Many years ago I put out the call for words of advice for musicians at jams. This is one of the best writings to come back. I’m afraid I don’t remember who wrote it. (If you wrote it please let me know so I can give you credit)
Improvised Music at Contact Improvisation Jams
Yes, I am a contact improvisation dancer and a musician. The keyword here is “sensitivity“.
Especially in a jam the musician must be keenly aware of how he is impacting upon the environment, how the dancers are responding, and how and when to maintain silence. Playing for a jam is NOT performing. The music (sounds) can be dynamic, but are usually best when kept subtle and minimal. The subconscious effect of sounds and music on the dancers is very powerful. The more transparent the musician and his playing the better. For a jam, more than two, or three musicians is usually too much.
Drums must be used with extreme discretion. Tempo and rhythm should cover a wide range and vary often. Volume and density of sound should not venture too often from out of the “background” level, although when done with taste and good timing loud passages can be good. Ideally, the musician is a dancer. Even if not, it’s good if he/she can treat the music as a “body of sound” which interacts with the dancers; the musician and the movers are literally having a dance together.
If these points are observed and the right musicians are involved, music can truly enhance and support a contact jam. Normally music would not fill more than a third to a half of the jam. Every situation is different. Just pay attention, be sensitive, be humble, and it never hurts to ask for feedback from the room! Good luck.
touch the sky
touch the ground
and keep dancin’