Friday, December 15, 2006

Heading to Groningen

I just found out that my proposed paper was accepted to the 9th International Conference of the Dutch-Flemish Society for Music Theory. As the link indicates, the subject of the conference is Improvisation: Analytical, Theoretical, and Critical Approaches". I'll include the abstract for my paper below, and would appreciate any questions or comments.

The ultimate goal of any improvisation pedagogy is the engendering of quick creativity. The ability to create with innovation and coherence is developed through the development of various cognitive skills. The improvisation pedagogy presented is based upon recent
cognitive studies, identifying what skills are necessary and how best to develop them. This method for stylistically-neutral improvisation is intended to fit within a core two-year aural skills sequence in post-secondary studies. Students learn to improvise in a collaborative environment, one that also encourages the development of keyboard skills. Working in pairs, the performers trade soloing and accompanying duties. This provides a safer environment for exploration, and frees the professor to evaluate performances. It also provides varied experiences from the different duties and from the alterations and imperfections inserted by the partner during practice. Studies such as Pressing (1984), Berliner (1994), Sarath (1996), Johnson-Laird (2002), and Mendonça and Wallace (2004) have stressed the importance of temporal cognition in improvised performance. Thus rhythmic and metric accuracy is placed at the forefront of this improvisation pedagogy. Memory is also a key component of improvisation. Performers must be able to remember what they already played and the form of the improvisation. Kenny and Gellrich (2002) describe eight cognitive processes during improvisation, including three temporal levels each of recall and anticipation. Memorization of self-composed melodies and mimicking exercises help to develop these skills. Sarath's (1996) concept of cognitive event cycles is taken as an important measure of improvement. Greater frequencies of cognitive events, as measured through numbers of possible solutions to a given musical event, give rise to more creative responses to stimulus from the improviser and from collaborators. This is evidenced by variety demonstrated in multiple performances of the same exercise. Pressing (2000) provides an estimate of the expected limits for "improvisational novelty" at ten actions per second, based upon error correction times measured by Welford (1976). This paper summarizes the various cognitive models of improvisation and the framework for the pedagogical system. Sample exercises are demonstrated for both instructional and assessment purposes.
Berliner, Paul. 1994. Thinking in Jazz.
Johnson-Laird, P.N. 2002. How jazz musicians improvise. Music Perception 19(3), 415-442.
Kenny and Gellrich
Mendonça, David, and William A. Wallace. 2004. Cognition in jazz improvisation: an exploratory study. 26th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society.
Pressing, Jeff. 1984. Cognitive processes in improvisation. In Cognitive processes in the perception of art, (ed. W.R. Crozier and A.J. Chapman). North-Holland, Amsterdam.
Pressing. 2000. Improvisation: methods and models. In Generative processes in music.
Sarath, Edward. 1996. A new look at improvisation. Journal of Music Theory, Vol 40, No. 1, 1-38.
Welford, A.T. 1976. Skilled Performance.


Anonymous said...

'any improvisation pedagogy is the engendering of quick creativity. '

Improvisation still needs some background anyway...

Scott said...

What do you mean by "background"? Theoretical underpinnings, or accompanimental background? I agree with the first, but that background changes with different styles of improvisation, and I'm trying to be as general as possible.