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Deconstructing “joint improvisation”

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BROWN Steven

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Deconstructing “joint improvisation”

What is “joint” and what is “improvisational” about joint improvisation? The “joint” aspect can be contrastedwith solo improvisation, such as that of a jazz pianist. Even when jazz pianists improvise in the context of anensemble, the arrangement of these improvisationsis often serial, rather than simultaneous: each instrumentalist improvises in turn while other members of theensemble play relatively fixed parts. This is in contrast to forms of improvisation in which two or moreperformers improvise simultaneously, either as separate entities (as occurs in contemporary dance) or as acollective unit (as in 2personimprov acting or contact improvisation). To understand all of these cases, weneed to think about the partnershiparrangement of the performers and their leader/follower dynamic. Next, to explore the “improvisational”aspect, we need to realize that improvisation is, first and foremost, a form of creativity, in particular the typethat occurs online during performance. This is in contrast to online types of creativity that occur away fromperformance – such as brainstormingsessions – as well as to longterm(offline) forms of group creativity, such as technology development or theproduction of an opera. As such, we need to examine established models of improvisation in order tounderstand how joint improvisation might occur. Influential models from the study of jazz include Pressing’smodel of recombining prelearnedstructures, and JohnsonLaird’smodel of rulebasedimprovisation.

Finally, I will examine neural aspects of the “joint” and the “improvisational” by describing the results of thefirst twopersonfunctional MRI study of improvisation during partnered movement.



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