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Aesthetic Seminar. Observing Ephemeral Music-making: Towards an Analytical Concept of Improvisation

Anders Eskildsen. PhD fellow in Musiocology at Aarhus University's Department of Communication and Culture, a musician and improviser, and a former visiting graduate studen at the University of California, San Diego.

Info about event


Thursday 24 November 2016,  at 14:15 - 17:00

[Translate to English:] Improvisation might be considered a universal human activity, but only recently (roughly since the 17th century) did the term ’improvisation’ begin to serve as a way of making distinctions between different modes of (artistic) agency. In Western musical culture, the concept of improvisation has been used for celebratory as well as derogatory purposes, ultimately marking certain musical practices as distinct from others. Yet even though the centuries-old fight over improvisation’s value is still being fought to this day, one of the fundamental ontological problems in the currently emerging field of improvisation studies – how to distinguish improvised from non-improvised activities – remains unanswered. This talk does not provide any finite ontological answers, arguing instead that the distinction between improvised and non-improvised doings should be understood as a practical and analytical operation rather than a distinction between absolute categories. This move toward a pragmatic conception of improvisation allows us to discuss in greater detail what it means to improvise, thus providing a useful vantage point for comparative analysis of different practices of improvised music. The talk draws upon the conceptual history of improvisation and includes ethnographic examples from Eskildsen’s ongoing research project on forms of interactivity in contemporary improvised music.


The lecture is open to the public.

Speaker: Anders Eskildsen