concerts come from no
pre-conception or plan at all. The music is there, I just have to trust it, and that’s
the hardest thing that I had to learn on this journey. You just have to let go and submit
to it. I am far more interested in digging deeper
and going beyond just typical jazz improvisation. You are constantly flowing with the music
and rolling with the punches. You have to just give yourself to the music. It’s
something very human that is in our core about this type of playing. Something that only
belongs in that moment. I think there is something magical about that. We have to keep adding new things to make
the piano recital relevant to make it mean something to the audience. I see my job as
finding the music that is around us, that is in the air and capturing it and giving
the audience a new experience. An experience they perhaps never had before in music. That is what drives me and excites me about an improvised piano recital. I am always searching for in my music space.
Space in my mind, space around me. I don’t want to feel I am in a crowded room with noise
everywhere where I can’t hear myself think. Despite the fact that I work and live, and
play music in big cities I try and look for the quiet places in those big cities. There is space everywhere. Here we are in Regents Park. Feels like a nice quiet countryside day.

3 thoughts on “The Art of Improvisation with Pianist Tom Donald: Music Documentary (Full version)

  1. I like your view on Improvisation. You have also a great sense of rhythm time structure in your performance. Time structures are – generally speaking – underdevolped in todays music

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