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(Re)thinking improvisation and composition: two merging practices

Göran Folkestad, professor of Music education

Recent research shows that today computers and new technology are well established in professional composition – of all kinds and genres of music. This has lead to a situation in which it might no longer be relevant to make a distinction between computer-based composition and ‘traditional’ composition. Today, almost every composer, regardless of whether they are working on the basis of avantgardist or traditional artistic approaches to composition, use computers in one way or another. Accordingly, one aspect of contemporary research is to study how, not if, computers are used.
It is also true that performing artists use new technological equipments as instruments and parts of their improvisational activities on stage.

One result of this development is that improvisation and composition might no longer be treated as distinguished and separated concepts. On the contrary, these concepts appear to be increasingly merged in contemporary improvisational and compositional practices – composition is a key aspect of improvisation and improvisation is, as a result of new technology, increasingly used as a method in composition.

In this project, the development described above will be investigated based on a retrospective reflection on improvisation and composition, by means of traditional instruments as well as by using new technologies. This will serve as a point of departure for reflection on concluded and ongoing studies within this area, leading up to the suggestion that when studying and analysing improvisation and composition, these concepts might rather be considered as two sides of the same coin; one cannot exist without the other.
In conclusion, as re-thinking improvisation also implies re-thinking composition, new concepts, such as, ‘comprovisation’ or ‘improposition’ might be suggested in order to describe this development.