Alanis Morissette & Improv Preaching

Lisa turned me on to an article Saturday in Saint John's Telegraph Journal called "Alanis, raw"... about a Canadian musician and artist, Alanis Morissette. I love her music anyway and have always been intrigued by her. Her latest album, Flavors of Entanglement, is just incredible. Pick it up. What intrigues me about her is how she writes her songs and records her albums. I heard years ago that she doesn't write any lyrics until she's actually in the studio with the record button on. It's all spontaneous and impromptu, giving her songs a real and immediate quality:
Typically I go in the studio and whatever I'm contemplating that day will wind up being a song. I don't come in with lyrics... I just go in and let it happen... I don't change anything once we're done. I put all my energy - and this also shows up in other areas of my life - my energy goes into being ready... With songwriting I spend a lot of time living life, accruing all these experiences, journaling, and then by the time I get to the studio, I'm teeming with the drive to write.
Sigsworth (who's worked with Imogen Heap of Frou Frou), worked with Alanis in the studio and says:
So many of my ideas about songwriting have been changed by working with her, because she works so fast as a writer and gets the raw statement of the song so precisely so quickly... She seems to just centre on that focal point, the crisis issue at the heart of the song, and she gets it immediately... There were songs where I would listen and be almost in tears and think, 'Where did this come from? There was nothing here this morning.'
Alanis' approach to the creative art of songwriting and singing has encouraged me over the years in my approach to the sermon or preaching event. If you've been following my blog, you can read a post I wrote last April called Preaching Improv that talks about this. I remember when I first started pastoring churches and preaching I followed the recommended formula of one hour's preparation for each minute of preaching (which, in the Presbyterian Church, was precisely 20 minutes. Do the math.). Over the years I found this increasingly clinical, artificial, impersonal and therefore frustrating. I began to approach teaching less as presenting a carefully formulated bottle of water to giving living water (if there was any) from the well that I had hopefully nourished in my personal life. My preaching became impromptu. Seldom any notes. Often plenty of nerves. But usually always engagement between everyone in the room. This doesn't mean that there isn't any study, writing, contemplation or decision. In fact, the opposite is true. When I used to prepare sermons, it was necessary for me to isolate (insulate?) myself from people and life. Now, I feel more fully engaged with people and with life, documenting my discoveries, revelations and conclusions in concrete experiences, journals, blogs, art, songs and occasional teaching moments.
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