Free improvisation: nod to the future, crystallization of the present or reminiscence of the past ?

Sudan, Raphaël (17 December 2021). Free improvisation: nod to the future, crystallization of the present or reminiscence of the past ? In: Musicking Collective. Bern - HKB (online). 15.-17.12.2021.

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Based on the fundamental question Is free improvisation a musical genre , this presentation, will investigate the problematic of the definition of Free Improvisation. Since its appearance in the beginning of the 1970s, free improvisation has worn different aspects and even names : Non-idiomatic improvisation, generative improvisation, free music, intuitive music... Some of those names incarnate either an alternative, a synonymous or a subgenre of the generic. Each concept and approach is bound to a specific geographical, cultural and temporal context. Every musical situation gives life to a certain music, which dies at the end of the performance until it is reborn in a new context. It seems impossible and useless to give free improvisation an absolute universal definition, because the musical output is not its only important parameter. Therefore, the use of standard musicological tools is unsufficient because as a collective creative activity, free improvisation's phenomenology is also related to social sciences. When free improvisation entered into the academy, the need to give it a clear definition was even more urgent, and more ambiguous at the same time. The post-68 revolutionnary urgency that once generated this music was gone, and it is legitimate to question wether academy polished its subversive underground characteristics, or if it kept its wilderness. When free improvisers define their activity, in articles, interviews or round tables, there is a significant difference that can be explained according to the context. Many improvisers prefer to consider free improvisation as an attitude rather than as a style ; which gives it a certain lattitude, but can also be considered as a lack of responsability by the performers. A closer look into those two distinct considerations will show that a transversal use of attitude and style can give a clearer and broader conceptualisation of what free improvisation can be.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


Bern Academy of the Arts
Bern Academy of the Arts > Institute Interpretation
Bern Academy of the Arts > Institute Interpretation > Intersection of Contemporary Music


Sudan, Raphaël0000-0002-8434-3734


M Music and Books on Music > M Music
M Music and Books on Music > ML Literature of music
M Music and Books on Music > MT Musical instruction and study




[UNSPECIFIED] Im Brennpunkt der Entwicklungen » : HKB Interpretation 2019




Raphaël Sudan

Date Deposited:

11 Jan 2022 16:09

Last Modified:

11 Jan 2022 16:09

Uncontrolled Keywords:

Improvisation, free improvisation, free jazz, intuitive music, undeterminacy in music, avant-garde, experimental music




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