We had Jazz Vespers last night. As I prepared by listening to jazz and reading in Jamie Howison’s God’s Mind in that Music: Theological Explorations through the Music of John Coltraine, I was pulled into the conversation between freedom and constraint.
Howison quotes Jeremy Begbie, “occasional constraints” (as opposed to the “musical constraints,” which in jazz are things such as meter and harmonic sequence), listing firstly, “the physical space in which the improvisation occurs and its attendant sounds”; secondly, “the other improvisation participants . . . the music they produce, and the audience”; and finally, “the disposition of the improviser him/herself.”
Today I think of the sermon each Sunday, often twice each Sunday and how it tightens and loosens, becomes fuller or more spare, is influenced and freed, called further into itself by the confluence of the factors that are present in improvisation.