Next, consider that the same performer wished to “do his own thing”. He has probably played the piano for some time, has listened throughout his life to music in a variety of styles. There are patterns of key strokes that his fingers have grown accustomed to executing, as a result of hours of practice. So he approaches the piano keyboard with many influences and engrained techniques. He also has certain preferences and a level of physical agility. What will be the result of this pianist attempting to improvise a song based on the Bach Prelude? Is this a more creative endeavor than the task of learning the piece as Bach wrote it? And are the skills needed similar, different, or a combination of the two? Furthermore, will a simple determination on the player’s part to produce something original yield a creative result? What will be the role of the subconscious?
However, this brings up an interesting point: in the view of Welling (in press), all new combinations are constructed from and therefore dependent on previously known elements. Does this constitute creativity? Is recombination really a valid part of the creative process?
But how can we handle the daunting test of filtering through so many variations? It’s just not efficient (or possible) to evaluate them all one by one. A computer is limited as well, as it would have to be programmed to recognize novelty and that is usually what’s unknown. We may know novelty when we see it, but computers don’t work that way! Also, returning to the pianist, how does he cope with the pressure of generating musical variations within the constraints of an improvised performance? Is it possible for him to think quickly enough to plan and execute every note?
Please feel free to listen to the link for a musical example: The song begins on track 4 with the Bach Prelude in C presented as it was originally composed. Then the piece begins again with new material added in (composed by the performer ahead of time). The piece concludes at track 5 with a full, freestyle improvisation based on the first two measures of the prelude. Listen to see if you can “hear” the cognitive and/or creative processes occurring. Arrangement and performance by Pam Szalay.