Emergent Temporal Qualities in Musical Improvisation
Musical improvisation is a phenomenon that is found in most cultures and most musical idioms. Consequently, many methods have been used to analyze it, many focusing on structural elements (Arom, 1985; 2004), several on cultural aspects (Sawyer, 2000), and some comparative, due to the similarity of the musical processes found in diverse cultures and styles (Nettl, 1974). Performers interact in various ways to create the improvised musical discourse, communicating with each other, juxtaposing or coordinating musical phrases, for example through processes such as repetition, harmonic complementation, or rhythmical variations. Therefore, inherently, due to musical improvisation being created "in the moment", the musical result strongly depends on the underlying mechanisms and concepts of time of the performers. This involves interactions at different levels - between the performers and within each performer - this multiplicity of (quasi-)simultaneous complex processes makes music improvisation study and analysis a challenge. We argue that a key for a better understanding of improvisation lies precisely in describing and understanding the specificities of the multiple 'times' that can be witnessed during improvisations. We therefore propose the concept of 'Emergent Temporal Qualities', postulating that a musical structure is actualised through emergent mechanisms in various temporal forms, from the neural aspects (Large et al., 2015) to the musical actualisation in the improvisatory (group) context. This concept provides a more flexible and dynamic tool than the usual derivative structural approach found in classic musicological studies, substituting emergence to derivation, and registering interaction, perception and performance (i.e. the physicality of it) as essential components of the analysis of an improvisation. We then demonstrate its use in the free-jazz and live electronics contexts. We then outline some potential developments, notably in semi-automated music analysis and in the analysis of other musical genres.
Citation : Dahan, K. (2017) Emergent Temporal Qualities in Musical Improvisation.
Research Group : Music, Technology and Innovation Research Centre
Research Institute : Music, Technology and Innovation - Institute for Sonic Creativity (MTI2)
Peer Reviewed : Yes
- Leicester Media School 
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