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Improvisation and the paradox of rehearsal: an exploratory study in Singapore
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Proceedings of the Redesigning pedagogy: culture, knowledge and understanding conference, Singapore, May 2007.
Tullia Magrini explains that the term improvisation connotes unpredictability and suggests two reasons: the aleatory and unsystematic character of the event, and, a lack of knowledge and information for those who experience it (1998, 169). Essentially, Improvisation appears historically in western art musical theory and practice as system and rules and with it the notion
of instrumental, musical and improvisational skill situated in a context-dependent and practice specific system. However, as language differs from culture to culture, so do expectations of musical improvisation. John Blacking (1973, 100) argues what is ultimately of most importance in music cannot be learned like other cultural skills: it is there in the body, waiting to be brought out and developed, like the basic principles of language formation. This suggests that the unpredictability of both event and human activity precipitate improvisatory tactics and strategies,
irrespective of system and specific practice, which underscore an anthropological dimension of improvisation. Studies in improvisatory practice suggest a symbiotic relationship between the musical- instrumental-systematic and anthropological dimensions. Understanding improvisational ability from this dual perspective has significant ramifications for a multidimensional perspective and secondly, membership which is possible with those with certified or certifiable musical skills. Blacking’s assertion raises the question – are those without certifiable skills in improvisation capable of responding as the certified? What lessons could we learn in
enabling these ‘excluded musicians’ in improvisation?
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