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Chapter 9
Playing Together: Four Levels of
Improvisation and Two Axes of
In Chapter 8, I proposed the idea of Improvised Music practice as the real-time
employment of a repertoire of individual, ‘known’ materials,1 in a predominantly
‘unknown’ and ever-changing group context.
Having examined the nature, flexibility, acquisition and development of these materials,
as well as their preparation and practise, I now turn to the collective aspects of
Improvised Music-making - investigating ‘known’ and ‘unknown’ elements of interaction,
and suggesting a range of conventions and expectations which enabled musicians to
perform together.
Following a definition of ‘real’ or ‘pure’ improvisation (in terms of Improvised
Music-specific concepts of ‘risk’, ‘the moment’ and ‘the field’, as well as issues of
trust, awareness and authenticity), the second section of this chapter will examine
the need for the two axes of appreciation when examining group processes (separating
musical/aesthetic/sounding and processual/interactional levels of Improvised Music
performance). A third section will use this analytical framework to explore three further
levels of improvising, showing how (as distinct from ‘real’ improvisation) musicians
also employed conscious interventions (tricks and strategies), pre-meditated rules and
concepts, and ‘composed’ elements, in order to minimise ‘risk’, and to ensure more
concrete and predictable ‘musical’ outcomes.
As well as occasional uses of ‘controlled-discontrol’.