Musical improvisation

Richard Ashley

in Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology

Published in print December 2008 | ISBN: 9780199298457
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Musical improvisation

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Musical improvisation is, to many in the Western world, an activity shrouded in mystery. Most listeners are familiar with some genres of music in which improvisation is a commonplace, such as rock and other popular styles, jazz, or perhaps ‘ethnic’ musics – that is to say, composed or improvised ‘traditional’ musics falling outside the typical Western canons. Therefore listeners are aware that many musicians can, and routinely do, produce novel musical utterances in real time. The question for most them is ‘How is improvisation carried out?’ With this formulation of the question, musical improvisation becomes a suitable topic for psychological investigation, focusing on cognitive, physical, and interpersonal processes, and on the musical structures on which these processes operate. This article seeks to bring together the literature on musical improvisation that will be of interest and benefit to those wishing to know more about it from a cognitive perspective.

Keywords: music improvisation; cognitive process; music psychology

Article.  5120 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology

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