Improvising with LEGOs

Written by peterkienle on March 7, 2009

My wife actually got me a set of LEGO Mindstorms for my birthday. I am done buying guitars. For those who don’t know what Mindstorms are:
These are LEGO Technic (not the blocks but the parts that let you build all sorts of vehicles, airplanes, cranes, robots – probably guitars if you push it). The set comes with a few motors, sensors and a small computer which holds programs that control whatever robot – or thing – you build.

Here’s the musical analogy part:
As I am toying around with this I realize that having all the hundreds of parts in one big box really slows things down. Especially finding these very small pins takes time. On a trip to the hardware store I bought a few compartmentalized boxes people use to hold screws and other small stuff on their work benches and then I sorted all parts out and now I can find them quickly.

Somehow that whole process of learning what actually to do with this stuff reminded me of learning about jazz.

1) you start with a big, unsorted box of LEGOs

2) you put together small things from a few blocks to see how it works

3) you look at existing models and try to copy them

4) you start getting a little experience, what parts you can use for which job

5) you start organizing parts so you don’t always have to search in the big box

6) you become aware of what you actually CAN build with what you have

7) you organize your LEGOs in various compartmentalized boxes

8) you develop a ‘style’, things you like to built

9) you start re-using subsections you developed

10) your perception of what you CAN and WANT to build is intimately connected to how you organized the components

11) over time you might actually store pieces you NEVER use in a separate box

blah, blah

This could go on and on. From my perspective this is pretty much how we learn to improvise. Seems the main thing is to not sort our parts too much. You want to keep access to the big, unsorted box of ideas.

I guess I am getting old and a bit bored by ‘what scale goes over what chord’.

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