Improvisation used to be a tenant of American music. Almost every instrumentalist was required to play a little something on his or her own. Yes, I am talking about Jazz. Or Blues.
Then, in the beginning of the 50’s, rock and roll changed that landscape. Band would go on stage performing exactly what they had recorded in the studio. Music lost quite a bit in the process. Actually, I shouldn’t say Music, I should say players. Music is Music, whether it’s pre-decided or improvised, as a listener, most of the time, I get the same amount of pleasure from it. But players had to adapt. They were not required to improvise anymore.
Then came electronic music. That was right around the 90’s. And instrumentalists slowly disappeared. Major recording studios started to close, replaced by home studio enterprises that could muster a whole orchestra with the push of a button. Many studio musicians were forced to find other ways of income. The beginning of the 90’s were the last Hurrah for studio musicians.
So, where does all of this fit with improvisation? Well, it doesn’t. A lot of what we hear in the radio is done by machines. The composers and arrangers still make a comfortable living, but studio musicians are a dying breed.
I think, as far as improvisation is concerned, the guitar player was the last one to go. Those long psychedelic guitar poems of the 70’s are rapidly going out of style. To the point that Guitar Center, for example, is struggling to stay in business or that guitar teachers everywhere report less of an interest from families that their little ones pick up the guitar, or any other instrument.
Improvisation, thanks to Hip-hop, is firmly planted into vocals. And the young ones love Hip hop. My children’s school listen almost only to that kind of music.