Music is a language on its own and like all languages, there are visual symbols used in writing music. It is through these symbols that musicians use to compose and communicate with each other when performing music. To gain literacy in music, one has to learn music rudiments and music theory to be able to read and write music.
With literacy comes the need to apply what one has learned. There are two main areas of application here, which are, to perform and to create music. To perform music well, one has to be able to understand every notation, symbol, musical term, style of music, etc. To create music is to compose music. Just like in languages, learning the alphabets and using them to write an essay is like composing a piece of music. Where composing and performing happens simultaneously, it is called music improvisation.
The knowledge of the music theory therefore empowers the musician to be able to read music, to perform music, to analyze music and to create music. While every music student learns music theory to be able to read and perform music, few use music theory to compose and/or arrange music. Even fewer know how to use music theory in improvisation. To me, this is where one of the thrills of learning and knowing music lies.
Improvisation is where music creativity is taken steps further. To improvise, one needs numerous facilities in their musical mind to work together. Here are some words to share with you from Jonathan Chen, a performing musician who has a Masters Degree in Music:
"I've been exposed to music since I was a child. However, it has only in the last five years or so that I've been able to fully appreciate the art of music making, which I discovered when first experimenting with contemporary Western music, namely, jazz. It involves improvisation, which simply put, it is spontaneous composition followed by the immediate execution of a particular musical idea. Such ideas are usually heavily dependent on what is, or has been played as an accompaniment at that particular time. Improvisation allows me to freely express my musical artistry as well as to see how I may push the boundaries of conventional harmony (making "wrong" notes correct ones, in a specific context)"