The experience of truth in jazz improvisation

human interaction such as jazz improvisation takes place not primarily in order to survive but rather out of a creative expression of identity.” (Ralph Stacey, Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers in Jens Skou Olsen (2015)).

The meaning of this quote is part of a chapter on truth in jazz improvisation by Jens Skou Olsen of the ISE institute, which will feature in a Cambridge anthology “The Experience of Truth” coming out this spring. To explain the meaning of this quote in a short blog post is difficult because it is an abstract concept to talk about. However, we can look at the basic interpretation that this type of human interaction goes beyond survival and goes beyond things practical and concrete.

The experience of truth is explored by Jens Skou Olsen through jazz improvisation. Why do jazz musicians live practically difficult lives, with extensive travel and petrol station meals? In the chapter, there is a quote which describes a feeling common to mankind, of universal validity, manifesting itself individually and presenting itself in a certain moment, which for jazz musicians could be a jazz improvisation session. Is a feeling which everyone can experience, a feeling of cohesion and meaningfulness not different from the one others have experienced.

This feeling of oneness and the possibility for a collective experience, is one which can quickly become associated with the divine. Tracing back civilisation, then it might have been this type of feeling which inspired religion, and this sense of meaningfulness is probably at the core of human existence. Giving up seeking material and practical goals in order to find a unity with music and a sense of meaningfulness, is not a recommendation which can be found at most schools and universities today, but if you are interested in the experience of truth, then this book may help you understand it.