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Imagination, Form, Movement and Sound: Studies in Musical Improvisation


Svein Erik Tandberg


Imagination, Form, Movement and Sound: Studies in Musical Improvisation

Dissertation in Musical Performance
and Interpretation, 2008.



How does one improvise? How can one learn the art of improvisation? By consid- ering these two questions this thesis aspires to make a contribution towards a greater understanding of what the production of improvised music actually involves. The organ has long traditions as an instrument on which music is improvised, and this study aims to focus primarily on organ improvisation. It is assumed that spontaneous impulses, rational thought and an extensive array of physical movements have their origins in the emotional, intellectual and physical aspects of a person. These different facets of a person, which continually interact with and influence each other, form a complex series of behaviour patterns.

It can be useful to experience the interactive energy between these facets in order to approach an understanding of improvisation. This hypothesis is based on an assumption that improvised music is created by an interaction between large numbers of internalised concepts of musical sound, along with a corresponding array of precise physical movements. The sounds are expressed through the actions of the improviser. Ideally these actions will have their origins in more or less welldefined aesthetic concepts. Thus the hypothesis of this research is that it is in the light of the improviser’s different perceptions of the words “imagination” and “form” that the musical train of events is set in motion.

This study should be regarded as artistic research. The term “artistic” defines a research position that is related to an actual artistic practice. The work incorporates elements which can be described as creative research. This means that researches do not only form a subject for discussion, but have actually resulted in the creation of three different recording projects presented on four CDs. These musical manifestations are intended to serve both as demonstrations of working methods whilst also functioning as reference points. Since art both consists of deeds and thoughts the aim here is to probe the links between practical and theoretical aspects of improvisation. The recordings should thus be regarded as a medium to emphasise and give added weight to the arguments.

The study is divided into two main sections. The first part focuses on the art of organ improvisation as practised during different periods of history, whilst the second part considers the aesthetical and practical aspects involved. The question as to how differing forms of an improvisatory “vocabulary” can be acquired, assimilated and developed will occupy a prominent position in this latter section.

Keywords: Aesthetic, artistic research, chronology versus phenomenology, cogni- tive models, cross-modality, imitation, improvisation, motor programmes, organ, organ textbooks, procedural knowledge, Protestant practices, Roman Catholic practices, schemas, style, Johann Sebastian Bach, Anton Bruckner, Marcel Dupré, Rolande Falcinelli, César Franck, Johann Georg Herzog, Hermann Keller, Olivier Latry, Conrad Paumann, Max Reger, Heinz Wunderlich, Ruth Zechlin

This is thesis no 6 in the ArtMonitor dissertation series. 

ISBN: 978-91-975911-8-8


This dissertation is published in English.

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The dissertation is e-published

The dissertation is e-published in GUPEA (Göteborgs universitets publikationer - Elektroniskt Arkiv). Download the dissertation 

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