In this article I will argue that acts of improvisation are not productively understood in opposition to other practices which form our wider musical culture. Improvisation might be better understood as both rooted in, but not limited by, personal and cultural memory. Improvisational activities are legible to the performer and audience through a shared understanding of social norms, but only become a singular instance of improvisation through unique performative actions. This tension between experience and invention is played out in a dialogue between performer and listener, demanding a response that crucially takes the form of self-articulation, or autobiography. Finally, I contend that it is from this position that improvisation offers the possibility to transgress established personal and cultural identities.
ASJC Scopus subject areas