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Call for Papers: Deadline October 15, 2013

Sound Changes: Improvisation, Social Practice, and Cultural Difference

As part of Duke University Press’s Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice series, this volume proposes an
enhanced, interdisciplinary understanding of improvisation as a multivalent, global social practice found within and
across different cultural and historical contexts, different national sites and traditions. Books in this new series
generally posit musical improvisation as a crucial model for political, cultural, and ethical dialogue and action—for
imagining and creating alternative ways of knowing and being known in the world. The books are collaborations
among performers, scholars, and activists from a wide range of disciplines. They study the creative risk-taking
imbued with the sense of movement and momentum that makes improvisation an exciting, unpredictable, ubiquitous,
and necessary endeavor. But are these assumptions necessarily true in the more global contexts in which
improvisation is present? Does improvisation necessarily mean the same thing in and across different national sites
where the social utility (or not) of improvisation is subject to vastly different contingencies, contexts, and historical
circumstances? What kinds of theoretical and case study analysis are required in order to broaden improvisation
studies beyond North American and European sites delimited (largely) by specific forms like free jazz, spontaneous
composition, and experimental music?

With these questions in mind, a key precept underlying this book is that “improvisation” risks becoming a master trope
that erases the multiple differential practices to which it generally refers. We intend for this collection to examine the
astonishing diversity of practices that improvisation entails in ways that challenge monological notions of
improvisation as a global practice that means the same thing in all circumstances. In that light, the volume explores
“sound changes” as the word “changes” oscillates between its function as verb and as noun. The phrase “sound
changes” thus references both the differential contexts in which improvisatory sound occurs (and how those change a
sound’s meaning) and the ways in which sound itself is productive of changes that have an impact on wider spheres
of human being.

The editors seek proposals for essays that address a wide range (geographically and culturally) of performance
contexts in which improvisation is present as well as a diversity of critical traditions that have been, or should be,
brought to bear on improvisatory practices. We are interested in work about music and sound, but also work that
examines related improvisational forms such as dance, theater, intermedial performance practices, community
organization and activism, transcultural encounters, and so on. As a means of addressing some of the key issues
outlined above, we hope to include essays that address one or more of the following questions: How do improvisatory
practices build from and challenge social norms and rules in different cultural contexts? How do transcultural
exchanges lead to the emergence of hybrid improvisational forms? How do the assumed meanings of improvisational
forms change as they travel between and across cultural contexts? How are transcultural, improvisational exchanges
enhanced by emergent technologies, and to what extent do emergent technologies define the limits of improvisation
as a social practice in certain contexts? How does a cross-cultural understanding of improvisation call into question
existing theoretical and political assumptions guiding its study? How does cultural difference determine how
improvisation operates in wider spheres of cultural practice? How do “sound changes” signify these differences in
ways that mark improvisatory discourses as a site of dissonance rather than consonance?

We are open to work that focuses on other questions as well and authors interested in pursuing other related lines of
inquiry and research should contact us directly. To submit a chapter proposal for this edited collection please send an
Abstract of no more than 300 words to Daniel Fischlin ( and Eric Porter ( If
selected, chapters should be approximately 6000-10,000 words in length.

The deadline for Abstract submission is October 15, 2013.

A pdf version of the Call For Papers can be downloaded here

...the innovative working models of improvisation developed by creative practitioners have helped to promote a dynamic exchange of cultural forms, and to encourage new, socially responsive forms of community building across national, cultural, and artistic boundaries.

– Ajay Heble