A fabulous musician and friend of mine Joshua Raoul Brody sent these quotes to me from Lukas Foss, a composer who for a little while was in the forefront of incorporating improvisation into contemporary classical music:
An artist who knows what he wants to do never said, ‘I want to express myself.’ He wants to do what he loves. For years that may mean imitation. Then, one day, it is like a door opening, and a new thought comes in. Why not try this instead. Suddenly he is doing something original, almost in spite of himself. Even at this point he does not give up being influenced by what he loves, by the music that has made him a musician. Rather, he uses it in the light of his recent discovery. He makes it his own. This is a wonderful English expression that exists in no other language I know: ‘to make something one's own.
I've never heard of someone saying to himself, ‘I want to write a letter, but to whom should I write? What should I write?
With improvisation we begin with learning exercises and games from someone. Then you repeat them in various forms and then find small changes along the way as we play them. Eventually the day comes when you invent, combine, mix, mash-up, reduce, expand or in some way change a game by intention or my accident and discover something new.