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- Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice In Music
- Assessment of Improvisation in Music
- Assessment of Improvisation in Music
- Derek Bailey - Improvisation - Its Nature and Practice in Music
This article provides an overview of research on assessment of improvisation in music and offers suggestions for increasing its centrality in music teaching and learning. With listening, improvising, reading, and composing as context for music teaching and learning, it covers historical and philosophical foundations for, and research on, creativity and improvisation.
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Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice In Music
I suggest that analysis-as-improvisation thereby reflects part of what analysis has historically accomplished as well as the goals analysts implicitly pursue. Rather, I would argue, improvisation is a mode of action, or even an attitude, that involves not only degrees of spontaneity but also an implicit or explicit valuation of such freedom with respect to the activity. This hierarchy of values recapitulates, almost uncannily, the structure identified by Bruno Nettl in which compositions take precedence over improvised performances recordings of which may be treated as compositions for the sake of analysis.
To put this in the form of a question: If music analysis is first and foremost an activity, and improvisation is a way of acting, in what sense can analysis itself be understood as improvisational? She describes the first, improvisation impromptu , as the sort of improvisation prompted by unforeseen turns of event that force one to adjust a planned course of action; as we say, one improvises a solution.
How often does one analyze a piece because something about it forces a question: why is that moment so beautiful? Or, more circumspectly, why did the music go like that? And: what do I do with this as a listener? These ex post facto attempts may be conceptualized as improvisation extempore.
Part of the equipment for analysis may be a codified theory such as neo- Riemannian harmonic functions, or Schenkerian voice-leading, with which one attempts to link understanding and hearing, and perhaps, to further develop both. Yet the irreconcilability of analytical frameworks with improvisation is only apparent. In this idiom, famously developed by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and others in the s, chromatic neighbors to chord tones, melodic resolutions to extended triadic sonorities, rhythmic syncopations within a fast eighth-note swing feel are legitimate moves; sustained non-chord tones, rigidly straight eighths, and a-metric, chromatically planed quartal arpeggiations are not.
Could one do away with idioms of listening altogether? Again, Bailey is suggestive. The skill and intellect required is whatever is available. Lewin refuses to let musical events simply be, a methodological point he famously stressed elsewhere The very question implies something beyond or outside a Markov-chain of events that constitute a life.
Just as the improvising performer refuses to accept that performance should aspire to realize a pre-given, ideal model, so the improvising analyst does not settle into an ideal model of listening. He or she develops theories and interpretations, only to replace them when they no longer provide access to new ways of listening to the music they take as their object.
But as theologian Jeremy S. Begbie has argued in his work on improvisation Begbie , that might not be a bad thing; constraints enable freedom. And as I noted earlier, the constraints on an analysis extempore are not so different from those of the performed music to which we are happy to grant the status of improvisation.
Whereas improvised musical performance enacts structural changes in the deployment of musical materials in an attempt to transcend and transform expressive habits, free analysis entails semi-directed, spontaneous changes in the structure of listening that transcend and transform receptive habits. Things that can happen but perhaps rarely do. Within the Western classical tradition, the ascent of music analysis as a cultural practice in the nineteenth century coincides with the decline of improvised performances.
Perhaps a decrease in poietic difference resulting from a gradually solidified canon of masterworks and the suppression of improvised performance practices led some listeners to compensate by increasing the production of esthetic difference through analysis. The emergence of analysis as an independent discipline around the time that musical texts could be truly fixed by recording is also suggestive.
For many theorists, the idea that musical works have a structure has given way to a more flexible attitude. Here again, we return to the moment of listening and question how such moments might spontaneously become something other than what they have been. If what I have suggested here is convincing as far as it goes, then music analytic studies might benefit from closer engagement with improvisation studies; the questions raised by the latter bear on the goals, methodology, epistemology, and ethics of analysis.
No one need abandon the idea that analysis is valuable because it produces representable, communicable, and durable knowledge about its object, just as no one need claim that recordings of improvised performances are not valuable documents or as musical object in their own right. I only suggest that we can analyze music in an improvisational mode in order to unfix habits so that we might listen otherwise.
Agawu, Kofi. Bailey, Derek. Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice in Music. New York: Da Capo Press. Begbie, Jeremy. Theology, Music and Time. Bent, Ian. London, UK: Macmillan. Brown, Bill. Cook, Nicholas. A Guide to Musical Analysis. London: J. Dubiel, Joseph. Goehr, Lydia. Kramer, Lawrence. Music as Cultural Practice, — Berkeley: University of California Press. Lewin, David. New York: Oxford University Press. Lewis, George E. Nattiez, Jean Jacques.
Music and Discourse: Toward a Semiology of Music. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Nettl, Bruno. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Nooshin, Laudan. Rehding, Alexander. New Perspectives in Music History and Criticism. Rilke, Rainer Maria. Translated Edward Snow. New York: North Point Press. Rings, Steven. Tonality and Transformation. Whittall, Arnold. Oxford University Press. Accessed March I would like to thank them for offering both encouragement and thoughtful criticisms.
Return to text. Consider the expansive literature cited by George E. Lewis in his response to this panel. Such moments are what Lawrence Kramer would call hermeneutic windows; see Kramer It is of course recording that makes possible the very idea of combining traditional analytic practice with improvised music. Items appearing in MTO may be saved and stored in electronic or paper form, and may be shared among individuals for purposes of scholarly research or discussion, but may not be republished in any form, electronic or print, without prior, written permission from the author s , and advance notification of the editors of MTO.
Exceptions to these requirements must be approved in writing by the editors of MTO, who will act in accordance with the decisions of the Society for Music Theory. This document and all portions thereof are protected by U. PDF text. Return to beginning.
Assessment of Improvisation in Music
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Assessment of Improvisation in Music
Post a comment. Guitar player Derek Bailey began improvising in the early s. In writing about its various forms he managed to describe improvisation and portray its ubiquity with respect to individual performers; Improvisation enjoys the curious distinction of being both the most widely practiced of all musical activities and the least acknowledged and understood.
Derek Bailey - Improvisation - Its Nature and Practice in Music
This content was uploaded by our users and we assume good faith they have the permission to share this book. If you own the copyright to this book and it is wrongfully on our website, we offer a simple DMCA procedure to remove your content from our site. Start by pressing the button below! Born in Sheffield, Derek Bailey studied music with C.
Fascinated by the experience of my rather primitive attempts to improvise with the trumpet in the seminar jazz ensemble, I felt the urge to reflect on a theoretical level what exactly makes a good improvisation and how to gain the skills that are necessary for it. From its general connotation, the word improvisation conveys the implication that it is something without preparation and without consideration, a completely ad hoc activity, frivolous and inconsequential, lacking in design and method. But from my own experience I know that this is not the truth. Behind the act of improvisation lies depth and complexity that requires great skill and devotion, preparation, training, commitment, and personality.