Posts Tagged ‘improvisation’

The Search for Magic

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

I just saw a film about a man driven by his desire to create and share new experiences in the dining room. Not yours, though—you had to go to his place to have his vision shared with you.

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress was about the Spanish chef Ferran Adrià and the restaurant located north of Barcelona that he led. It recently closed, and I suspect the intense quest for the new and unexpected probably wore out the man. His curiosity was responsible for changing how we think about the experience of eating—an opportunity for good-tasting nourishment and shared conversation, or, better yet, an orchestrated series of surprises and delight?

Adrià’s pursuit of magic made it necessary to close the restaurant every year for six months for “research.” The kitchen staff would retire to Barcelona during the winter months to play with food, examining texture, taste, and presentation. The meticulously documented results were put into play upon their return and fine-tuned in the actual restaurant environment.

What made this all work was not just the intensity and focus of the man, but his willingness to experiment and look beyond the “rules” of the kitchen. I suppose the lesson is that we all need to be open to what lies outside the box—the potential rewards are too great to ignore.

[The movie site.]


Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

After a wonderful evening of listening to free improvisation at the Outpost in Cambridge last night, I took part in a discussion about the phrase “you have to learn the rules before you break them.” It was agreed that it was a relatively meaningless phrase. However, the beauty of the music that proceeded the discussion showed that certain rules were indeed in play. Perhaps a better way to describe it is that they all shared a language that allowed everyone there to mine possibilities and construct some rather varied “instant compositions” without unintentionally stepping on the feet of the other musicians. I say unintentionally because there was some rather purposeful stomping going on. I guess the idea is that you have to know which rules are in play to take advantage of them, because—whether you like or not—there are always rules.