This post starts from Allan’s comment on why storytellers should not practice in front of a mirror where he wrote:

I have a slightly different problem – one of the things that first attracted me to oral storytelling was its supposedly improvisatory nature. I say ‘supposedly’ because I gradually came to realize that a lot of storytellers (including many that I really admire) do an awful lot of work on paper, even down to creating a more or less ‘set’ text.

I hate doing this although I have done it several times, as it’s really the only practical thing to do if you’re working with a group *and* you want to have precise technical cues as well.

I’m also blessed (or cursed, depending on how you look at it) with an excellent oral memory – at least in the context of storytelling. Once I’ve come up with a form of words for something, I can find it very hard to break free of it…this can be quite un-conscious

Thus practicing becomes something of a dilemma, as it’s required in order to really properly learn the story, grow into it (never really finishes, I don’t think) but I don’t want to ‘set’ it too early…

When looking at improvisation concerning storytelling, most people relate to text meaning one of two things:

  • The ability to alter an existing text.
  • The ability to create a text from scratch on the spot.

So here is my first question: if a musician is playing a classical text and considering he cannot change even a single note, could he be improvising?

I’ll give you a hint about my position on this issue – it’s not only about the text. It’s about the ability to be in the state of “active zero” holding two major capabilities – to be approachable enough to be influenced from what’s going on in the moment; to be skillful enough to answer those influences with a decision that will keep the story and event on the right track. In addition I’ll say I don’t allow my students to write down their stories or learn them by heart from a written text. There is a possibility to “own” a story even if you learn it by heart but that takes way more practice than most storytellers whould like to hear about…



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