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The Pedagogical Imperative of Musical Improvisation

Scott Thomson

Published: 2007-12-03

This essay responds to the twinned questions, "How do musicians learn to improvise?" and "What skills are they learning as they are doing so?" The pedagogical theory that is the outcome essentially redefines improvisation as the enactment of the skills (or attributes) that can only be learned in collaborative performance. From there, I consider relationships between the micrological, performance-based pedagogy of improvisation and the formation of scenes that coalesce within urban locales, using the burgeoning creative music scene in Toronto as an example.

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Improvisation is, simply put, being and living this very moment. No one can hide in music, and improvising in music is to be truly in this very moment and being completely yourself, with all your qualities and faults. It is probably the most honest state for a human being to be in.

– John McLaughlin in an interview with Daniel Fischlin.