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Ranciere, Resistance, and Musical Improvisation

Joshua Mousie

Published: 2010-08-24

This article uses the ideas of Jacques Ranciere to create a framework for musical improvisation as a practice of political resistance. Ranciere sees successful art as referring to those pieces that create dissension and change the 'distribution of the sensible', and he believes that resistance requires more than an aesthetic experience: it involves an artist who does the work of continually constructing political meaning alongside of aesthetics. A good example of such a figure is provided in Sun Ra, and the article discusses this performer as evaluated by Ajay Heble. Sun Ra, as a musician, teaches and educates people, creating a way of life that promotes a 'pedagogy of resistance', retelling musical history always with an eye toward showing styles and people who have historically been oppressed.

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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.