Jazz as Metaphor for Not Having a Plan

In yesterday’s New York Times, there was an article about the Showtime show Homeland and its upcoming second season. Towards the end of the article, there is brief discussion of how the show’s first season was shot and planned.

Remarkably, the creators did not map out the first season’s convoluted plot in advance. “Six episodes in, we didn’t entirely know where it was going,” Mr. Gansa said.

Mr. Gordon called it “a jazz improvisation.” The Carrie breakdown was slotted first for Episode 3, then 6, then 8. Of course, he said, in hindsight it looked inevitable that it come toward the season’s end.

As something to ponder for the coming weeks, is “jazz improvisation” an appropriate metaphor? Is it positive or negative? Considering the structures of jazz composition, collective improvisation, and recording we have been analyzing in class, I wonder if the skill and established relationships that go into making an effective performance (and recording) are being downplayed in this metaphor. What do you think?

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Jazz as Metaphor for Not Having a Plan

  1. I would take it as a compliment. It sounds like they tried to keep it spontaneous and flowing during the process, in a similar way to a band ‘playing off’ one another.
    Having ideas, experimenting and either going with it or not.

  2. taseotjul

    I think it was meant as a compliment, but that the person who said it did not mean it with such a deep level of understanding. If you have gotten to know jazz intimately, I guess you wouldn’t be too pleased at such an oversimplification. Or maybe it’s just me ^^

  3. Lauren Brown

    I think the “jazz improvisation” metaphor is an oversimplification. Just as the production of novel speech–which is an improvisatory act–happens within the structure of a commonly understood grammar, improvisatory music is created within a commonly understood musical structure. Essentially, improvisation still has rules that must be “obeyed” if an idea is to be communicated successfully. I feel like this perception of jazz improvisation as “just happening any old way” really does downplay the level of skill, education, and practice needed to improvise well, especially with a group.

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