Four33 is hosted and produced by Carey West and Stephen Donnelly
Improvisation is a phenomenon with deep roots across cultures and histories. Yet defining and understanding this complex and slippery term for the thing we are doing while we are making can be as elusive as it is pertinent. While improvisation is commonly associated with music, dance, or theatre practices, this podcast examines how elements of improvisation appear in our everyday lives, providing an opportunity to reflect on the breadth of human interactions.
Jazz music is one place where improvisation is recognized as a defining feature. In both its past and present forms, it is a music intimately linked to the political realities of the people who create it. Scholars Daniel Fischlin, Ajay Heble, and George Lipsitz have identified the revolutionary implications of musical improvisation as a cultural practice. It is no accident, they argue, that people who endured displacement, trafficking, slavery and personal systemic disregard are also the innovators who created music that combined established traditions with individual expression. In their book, The Fierce Urgency of Now, they state that improvisation “teaches us to make ‘a way’ out of ‘no way’ by cultivating the capacity to discern hidden elements of possibility, hope, and promise in even the most discouraging circumstances.” (Fischlin, Heble & Lipsitz 2013) An apt description for the times we live in!
Within this frame, the Four33 podcast examines the role of improvisation as it appears in our daily lives. As we currently grapple with the global pandemic, shifting economies, and civil rights failures improvisation has become a crucial survival skill for a global community in flux. Fortunately we can look to the experience of many who have the wisdom and agility required to create meaningful social change.
Drawing our name from a composition by John Cage titled “Four Minutes and 33 Seconds of Silence,” which instructs the musicians not to play, leaving the audience listening to the incidental sounds around them, this podcast series harmonizes playful tactics with poignant commentary. 4-3-3 is also a reference to a powerful playbook position in the game of soccer (football) known for its flexibility and responsiveness.
The podcast Four33 examines the presence of creativity across social and political arenas. Every two weeks, we’ll wade into the deep and often messy waters of improvisatory practices with the keen attention and playful sensibility that make art and life possible. Alongside robust discussion on important themes and issues, the podcast includes regular creative interludes, irregular instalments of sound experimentation, on-the-street interviews and suggestions on how and where to experience the podcast–taking theory and fun to the sensual, analogue world. By probing the expertise of people who’ve had to improvise their existence in the face of oppression, we ask how playful imagination can shape culture and create much needed social change.