Horowitz Does Not Repeat Either! Free Improvisation, Repeatability and Normativity

Ruta, Marcello (2017). Horowitz Does Not Repeat Either! Free Improvisation, Repeatability and Normativity. Proceedings of the European Society for Aesthetics, 9, pp. 510-532. European Society for Aesthetics

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A common way of characterising improvisation, and even more specifically free improvisation, is to point out its unrepeatability. Such characterisation misses the point. If we consider improvisation as a sonic product, the above characterisation is plainly false, as it is possible for a performer, who has never been acquainted with a previously improvised performance, to improvise by chance that same sound structure a second time. If we consider improvisation as an overall performance, then unrepeatability becomes a non-informative characterisation, as it doesn’t help at all in distinguishing an improvised performance from any other live usical performance. Another possibility is to characterise free improvisation as neither a composition nor a performance of a normative sound structure. Following this characterisation, however, the risk of cataloguing performances of standard jazz as free improvisations is unavoidable, as many of them do not intend to instantiate the normative structure provided by the standard, but take it only as inspiration for improvisation. In order to provide a plausible characterisation of free improvisation, I will develop my argument in two different steps. In a first step, I will characterise free improvisation as a non-interpretative musical performance. This does
not exclude that in free improvisations existing musical material can be used, as is often the case. But, differently from a standard jazz performance, the performer does not commit in advance to any specific musical material to be used (as normative sound structure or as simple inspiration) for his performance. In a second step, I will make use of Niklas Luhmann’s notions of code and program, and thereby characterise free improvisation as a selfprogramming musical performance. These two steps will provide respectively the necessary and sufficient identity conditions for a free musical improvisation.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Philosophy
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Philosophy > Theoretical Philosophy

UniBE Contributor:

Ruta, Marcello

Subjects:

100 Philosophy
100 Philosophy > 110 Metaphysics
700 Arts
700 Arts > 780 Music

ISSN:

1664 – 5278

Publisher:

European Society for Aesthetics

Language:

English

Submitter:

Marcello Ruta

Date Deposited:

23 Feb 2021 09:41

Last Modified:

23 Feb 2021 09:41

BORIS DOI:

10.48350/150515

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/150515

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