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Musical improvisation (also known as musical extemporization) is the creative activity of immediate ("in the moment")
musical composition Musical composition can refer to an Originality, original piece or work of music, either Human voice, vocal or Musical instrument, instrumental, the musical form, structure of a musical piece or to the process of creating or writing a new pie ...
, which combines performance with communication of emotions and instrumental technique as well as spontaneous response to other
musician A musician is a person who Composer, composes, Conducting, conducts, or Performing arts, performs music. According to the United States Employment Service, "musician" is a general Terminology, term used to designate one who follows music as a pr ...

musician
s. Sometimes
music Music is the of arranging s in time through the of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the aspects of all human societies. General include common elements such as (which governs and ), (and its associated concepts , , and ...

music
al ideas in improvisation are spontaneous, but may be based on chord changes in
classical music Classical music generally refers to the formal musical tradition of the Western world The Western world, also known as the West, refers to various s, s and , depending on the context, most often consisting of the majority of , , and ...

classical music
and many other kinds of music. One definition is a "performance given extempore without planning or preparation". Another definition is to "play or sing (music) extemporaneously, by inventing
variation Variation or Variations may refer to: Science and mathematics * Variation (astronomy), any perturbation of the mean motion or orbit of a planet or satellite, particularly of the moon * Genetic variation thumb File:Genetic Variation and Inhe ...
s on a melody or creating new melodies, rhythms and harmonies". ''
Encyclopædia Britannica The (Latin for "British Encyclopaedia") is a general knowledge English-language encyclopaedia which is now published exclusively as an online encyclopedia, online encyclopaedia. It was formerly published by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., ...
'' defines it as "the extemporaneous composition or free performance of a musical passage, usually in a manner conforming to certain stylistic norms but unfettered by the prescriptive features of a specific musical text." Improvisation is often done within (or based on) a pre-existing harmonic framework or
chord progression In a musical composition File:Chord chart.svg, 250px, Jazz and rock genre musicians may memorize the melodies for a new song, which means that they only need to provide a chord chart to guide improvising musicians. Musical composition, music ...

chord progression
. Improvisation is a major part of some types of 20th-century music, such as
blues Blues is a music genre A music genre is a conventional category that identifies some pieces of music as belonging to a shared tradition or set of conventions. It is to be distinguished from ''musical form'' and musical style, although in ...

blues
,
rock music Rock music is a broad genre of popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and performed by people with little or no ...
,
jazz Jazz is a music genre A music genre is a conventional category that identifies some pieces of music Music is the of arranging s in time through the of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the aspects of all human s ...
, and
jazz fusion Jazz fusion (also known as fusion and progressive jazz) is a music genre that developed in the late 1960s when musicians combined jazz Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana, Unite ...
, in which instrumental performers improvise solos, melody lines and accompaniment parts. Throughout the eras of the
Western art music Classical music is art music produced or rooted in the traditions of Western culture, including both Religious music, liturgical (Religion, religious) and secular music, secular music. Historically, the term 'classical music' refers specifically ...
tradition, including the
Medieval In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of ...
,
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in ...
,
Baroque The Baroque (, ; ) is a style Style is a manner of doing or presenting things and may refer to: * Architectural style, the features that make a building or structure historically identifiable * Design, the process of creating something * Fashi ...
,
Classical Classical may refer to: European antiquity *Classical antiquity, a period of history from roughly the 7th or 8th century B.C.E. to the 5th century C.E. centered on the Mediterranean Sea *Classical architecture, architecture derived from Greek and ...
, and
Romantic Romantic may refer to: Genres and eras * The Romantic era, an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement of the 18th and 19th centuries ** Romantic music, of that era ** Romantic poetry, of that era ** Romanticism in science, of that er ...
periods, improvisation was a valued skill. J. S. Bach,
Handel George Frideric (or Frederick) Handel (; baptised , ; 23 February 1685 – 14 April 1759) was a German-British Baroque The Baroque (, ; ) is a of , , , , and other arts that flourished in Europe from the early 17th century until the 1740 ...
,
Mozart Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 17565 December 1791), baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical periodClassical period may refer to: *Classical Greece, speci ...

Mozart
, , ,
Liszt Franz Liszt (; hu, Liszt Ferencz, link=no, in modern usage ''Liszt Ferenc'' ; 22 October 181131 July 1886) was a Hungarian composer, virtuoso A virtuoso (from Italian ''virtuoso'' or , "virtuous", Late Latin Late Latin ( la, Latinitas ...

Liszt
, and many other famous composers and musicians were known especially for their improvisational skills. Improvisation might have played an important role in the monophonic period. The earliest treatises on
polyphony Polyphony is a type of musical consisting of two or more simultaneous lines of independent melody, as opposed to a musical texture with just one voice, , or a texture with one dominant melodic voice accompanied by , . Within the context of the ...
, such as the
Musica enchiriadis ''Musica enchiriadis'' is an anonymous Anonymous may refer to: * Anonymity, the state of an individual's identity, or personally identifiable information, being publicly unknown ** Anonymous work, a work of art or literature that has an unnamed or ...
(ninth century), indicate that added parts were improvised for centuries before the first notated examples. However, it was only in the fifteenth century that theorists began making a hard distinction between improvised and written music. Some classical music forms contained sections for improvisation, such as the
cadenza , K. 595. The I– V– I progression at the cadenza is typical of the Classical concerto. '' in Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 File:Mozart - Violin Concerto K. 271a, III - cadenza.png, upright=1.8, Cadenza in Mozart's Violin Concerto ...

cadenza
in solo
concerto A concerto (; plural ''concertos'', or ''concerti'' from the Italian plural) is, from the Late Baroque (music), late Baroque era, mostly understood as an instrumental composition, written for one or more solo (music), soloists accompanied by an or ...

concerto
s, or the preludes to some keyboard suites by Bach and Handel, which consist of elaborations of a progression of chords, which performers are to use as the basis for their improvisation. Handel and Bach frequently improvised on the
harpsichord A harpsichord ( it, clavicembalo, french: clavecin, german: Cembalo, es, clavecín, pt, cravo, nl, klavecimbel) is a musical instrument A musical instrument is a device created or adapted to make musical sounds. In principle, any object that ...
or
pipe organ #REDIRECT Pipe organ #REDIRECT Pipe organ #REDIRECT Pipe organ The pipe organ is a musical instrument A musical instrument is a device created or adapted to make Music, musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can be consid ...

pipe organ
. In the Baroque era, performers improvised ornaments and
basso continuo Basso continuo parts, almost universal in the Baroque The Baroque (, ; ) is a Style (visual arts), style of Baroque architecture, architecture, Baroque music, music, Baroque dance, dance, Baroque painting, painting, Baroque sculpture, sculpture a ...
keyboard players improvised
chord voicing In music theory Music theory is the study of the practices and possibilities of music. ''The Oxford Companion to Music'' describes three interrelated uses of the term "music theory". The first is the "Elements of music, rudiments", that are nee ...
s based on
figured bass Figured bass, also called thoroughbass, is a kind of musical notation Music notation or musical notation is any system used to visually represent aurally perceived music played with instrument (music), instruments or singing, sung by the hum ...
notation. However, in the 20th and early 21st century, as common practice Western
art music Art music (alternatively called classical music, cultivated music, serious music, and canonic music) is music considered to be of high aesthetic value. It typically implies advanced structural and theoretical considerationsJacques Siron, "Musi ...
performance became institutionalized in symphony orchestras, opera houses and ballets, improvisation has played a smaller role. At the same time, some contemporary
composers A composer (Latin wikt:compono, ''compōnō''; literally "one who puts together") is a person who writes musical composition, music, especially classical music in any form, including vocal music (for a Singing, singer or choir), instrumental musi ...
from the 20th and 21st century have increasingly included improvisation in their creative work. In
Indian classical music Indian classical music is the classical music Classical music generally refers to the formal musical tradition of the Western world The Western world, also known as the West, refers to various regions, nations and state (polity) ...
, improvisation is a core component and an essential criterion of performances. In
Indian Indian or Indians refers to people or things related to India, or to the indigenous people of the Americas, or Aboriginal Australians until the 19th century. People South Asia * Indian people, people of Indian nationality, or people who come ...
,
Afghan Afghan (Pashto Pashto (,; / , ), sometimes spelled Pukhto or Pakhto, is an Eastern Iranian language The Eastern Iranian languages are a subgroup of the Iranian languages The Iranian or Iranic languages are a branch of the Indo-Iran ...
, Pakistani, and
Bangladeshi Bangladeshis ( bn, বাংলাদেশি ; formerly known as Bangalees) are the citizens Citizenship is the Status (law), status of a person recognized under the law of a country (and/or local jurisdiction) of belonging to thereof. I ...
classical music, ''
raga A ''raga'' or ''raag'' (IAST The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST) is a transliteration scheme that allows the lossless romanisation Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the science ...

raga
'' is the "tonal framework for composition and improvisation". The ''Encyclopædia Britannica'' defines a raga as "a melodic framework for improvisation and composition".


In Western music


Medieval period

Although melodic improvisation was an important factor in European music from the earliest times, the first detailed information on improvisation technique appears in ninth-century treatises instructing singers on how to add another melody to a pre-existent liturgical chant, in a style called
organum ''Organum'' () is, in general, a plainchant Plainsong (calque In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and mo ...

organum
. Throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance, improvised
counterpoint In music, counterpoint is the relationship between two or more musical lines (or voices) which are harmonically interdependent yet independent in rhythm Rhythm (from Greek , ''rhythmos'', "any regular recurring motion, symmetry"—) ge ...

counterpoint
over a
cantus firmus Image:Dufay Mass cantus firmus.png, 350px, Guillaume Dufay, Dufay – Mass (music), mass cantus firmus, derived from "Se la face ay pale". In music, a ''cantus firmus'' ("fixed melody") is a pre-existing melody forming the basis of a polyphony, po ...
(a practice found both in church music and in popular dance music) constituted a part of every musician's education, and is regarded as the most important kind of unwritten music before the Baroque period.


Renaissance period

Following the invention of music printing at the beginning of the sixteenth century, there is more detailed documentation of improvisational practice, in the form of published instruction manuals, mainly in Italy. In addition to improvising counterpoint over a cantus firmus, singers and instrumentalists improvised melodies over
ostinato In music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time through the elements of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the universal cultural aspects of all human societies. General definitions of music include common elements suc ...

ostinato
chord patterns, made elaborate embellishments of melodic lines, and invented music extemporaneously without any predetermined schemata. Keyboard players likewise performed extempore, freely formed pieces.


Baroque period

The kinds of improvisation practised during the Renaissance—principally either the embellishing of an existing part or the creation of an entirely new part or parts—continued into the early Baroque, though important modifications were introduced. Ornamentation began to be brought more under the control of composers, in some cases by writing out embellishments, and more broadly by introducing symbols or abbreviations for certain ornamental patterns. Two of the earliest important sources for vocal ornamentation of this sort are Giovanni Battista Bovicelli's ''Regole, passaggi di musica'' (1594), and the preface to
Giulio Caccini Giulio Romolo Caccini (also Giulio Romano) (Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, regio ...
's collection, ''Le nuove musiche'' (1601/2)


Melodic instruments

Eighteenth-century manuals make it clear that performers on the flute, oboe, violin, and other melodic instruments were expected not only to ornament previously composed pieces, but also spontaneously to improvise preludes.


Basso continuo

The
basso continuo Basso continuo parts, almost universal in the Baroque The Baroque (, ; ) is a Style (visual arts), style of Baroque architecture, architecture, Baroque music, music, Baroque dance, dance, Baroque painting, painting, Baroque sculpture, sculpture a ...
(accompaniment) was mainly improvised, the composer usually providing no more than a harmonic sketch called the
figured bass Figured bass, also called thoroughbass, is a kind of musical notation Music notation or musical notation is any system used to visually represent aurally perceived music played with instrument (music), instruments or singing, sung by the hum ...
. The process of improvisation was called ''realization''.


Organ improvisation and church music

: ''see Organ improvisers'' According to ''Encyclopædia Britannica'', the "monodic textures that originated about 1600 ... were ready-made, indeed in large measure intended, for improvisational enhancement, not only of the treble parts but also, almost by definition, of the bass, which was figured to suggest no more than a minimal chordal outline." Improvised accompaniment over a
figured bass Figured bass, also called thoroughbass, is a kind of musical notation Music notation or musical notation is any system used to visually represent aurally perceived music played with instrument (music), instruments or singing, sung by the hum ...
was a common practice during the Baroque era, and to some extent the following periods. Improvisation remains a feature of organ playing in some church services and are regularly also performed at concerts.
Dieterich Buxtehude Dieterich Buxtehude (; ; born Diderik Hansen Buxtehude; c. 1637 – 9 May 1707)  was an organist Image:Organist at Lausanne Cathedral.jpg, A cathedral organist in Lausanne Cathedral An organist is a musician who plays any type of organ (mus ...

Dieterich Buxtehude
and
Johann Sebastian Bach Johann Sebastian Bach (28 July 1750) was a German composer and musician of the late Baroque music, Baroque period. He is known for instrumental compositions such as the Cello Suites (Bach), Cello Suites and ''Brandenburg Concertos''; keyboard ...

Johann Sebastian Bach
were regarded in the Baroque period as highly skilled organ improvisers. During the 20th century, some musicians known as great improvisers such as Marcel Dupré,
Pierre CochereauPierre Eugène Charles Cochereau (9 July 1924 – 6 March 1984) was a French organist, improviser, composer, and pedagogue. Biography Pierre Cochereau was born on 9 July 1924 in Saint-Mandé, near Paris. In 1929, after a few months of violin instr ...

Pierre Cochereau
and
Pierre Pincemaille Pierre-Marie Pincemaille (8 December 1956 – 12 January 2018) was a French organist, improviser, and pedagogue. He was known for his organ improvisations, both in concert and on CD and for his recordings of Charles-Marie Widor's complete org ...

Pierre Pincemaille
continued this form of music, in the tradition of the
French organ schoolThe French organ school formed in the first half of the 17th century. It progressed from the strict polyphonic music of Jean Titelouze (c. 1563–1633) to a unique, richly ornamented style with its own characteristic forms that made full use of ...
. , a great improviser himself, transcribed improvisations by
Louis Vierne Louis Victor Jules Vierne (8 October 1870 – 2 June 1937) was a French organist and composer. As the organist of Notre-Dame de Paris Notre-Dame de Paris (; meaning "Our Lady of Paris"), referred to simply as Notre-Dame, is a medieval Catholi ...
and
Charles Tournemire Charles Arnould Tournemire (22 January 1870 – 3 or 4 November 1939) was a French composer and organist, notable partly for his improvisation Improvisation is the activity of making or doing something not planned beforehand, using whatev ...
.
Olivier Latry Olivier Jean-Claude Latry (born 22 February 1962) is a French organist Image:Organist at Lausanne Cathedral.jpg, A cathedral organist in Lausanne Cathedral An organist is a musician who plays any type of organ (music), organ. An organist may play ...

Olivier Latry
later wrote his improvisations as a compositions, for example ''
Salve Regina The "Salve Regina" (, ; meaning 'Hail Queen'), also known as the "Hail Holy Queen", is a and one of four sung at different seasons within the of the . The Salve Regina is traditionally sung at in the time from the Saturday before until th ...
''.


Classical period


Keyboard improvisation

Classical music Classical music generally refers to the formal musical tradition of the Western world The Western world, also known as the West, refers to various s, s and , depending on the context, most often consisting of the majority of , , and ...
departs from baroque style in that sometimes several voices may move together as
chord Chord may refer to: * Chord (music), an aggregate of musical pitches sounded simultaneously ** Guitar chord a chord played on a guitar, which has a particular tuning * Chord (geometry), a line segment joining two points on a curve * Chord (ast ...
s involving both hands, to form brief phrases without any passing tones. Though such motifs were used sparingly by Mozart, they were taken up much more liberally by Beethoven and Schubert. Such chords also appeared to some extent in baroque keyboard music, such as the 3rd movement theme in Bach's ''
Italian Concerto The ''Italian Concerto'', BWV 971, originally titled ''Concerto nach Italienischen Gusto'' (''Concerto in the Italian taste''), is a three-movement Harpsichord concerto, concerto for two-manual harpsichord solo composed by Johann Sebastian Bach ...
''. But at that time such a chord often appeared only in one clef at a time, (or one hand on the keyboard) and did not form the independent phrases found more in later music. Adorno mentions this movement of the ''Italian Concerto'' as a more flexible, improvisatory form, in comparison to Mozart, suggesting the gradual diminishment of improvisation well before its decline became obvious. The introductory gesture of tonic, subdominant, dominant, tonic, however, much like its baroque form, continues to appear at the beginning of high-classical and romantic piano pieces (and much other music) as in Haydn's Piano Sonata Hob. XVI/52 and Beethoven's Sonata No. 24, Op. 78. Beethoven and Mozart cultivated mood markings such as ''con amore'', ''appassionato'', ''cantabile'', and ''expressivo''. In fact, it is perhaps because improvisation is spontaneous that it is akin to the communication of love.


=Mozart and Beethoven

= Beethoven and Mozart left excellent examples of what their improvisations were like, in the sets of variations and the sonatas which they published, and in their written out cadenzas (which illustrate what their improvisations would have sounded like). As a keyboard player, Mozart competed at least once in improvisation, with
Muzio Clementi Muzio Filippo Vincenzo Francesco Saverio Clementi (23 January 1752 – 10 March 1832) was an Italian composer A composer (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-Europea ...

Muzio Clementi
. Beethoven won many tough improvisatory battles over such rivals as
Johann Nepomuk Hummel Johann Nepomuk Hummel (14 November 177817 October 1837) was an Austrian composer and virtuoso pianist. His music reflects the transition from the Classical period (music), classical to the Romantic music, romantic musical era. Life Hummel w ...

Johann Nepomuk Hummel
, , and Joseph Woelfl.


Romantic period


Instrumental

Extemporization, both in the form of introductions to pieces, and links between pieces, continued to be a feature of keyboard concertising until the early 20th-century. Amongst those who practised such improvisation were
Franz Liszt Franz Liszt (; hu, Liszt Ferencz, link=no, in modern usage ''Liszt Ferenc'' ; 22 October 181131 July 1886) was a Hungarian composer, virtuoso A virtuoso (from Italian ''virtuoso'' or , "virtuous", Late Latin Late Latin ( la, Latinitas ...

Franz Liszt
,
Felix Mendelssohn Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (3 February 18094 November 1847), born and widely known as Felix Mendelssohn, was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early Romantic Romantic may refer to: Genres and eras * The ...

Felix Mendelssohn
,
Anton Rubinstein Anton Grigoryevich Rubinstein ( rus, Антон Григорьевич Рубинштейн, r=Anton Grigor'evič Rubinštejn; ) was a Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ...

Anton Rubinstein
,
Paderewski Ignacy Jan Paderewski (;  – 29 June 1941) was a Polish pianist and composer A composer (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was origin ...

Paderewski
,
Percy Grainger Percy Aldridge Grainger (born George Percy Grainger; 8 July 188220 February 1961) was an Australian-born composer, arranger and pianist who lived in the United States from 1914 and became an American citizen in 1918. In the course of a long and ...
and . Improvisation in the area of art music seems to have declined with the growth of recording.


Opera

After studying over 1,200 early
Verdi Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi (; 9 or 10 October 1813 – 27 January 1901) was an Italian composer best known for his opera Opera is a form of theatre Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of performing art that u ...

Verdi
recordings, Will Crutchfield concludes that "The solo
cavatina Cavatina is a musical term, originally meaning a short song of simple character, without a second strain or any repetition of the Air (music), air. It is now frequently applied to any simple, melodious air, as distinguished from brilliant arias or ...
was the most obvious and enduring locus of soloistic discretion in nineteenth-century opera." He goes on to identify seven main types of vocal improvisation used by opera singers in this repertory: # The Verdian "full-stop"
cadenza , K. 595. The I– V– I progression at the cadenza is typical of the Classical concerto. '' in Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 File:Mozart - Violin Concerto K. 271a, III - cadenza.png, upright=1.8, Cadenza in Mozart's Violin Concerto ...

cadenza
#
Aria In music, an aria (; it, air File:Atmosphere gas proportions.svg, Composition of Earth's atmosphere by volume, excluding water vapor. Lower pie represents trace gases that together compose about 0.043391% of the atmosphere (0.04402961% at ...

Aria
s without "full-stop": ''ballate'', ''canzoni'', and '''' #
Ornamentation An ornament is something used for decoration. Ornament may also refer to: Decoration *Ornament (art), any purely decorative element in architecture and the decorative arts *Biological ornament, a characteristic of animals that appear to serve onl ...
of internal cadences # Melodic variants (interpolated high notes, '''', rising two-note "slide") #
Strophic Strophic form – also called verse-repeating form, chorus form, AAA song form, or one-part song form – is a song structure in which all verses or stanzas of the text are sung to the same music. The opposite of strophic form, with new music writt ...
variation and the problem of the
cabaletta Cabaletta is a two-part musical form In music, form refers to the structure of a musical composition or performance. In his book, ''Worlds of Music'', Jeff Todd Titon suggests that a number of organizational elements may determine the formal struc ...
# Facilitations (''puntature'', simplification of ''fioratura'', etc.) #
Recitative Recitative (, also known by its Italian name "''recitativo''" ()) is a style of delivery (much used in opera Opera is a form of theatre Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of performing art that uses live performers, usuall ...


Modern opinions


Theodor Adorno

Toward the end of the section of ''Aesthetic Theory'' entitled "Art Beauty" (in the English edition), included a brief argument on improvisation's aesthetic value. Claiming that artworks must have a "thing-character" through which their spiritual content breaks, Adorno pointed out that the thing-character is in question in the improvised, yet present. It may be assumed Adorno meant classical improvisation, not jazz, which he mostly excoriated. He held jazz, for example, to be antithetical to Beethoven. There is more extensive treatment, essentially about traditional jazz, in ''Prisms'' and ''The Jargon of Authenticity''.


Contemporary


Jazz

Improvisation is one of the basic elements that sets jazz apart from other types of music. The unifying moments in improvisation that take place in live performance are understood to encompass the performer, the listener, and the physical space that the performance takes place in. Even if improvisation is also found outside of jazz, it may be that no other music relies so much on the art of "composing in the moment", demanding that every musician rise to a certain level of creativity that may put the performer in touch with his or her unconscious as well as conscious states. The educational use of improvised jazz recordings is widely acknowledged. They offer a clear value as documentation of performances despite their perceived limitations. With these available, generations of jazz musicians are able to implicate styles and influences in their performed new improvisations. Many varied scales and their
modes Mode ( la, modus meaning "manner, tune, measure, due measure, rhythm, melody") may refer to: Language * Grammatical mode or grammatical mood, a category of verbal inflections that expresses an attitude of mind ** Imperative mood ** Subjunctive mo ...
can be used in improvisation. They are often not written down in the process, but they help musicians practice the jazz idiom.
A common view of what a jazz
soloistSoloist may refer to: *Soloist (ballet), a rank within a ballet company above corps de ballet but below principal dancer *Soloist (card player), a player who plays a solo against two or more others in a card game *Solo (music), a person playing musi ...
does could be expressed thus: as the
harmonies In music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time to produce a composition through the elements of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the universal cultural Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the s ...

harmonies
go by, he selects
note Note, notes, or NOTE may refer to: Music and entertainment * Musical note In music Music is the of arranging s in time through the of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the aspects of all human societies. General includ ...
s from each
chord Chord may refer to: * Chord (music), an aggregate of musical pitches sounded simultaneously ** Guitar chord a chord played on a guitar, which has a particular tuning * Chord (geometry), a line segment joining two points on a curve * Chord (ast ...
, out of which he fashions a
melody A melody (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is appro ...

melody
. He is free to embellish by means of passing and neighbor tones, and he may add
extensions Extension, extend or extended may refer to: Mathematics Logic or set theory * Axiom of extensionality In axiomatic set theory and the branches of logic, mathematics, and computer science that use it, the axiom of extensionality, or axiom of ...
to the chords, but at all times a good improviser must follow the
changes Changes may refer to: Books * Changes (The Dresden Files), ''Changes'', the 12th novel in Jim Butcher's ''The Dresden Files'' Series * ''Changes'', a novel by Danielle Steel * ''Changes'', a trilogy of novels on which the BBC TV series was based, ...

changes
. ... owever a jazz musician really has several options: he may reflect the chord progression exactly, he may "skim over" the progression and simply elaborate the background harmony, or he may fashion his own voice-leading which may clash at some points with the chords the
rhythm section A rhythm section is a group of musicians within a music ensemble or band (music), band that provides the underlying rhythm, harmony and Pulse (music), pulse of the accompaniment, providing a rhythmic and harmonic reference and "beat" for the rest ...
is playing.


Contemporary classical music

With the notable exception of liturgical improvisation on the organ, the first half of the twentieth century is marked by an almost total absence of actual improvisation in contemporary classical music. Since the 1950s, some contemporary composers have placed fewer restrictions on the improvising performer, using techniques such as vague notation (for example, indicating only that a certain number of notes must sound within a defined period of time). New Music ensembles formed around improvisation were founded, such as the
Scratch Orchestra The Scratch Orchestra was an experimental musical ensemble founded in the spring of 1969 by Cornelius Cardew, Michael Parsons (composer), Michael Parsons and Howard Skempton. In the draft constitution published in the ''Musical Times'' of June 196 ...
in England;
Musica Elettronica Viva Musica Elettronica Viva (MEV) is a live acoustic/electronic improvisational group formed in Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune o ...
in Italy;
Lukas Foss Lukas Foss (August 15, 1922 – February 1, 2009) was a German-American composer, pianist, and conductor Conductor or conduction may refer to: Music * Conductor (music), a person who leads a musical ensemble like, for example, an orchestra. ...
Improvisation Chamber Ensemble at the University of California, Los Angeles;
Larry Austin Larry Don Austin (September 12, 1930 – December 30, 2018) was an American composer A composer (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was original ...
's New Music Ensemble at the University of California, Davis; the
ONCE Group The ONCE Group was a collection of musicians, visual artists, architects, and film-makers who wished to create an environment in which artists could explore and share techniques and ideas in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The group was responsib ...
at Ann Arbor; the Sonic Arts Group; and Sonics, the latter three funding themselves through concerts, tours, and grants. Significant pieces include Foss ''Time Cycles'' (1960) and ''Echoi'' (1963). Other composers working with improvisation include Richard Barrett,
Benjamin Boretz Benjamin Aaron Boretz (born October 3, 1934) is an American composer A composer (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in t ...

Benjamin Boretz
,
Pierre Boulez Pierre Louis Joseph Boulez (; 26 March 1925 – 5 January 2016) was a French composer, conductor and writer, and the founder of several musical institutions. He was one of the dominant figures of post-war classical music. Born in Montbrison ...
,
Joseph Brent Joseph Frederick Brent (born April 6, 1976) is an American composer A composer (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in t ...
,
Sylvano Bussotti Sylvano Bussotti (born 1 October 1931) is an Italian composer of contemporary classical music Contemporary classical music is classical music composed close to the present day. At the beginning of the 21st century, it commonly referred to ...
,
Cornelius Cardew Cornelius Cardew (7 May 193613 December 1981) was an English experimental music composer, and founder (with Howard Skempton and Michael Parsons (composer), Michael Parsons) of the Scratch Orchestra (musical ensemble), Scratch Orchestra, an experimen ...
,
Jani Christou Jani Christou ( el, Γιάννης Χρήστου, Giánnīs Chrī́stou; 8 or 9 January 1926 – 8 January 1970) was a Greek composer. There is some disagreement about Christou's birth, the date of which is given by some authorities as 8 January ...
, Douglas J. Cuomo, Alvin Curran, Stuart Dempster, Hugh Davies (composer), Hugh Davies, Karlheinz Essl, Mohammed Fairouz, Rolf Gehlhaar, Vinko Globokar, Richard Grayson (composer), Richard Grayson, Hans-Joachim Hespos, Barton McLean, Priscilla McLean, Stephen Nachmanovitch, Pauline Oliveros, Henri Pousseur, Todd Reynolds (musician), Todd Reynolds, Terry Riley, Frederic Rzewski, Saman Samadi, Bill Smith (jazz musician), William O. Smith, Manfred Stahnke, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Tōru Takemitsu, Richard Teitelbaum, Vangelis, Michael Vetter, Christian Wolff (composer), Christian Wolff, Iannis Xenakis, Yitzhak Yedid, La Monte Young, Frank Zappa, Hans Zender, and John Zorn.


Contemporary popular music


Psychedelic- and progressive-rock music

British and American psychedelic rock acts of the 1960s and 1970s used improvisations to express themselves in a musical language. The progressive rock genre also began exploring improvisation as a musical expression, e.g. Henry Cow.


Silent-film music

In the realm of silent film-music performance, there were musicians (theatre organ players and piano players) whose improvised performances accompanying these film has been recognized as exceptional by critics, scholars, and audiences alike. Neil Brand was a composer who also performed improvisationally. Brand, along with Guenter A. Buchwald, Philip Carli, Stephen Horne, Donald Sosin, John Sweeney, and Gabriel Thibaudeau, all performed at the annual conference on silent film in Pordenone, Italy, Pordenone Silent Film Festival, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto. In improvising for silent film, performers have to play music that matches the mood, style and pacing of the films they accompany. In some cases, musicians had to accompany films sight-reading, at first sight, without preparation. Improvisers needed to know a wide range of musical styles and have the stamina to play for sequences of films which occasionally ran over three hours. In addition to the performances, some pianists also taught master classes for those who wanted to develop their skill in improvising for films. When talkies–motion pictures with sound–were introduced, these talented improvising musicians had to find other jobs. In the 2010s, there are a small number of film society, film societies which present vintage silent films, using live improvising musicians to accompany the film.


Venues

Worldwide there are many venues dedicated to supporting live improvisation. In Melbourne since 1998, the Make It Up Club (held every Tuesday evening at Bar Open on Brunswick Street, Melbourne) has been presenting a weekly concert series dedicated to promoting avant-garde improvised music and sound performance of the highest conceptual and performative standards (regardless of idiom, genre, or instrumentation). The Make It Up Club has become an institution in Australian improvised music and consistently features artists from all over the world.


Music education

A number of approaches to teaching improvisation have emerged in
jazz Jazz is a music genre A music genre is a conventional category that identifies some pieces of music Music is the of arranging s in time through the of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the aspects of all human s ...
pedagogy, popular music pedagogy, Dalcroze, the Dalcroze method, Orff Schulwerk, Orff-Schulwerk, and Satis N. Coleman, Satis Coleman's creative music. Current research in music education includes investigating how often improvisation is taught, how confident music majors and teachers are at teaching improvisation, neuroscience and psychological aspects of improvisation, and free-improvisation as a pedagogical approach.


In Indian classical music

A
raga A ''raga'' or ''raag'' (IAST The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST) is a transliteration scheme that allows the lossless romanisation Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the science ...

raga
is one of the musical mode, melodic modes used in
Indian classical music Indian classical music is the classical music Classical music generally refers to the formal musical tradition of the Western world The Western world, also known as the West, refers to various regions, nations and state (polity) ...
. Joep Bor of the Rotterdam Conservatory of Music has defined ''Raga'' as "tonal framework for composition and improvisation". Nazir Jairazbhoy, chairman of UCLA's department of ethnomusicology, characterized ragas as separated by scale, line of ascent and descent, wiktionary:en:transilience, transilience, emphasized notes and register, and intonation and ornaments. A raga uses a series of five or more musical notes upon which a
melody A melody (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is appro ...

melody
is constructed. However, the way the notes are approached and rendered in musical phrases and the mood they convey are more important in defining a raga than the notes themselves. In the Indian musical tradition, rāgas are associated with different times of the day, or with seasons. Indian classical music is always set in a rāga. Non-classical music such as popular Filmi, Indian film songs and ghazals sometimes use rāgas in their compositions. According to ''Encyclopædia Britannica'', a raga, also spelled rag (in northern India) or ragam (in southern India), (from Sanskrit, meaning "colour" or "passion"), in the classical music of India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, is "a melodic framework for improvisation and composition. A raga is based on a scale with a given set of notes, a typical order in which they appear in melodies, and characteristic musical motifs. The basic components of a raga can be written down in the form of a scale (in some cases differing in ascent and descent). By using only these notes, by emphasizing certain degrees of the scale, and by going from note to note in ways characteristic to the raga, the performer sets out to create a mood or atmosphere (rasa) that is unique to the raga in question. There are several hundred ragas in present use, and thousands are possible in theory." Alapa (Sanskrit: "conversation") are "improvised melody structures that reveal the musical characteristics of a raga". "Alapa ordinarily constitutes the first section of the performance of a raga. Vocal or instrumental, it is accompanied by a drone (sustained-tone) instrument and often also by a melodic instrument that repeats the soloist's phrases after a lag of a few seconds. The principal portion of alapa is not metric but rhythmically free; in Hindustani music it moves gradually to a section known as jor, which uses a rhythmic pulse though no tala (metric cycle). The performer of the alapa gradually introduces the essential notes and melodic turns of the raga to be performed. Only when the soloist is satisfied that he has set forth the full range of melodic possibilities of the raga and has established its unique mood and personality will he proceed, without interruption, to the metrically organized section of the piece. If a drummer is present, as is usual in formal concert, his first beats serve as a signal to the listener that the alapa is concluded."


Artificial intelligence

Machine improvisation uses computer algorithms to create improvisation on existing music materials. This is usually done by sophisticated recombination of musical phrases extracted from existing music, either live or pre-recorded. In order to achieve credible improvisation in particular style, machine improvisation uses machine learning and pattern matching algorithms to analyze existing musical examples. The resulting patterns are then used to create new variations "in the style" of the original music, developing a notion of stylistic reinjection. This is different from other improvisation methods with computers that use algorithmic composition to generate new music without performing analysis of existing music examples.Mauricio Toro, Carlos Agon, Camilo Rueda, Gerard Assayag.
GELISP: A Framework to Represent Musical Constraint Satisfaction Problems and Search Strategies
, ''Journal of Theoretical and Applied Information Technology'' 86, no. 2 (2016): 327–331.


See also

*Bar-line shift *Free improvisation *Improvisation in music therapy *Impro-Visor (software) *Jam session *List of free improvising musicians and groups *Music for People (organization), Music for People *Musical collective *Musics (magazine), ''Musics'' (magazine) *Non-lexical vocables in music *Prepared guitar *Prepared piano *Side-slipping *S.P.I.T. (music), S.P.I.T


Notes


Sources

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * English translation by Warren E. Hultberg and Almonte C. Howell Jr, as ''The Art of Playing the Fantasia'' (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.: Latin American Literary Review Press, 1991) * * * * *


Further reading

* Alperson, Philip. 1984. "On Musical Improvisation". ''The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism'' 43, no. 1 (Fall): 17–29. * Derek Bailey (guitarist), Bailey, Derek. 1992. ''Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice in Music'', revised edition. London: British Library National Sound Archive. . * Paul Berliner (ethnomusicologist), Berliner, Paul. 1994. ''Thinking in Jazz: The Infinite Art of Improvisation''. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (cloth); (pbk). * Will Crutchfield, Crutchfield, Will. 2001. "Improvisation: II. Western Art Music: 5. The Nineteenth Century: (ii) Vocal music". ''The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians'', second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (musicologist), John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan. * Carl Czerny, Czerny, Carl. 1833. ''L'art de préluder: mis en pratique pour le piano par 120 examples de préludes, modulations, cadenses et fantaisien de tous genres''. Paris: M. Schlesinger. * * Ernst Ferand, Ferand, Ernest T. 1938. ''Die Improvisation in der Musik; eine Entwicklungsgeschichtliche und Psychologische Untersuchung''. Zürich: Rhein-Verlag. * * Otto Friedrich, Friedrich, Otto. 1989. ''Glenn Gould: A Life and Variations''. New York: Random House. . * Guido d'Arezzo. 1978. "Micrologus" [ca. 1027], translated by Warren Babb. In ''Hucbald, Guido, and John on Music: Three Medieval Treatises'', edited, with introductions, by Claude V. Palisca; index of chants by Alejandro Planchart, Alejandro Enrique Planchart, 57–83. Music Theory Translation Series 3. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. . * Hall, Lucy. 2002.
They're Just Making It Up—Whatever Happened to Improvisation in Classical Music?
''The Guardian'' (12 June). * Daniel Heartz, Heartz, Daniel. 1958–63. "The ''Basse Dance'', Its Evolution Circa 1450 to 1550". ''Annales musicologiques'' 6:287–340. * Alexandra Kertz-Welzel, Kertz-Welzel, Alexandra. 2004. "Piano Improvisation Develops Musicianship". ''Orff-Echo'' 37, no. 1:11–14. * Wolf Koenig, Koenig, Wolf, and Roman Kroitor (prod./dir.). 1959a. ''Glenn Gould: Off the Record.'' Film, 30 mins. [Canada]: National Film Board of Canada. * Koenig, Wolf, and Roman Kroitor (prod./dir.). 1959b. ''Glenn Gould: On the Record.'' Film, 30 mins. [Canada]: National Film Board of Canada. * * Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus. 1953. ''Piano Concerto No. 24 (Mozart), Concerto No. 24 in C Minor for Piano'', edited by Franz Kullak. New York: G. Schirmer. * Stephen Nachmanovitch, Nachmanovitch, Stephen. 1990. ''Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art.'' Los Angeles: J. P. Tarcher; New York: Distributed by St. Martin's Press. (cloth); (pbk); New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. . * Paras, Jason. 1986. ''The Music for Viola Bastarda'', edited by George Houle and Glenna Houle. Music—Scholarship and Performance. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. * Polk, Keith. 1966. ''Flemish Wind Bands in the Late Middle Ages: A Study of Improvisatory Instrumental Practices"''. PhD dissertation. Berkeley: University of California. * R., Ken (2012). ''Dog Ear: Tritone Substitution for Jazz Guitar''. Amazon Digital Services, * Arthur Schopenhauer, Schopenhauer, Arthur. 1958. ''The World as Will and Representation''. Translated from the German by E. F. J. Payne, 2 vols. [Indian Hills, Colorado]: Falcon's Wing Press. * Sancho-Velazquez, Angeles. 2005. ''The Legacy of Genius: Improvisation, Romantic Imagination, and the Western Musical Canon'', PhD dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles. * Solis, Gabriel, and Bruno Nettl (eds.). 2009. ''Musical Improvisation: Art, Education, and Society''. Champaign: University of Illinois Press. (cloth) (pbk) * Jean-Pierre Thiollet, Thiollet, Jean-Pierre. 2017. ''Improvisation so piano''. Paris: Neva Editions.


External links


Robert Levin on Improvisation in Classical Music

Losing Control: Indeterminacy and Improvisation in Music Since 1950
by Sabine Feisst

Karlheinz Essl and Jack Hauser talking about musical improvisation with computers
How to Improvise Jazz Melodies, by Bob Keller

A Jazz Improvisation Primer by Marc Sabatella
Information about jazz improvisation

A column about improvisation by Art Lange

Tutorial on music improvisation techniques {{DEFAULTSORT:Musical Improvisation Musical improvisation, Musical performance techniques Jazz techniques