When does tradition and ritual refresh and rejuvenate and when does it grow stale and rote? When does it provide the needed structure to house joyful communion and when does it start to feel like a prison cell? How can we keep it perpetually fresh and vibrant and avoid merely mouthing the words and emptily going through the gestures?
Well, the jazz musician has something to say about that. Pay attention here:
• Learn the melody. The melody is never wrong.
• Learn the chords. They are the essential structures that hold up the building. (But notice they are also called the “changes.”)
• When considering change, first improvise within the changes, find the next needed note that organically arises with integrity and authenticity. Don’t throw out the chords.
• Sometimes you can change the chords and re-harmonize the melody.
• Sometimes you can change the melody (but it still must fit with the chords).
• Sometimes you might need a new song (but consider what and why.)
• Sometimes you throw away the chords and melody altogether (but if you check the record sales of Free Jazz, you’ll see that this should be more occasional than everyday.)
• “Taint’s whatcha do, it’s the way howcha do it.” Invest each note with the full force of your spirit and soul.
Keep this guide handy at the next staff meeting considering the all-school ceremony that you've done every year since forever.
And keep on swinging'!