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The Practice of Musical Improvisation

Dialogues with Contemporary Musical Improvisers


Title of the book: The Practice of Musical Improvisation
Author: Editor(s): Bertrand Denzler, Jean-Luc Guionnet
Size:: 224
publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
ISBN-13: 9781501349768
RRP: £21.00 - £96.00 (22.09.2020) depending on format. Follow the Bloomsbury link for up to date information.
PDF: yes

Purchase: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/the-practice-of-musical-improvisation-9781501349768/

About The Practice of Musical Improvisation

Over several years, Bertrand Denzler and Jean-Luc Guionnet have interviewed approximately 50 musicians from various backgrounds about their practice of musical improvisation. Musicians include both the very experienced such as Sophie Agnel, Burkhard Beins, John Butcher, Rhodri Davies, Bill Dixon, Phil Durrant, Axel Dörner, Annette Krebs, Daunik Lazro, Mattin, Seijiro Murayama, Andrea Neumann, Jérôme Noetinger, Evan Parker, Eddie Prévost and Taku Unami, as well as those newer to the field. Asked questions on topics such as the mental processes behind a collective improvisation, the importance of the human factor in improvisation, the strategies used and the way musical decisions are made, the interviewees highlight the habits and customs of a practice, as experienced by those who invent it on a daily basis. The interviews were carefully edited in order to produce a sort of grand discussion that draws an incomplete map of the blurred territory of contemporary improvised music.

Table of contents

1 Starting an Improvisation
2 The Mental State During an Improvisation
3 Listening to the Other Musicians, the Human Factor, the Strategies
4 Memory and Form
5 Process versus Aesthetic Result, Improvisation as a Tool to Make Music versus Music as a Tool to Improvise, Improvisation versus Composition
6 Talking about Improvisation and Music in General
7 Non-idiomatic Improvisation, Experimental Music, Genre Labels
8 Silence and Dynamics
9 Sounds as Material
10 Instrument and Technique
11 Solo Improvisation
12 The Concert Situation, the Audience, the Published Recordings
13 Some Political Issues
14 How I Came to Play This Music
15 How I Listen to Music, the Music I Listen to, Some Hidden Gardens
16 Miscellaneous
List of the Musicians Interviewed
An Ear for Discord: Improvise, They Say


The Practice of Musical Improvisation is not a treatise on improvisation, but an investigation into its axioms and stakes, a series of interrogations of its main contemporary suspects. It thus proposes a set of endogenous discourses, firmly rooted in practice, and whose diversity is the only force capable of revealing the process of improvisation.” –  Matthieu Saladin, Artist, Musician, and Associate Professor in Sound Art, University of Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint Denis, France

“Filled with poetic and provocative thoughts culled from a wealth of interviews with creative practitioners, this book offers substantive grist for the discursive mill of improvisation studies. Key ontological and epistemological questions arise, but the experiential dimension of how improvisation feels shines through most clearly in these engaging pages. Initially not having the speaker's name attached to their words may feel disorienting, but it allows the ideas to swirl around untethered from the personalities who conjured them and offers the initiated reader a chance to guess who said what.” –  David Borgo, Professor and Chair, Department of Music, University of California, San Diego, USA

“Nearly forty years ago, Derek Bailey published Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice in Music, which explored musical improvisation through interviews with a wide range of practitioners. Denzler and Guionnet's The Practice of Musical Improvisation renews Bailey's project, gathering illuminating and candid remarks from some of the most prominent improvisers working today. The book delves deeply into the creative process, the practice of listening and their social and political contexts, revealing the complexity and joy of improvised music.” –  Christoph Cox, Professor of Philosophy at Hampshire College, USA, and author of Sonic Flux: Sound, Art, and Metaphysics (2018)

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