The Queen’s Gambit, what a show! I always try to learn from what I see and read, and in this case I was fascinated by the many bridges between chess and improvisation and Beth Harmon’s learning process and that of the classical music improviser.
First I introduce the basic similarity of rules leading to many possible outcomes.
Opening, Middle and End game (Form)
Then I talk about the similarity in form and how in chess one can focus on particular parts of the game, with particular moves learnt by heart which can then be varied. In Classical music something similar is possible, especially through the schemata theory used in the amazing book Music in the Galant Style by Robert Gjerdingen.
I introduce the concept of the Do-Re-Mi as an opening move and the Monte as a middle game move (and in between the Cadence as a end game move).
I am then fascinated by the hard work of studying previous games. Both own games for improvement, games of opponents to prepare and other games to learn. In classical music we can do the same using written compositions, recordings of our own improvisations and those of others, and musical analytical books.
Memory and mental faculty
Beth Harmon is extremely good at going through games in her head. Also in music we can use this as a great way to practice. Do your practice during groceries (but don’t walk into somebody).
Intuition and hard work
Although Harmon is a extremely gifted player, she also puts in a lot of work. Similarly in improvisation (music) it’s not all about that genius. Everyone can play chess and everyone can improvise music, you just have to put some time into learning the rules.
Competitions and art
In the past, musical competitions often included improvisation and sometimes were even focused on it. For example when Mozart or Beethoven competed with contemporaries.
Finally, art is in the eye of the beholder. Beth sees it in chess and I think improvisation can help us to see more artfulness in music.
The Queen’s Gambit Trailer
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