Macquarie University
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An inquiry into improvisation: reconciling the differences between performance and composition

posted on 2022-03-28, 01:48 authored by Guy Strazzullo
Improvisation and composition share a range of intertwining processes, rather than representing either end of a clear dichotomy. This becomes especially apparent through the exploration of the experiences, composition and improvisation processes in the realisation of the creative practice of this thesis, which consists of a double concerto for guitar/piano/chamber orchestra, and pieces for jazz quartet.This study explores improvisation within the framework of composition through creative practice and analytical exegesis, and addresses 1) A paradigm that accentuates differences between performance and composition based on spatiotemporal perspectives, and 2) Challenges in extending the potential and possibilities of improvisation/composition through an intercultural approach.The theoretical framework consists of analysis and discussion of the creative practice, investigation of temporal theory, perceptions of spontaneity/premeditation, and intercultural elements in improvisation/composition. The central argument of the exegesis claims that improvisation, beyond performance, is not only engaged in composition through multiple levels of improvisation activity, but its process closely resembles that of performance. I add a view to the dialogue arguing that distinctions such as real-time/non-real time improvisation, and rapid/slow composition are unstable in the improvisation/composition paradigm. I argue this is because although muchresearch has been invested in improvisation in performance and allied cultural and political concerns there are two main reasons improvisation in composition remains an obscure topic. First, is the general absence of improvisation consciousness in the last century and a half of Western art music. Second, is the lack of historical record by past renowned composers that were known for their remarkable improvisation ability, but left virtually no reflections on the creative mechanisms of their compositions.The findings in this study illuminate the dialogue with a view that apparent differences in the improvisation/composition paradigm are not only reconcilable, but also negligible.


Table of Contents

1. Literature review -- 2. Eastern Blues project -- 3. Silk Road concerto -- 4. Conclusion -- Appendices.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 120-125 "This thesis is presented as a partial fulfilment to the requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy". The zip files contain recordings of Eastern Blues project and The Silk Road concerto, as well as music excerpts intrinsic to Chapters 2 and 3 respectively.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies

Department, Centre or School

Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Adrian McNeil

Additional Supervisor 1

Denis Crowdy


Copyright Guy Strazzullo 2014. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (xi, 322 pages) music

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