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The Spice Girls

To me, and to probably most other people, musical improvisation is something that is always best performed and experienced in a live setting. Going to live concerts, jam sessions and recitals not only allow us to appreciate the sound of music, but, more importantly, to participate in the conversation between the artist and the audience, and to be part of the environment that give music meaning. In these settings, music is not just ‘some song’ playing over and over again, but it is a person’s artistic expression creating something fresh and unpredictable from what is already known.

Spice Girls – Wannabe

When I was around seven or eight years old, my favorite band was, of course, the Spice Girls. I listened to their music on repeat and even learned every single word to their songs. I didn’t know I could possibly appreciate their music even more than I did then, but I certainly did after I went to my first Spice Girls concert. Even they sounded a lot “better” (in terms of pitch and harmony) on the CDs I had back home, to me, being at the venue and listening to the real Spice Girls singing in front of me was so much more meaningful than just to the same CD over and over again.

In hindsight, I think I really appreciated the fact that they improvised their solos and talked between their singing – it reminded me that the Spice Girls weren’t just about British pop, but they were also about girls celebrating girls and musical freedom. Most importantly, it didn’t matter to me that they didn’t have perfect singing; their flat notes and improvisation made me see that they were real people, not just 5 plastic girls in platform heels.

Spice Girls -Wannabe Live in Paris

The same thing can be said for musicians playing in all forms of genres. Whether it is R&B, hip-hop, rock, or jazz, musical improvisation is the artist’s ability to give new life and animation a piece; renewing our curiosity and interest as listeners. To me, only live music can bring us this unpredictability – music records can only try to replicate real, spontaneous artistic expression.

Sally Kwok