The art of improvisation is notoriously underestimated. The fact that we tend to see uncertainty only as something disturbing and to evaluate it negatively is a general error, says Georg Bertram, professor of philosophy at the Free University of Berlin. “The pandemic in particular shows the best that things can be changed and that we are also noticing that we are learning ourselves in the pandemic,” said Bertram, who devoted the essay volume to “Improvise! uncertainty “about.

New impulses even in schools

The pandemic is undoubtedly having problematic and also destructive effects on social life and is particularly difficult for children. But even for them, the pandemic would create new impulses – just think of digitization in schools. “Using these pulses means we can make the uncertain timing of this productive pandemic for us.”

Philosopher Georg Bertram praises the art of improvisation as a special cultural achievement. © photo alliance / Geisler-Fotopress | Christoph hardt

Associating improvisation with a lack of preparation is another misunderstanding, according to the philosopher. On the contrary, it requires a certain preparation and special skills in order to be able to react at certain times. Improvisation doesn’t come out of nowhere. “Seen in the light, improvisation is something that represents a great cultural achievement.”

Improvisation is freedom

Modernism generally tends to “ignore the improvisational element of human practice,” says Bertram, and therefore it is difficult to distinguish between cultures in which more or less improvisation takes place.

The philosopher emphasizes that improvisation always relates to the great philosophical theme of freedom. Improvisation is a practice of freedom. How free people can be is directly related to improvisation skills. This means “that we regulate ourselves and make ourselves unfree if we fit into normative corsets, as happens in totalitarian regimes”.

Artistic play with improvisation

In the arts in particular, improvisation plays a major role, says Bertram. This applies to theater, dance and music. However, he doesn’t want to overestimate jazz. We could discuss the importance of the role of improvisation in this form of music. “If you look at the different styles and historical developments in jazz, you can immediately see that there were good times in jazz when there were a lot of dates.”

The philosopher warns against restricting jazz to improvisation alone, even if this is correct, “that there is improvisation in jazz and that it is interesting to think about what this means for people. arts as a whole and also for human practice as a whole “. But there is also a great practice of improvisation in Protestant church music and in the organ, as well as in other art forms.

No football without improvisation

According to Bertram, improvisation has a lot to do with social interaction. In this sense, improvisation skills are also social skills. This is why improvisation also plays a major role in team sports. It is important to ‘read the game’, says a well-known football journalist. This is a metaphor that makes it clear that such sports are also about being able to react to the unpredictable.

Georg Bertram, Michael Rüsenberg: “Improvise! In Praise of Uncertainty”
Claim 2021
120 pages, 6 euros