Improvisation at the Piano
Pattern Play: A Workshop on Musical Creativity & Improvisation
The Improvising Mind
What is musical improvisation?
Musical improvisation is an exceptional feat of human cognition. It is also a highly specialized instance of a more general facet of human behavious: the spontaneous rule-based combination of elements to create novel sequences that are appropriate for a given moment in a given context. Broadly speaking, improvisation is a central component of all human action." - Aaron Berkowitz
The talent and art of improvising consist in the spinning out, during the very performance, on the spur of the moment, and without special immediate preparation, of each original or even borrowed idea into a sort of musical composition which, albeit in a much freer form than a written work, nevertheless must be fashioned into an organized totality as far as is necessary to remain comprehensible and interesting - Carl Czerny, A Systematic Introduction to Improvisation on the Pianoforte
The creation of a musical work, or the final form of a musical work, as it is being performed. It may involve the work's immediate composition by its performers, or the elaboration or adjustment of an existing framework, or anything in between. To some extent every performance involves elements of improvisation, although its degree varies according to period and place, and to some extent every improvisation rests on a series of conventions or implicit rules. - Grove Dictionary of Music, Oxford Music Online
Contrary to what one might expect from its spontaneous nature, musical improvisation depends very heavily on an implicit musical tradition, on tacit rules ... It is only with reference to a thoroughly internalized body of works performed in a coherent style that improvisation can be performed by the musician and understood by the audience. - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Musical Improvisation: A Systems Approach
What is the referent in musical improvisation?
Referent can be defined as the "underlying formal scheme or guiding image specific to a given piece, used by the improviser to facilitate the generation and editing of improvised behaviour" (Jeff Pressing). It is the foundation on which a given piece is built. Referents are "musical materials or formal structures that are used as the basis for improvisation" (Berkowitz). The referent is part of a larger knowledge base