Subversion and stratification
the importance of improvisation
Keywords:Deleuze, Nietzsche, improvisation, subversion, stratification
Unlike composition, improvisation offers performs greater flexibility and freedom. improvisation subverts musical structures and considers the ethical implications of improvisation. This diminishes the status of mistakes, which serve as platforms for further improvisation. Improvisation resists and subverts traditional musical structures while using the same musical material and processes as composition. Drawing on Deleuze and Guattari’s conceptual geometry of stratification and looking at the role of improvisation in their philosophy more generally, this article illustrates how improvisation and composition transform musical material in the same way while having different aesthetic aims. An improvisor’s aesthetic aims are not strictly-defined but are open-ended, subverting traditional conceptions of control and artistic genius. Besides witnessing how it subverts the musical structures that enable it, this illustrates the importance of improvising, in seeing the limits of a way of thinking and appreciating a multiplicity of perspectives.
Adorno, Theodor. “On popular music.” In Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: a reader, edited by John Storey, 197-209. Georgia: The University of Georgia Press, 1998.
Bell, David. “Improvisation as anarchist organization.” ephemera 14, no. 4 (2014), 1009-1030.
Bowden, Sean. “Assembling agency.” The Southern Journal of Philosophy 58, no. 3 (2020), 383-400.
Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Vol. 2: A Thousand Plateaus. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.
Gilbert, Jeremy. “Becoming-music: the rhizomatic moment of improvisation.” In Deleuze and Music, edited by Ian Buchanan and Marcel Swiboda, 118-139. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004.
Holland, Eugene. Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus. London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013.
Murphy, Timothy. “The Other’s language: Jacques Derrida interviews Ornette Coleman, 23 June 1997.” Genre 37, no. 2 (2004), 319-329.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. Beyond Good and Evil: prelude to a philosophy of the future. Translated by Helen Zimmern. New York: Dover Publications, 1997.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Gay Science. Translated by Thomas Common. New York: Dover Publications, 2006.
Peters, Gary. The Philosophy of Improvisation. London: The University of Chicago Press, 2009.
Peters, Gary. Improvising Improvisation from out of Philosophy, Music, Dance and Literature. London and Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2017.
Wilmer, Val. As Serious As Your Life. London: Serpent’s Tail, 2018.
Copyright (c) 2023 Alistair Macaulay
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Authors who submit manuscripts and publish with Inscriptions retain copyright to their original work and agree to the following terms:
- Inscriptions is granted the right to first publish the work under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License unless otherwise agreed in writing prior to publication;
- Inscriptions and its publisher Tankebanen forlag is granted the right to produce and reproduce the work in any form, printed or electronically, for free distribution and for sale;
- Authors are permitted to post their work online and to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal’s published version of their work as long as its initial publication in Inscriptions is acknowledged.