Juli 2018

Improvisation: Philosophical Re-Scriptions



Improvisation, the spontaneous and creative reaction to unexpected situations, behaviours, incidents, constraints and circumstances, is one of the oldest cultural techniques and plays a significant part in the repertoire of aesthetic skill set of new music, modern dance theatre, performance art and visual practice, and also in the popular cultural context (jazz, rock, hip-hop, rap). However, there is no consensus on what improvisation means from a philosophical point of view. The international conference "Improvisation. Philosophical Re-Scriptions" wants to address this question. In a format that intertwines, in various ways, philosophical and artistic practice on the one hand and reflection on the circumstances and conditions of improvisation on the other, this conference explores the preconditions of improvisation and asks for the specific insight that improvisation allows into the condition humaine. Is the practice of free improvisation where music performers start playing with each other without the need for previous agreements or rules, a metaphorical expression of the way in which humans behave towards themselves and their peers? Are such improvisations truly free - or are their rules and regulations merely more implicit than explicit, latent in socio-cultural influences and ethics? Wouldn't it be better to speak of "comprovisations" instead of "improvisations"? Musical improvisations are predominantly anchored in a specific stylistic practice - are improvisations across stylistic, cultural, traditional and genre boundaries possible at all - and if so, to which aspects of practice can the concept of improvisation be applied sensibly in such constellations?

Responses to such questions would have consequences far beyond the aesthetic field. The musically realized relationship between musician and musician mirrors the relationship between human and human as one that is not a later add-on, but rather an essential feature how and what human beings are and have to be: always already in relation to something else, to others and to another, who draw upon them and to whom they answer before anything else. Improvising thus emerges, constitutes itself through such answers, by presupposing the other, as well as by listening to others: a' primordial' passivity which both Blanchot and Lévinas claim is older than any differentiation between active and passive. It is this perspective that enables improvisation as an open-minded and creative interstitial event; an event which - as in the relationship between language and communication - involves an exchange of answers and answers to answers; an exchange which begins or has always begun with others, and thus creates a 'responsive-dialogue' field of tension. It opens up scope for behaviour in which coincidence and alterity play into one another and in which a fundamental feature of human action can be demonstrated: the emergence of subjectivity in close corporeal proximity to one another, whether, quite literally, as ' re-sonance' – or whether as conflict (interruption, disintegration of dialogue, fragility).

At this conference, philosophers, improvisers, musicologists and composers will encounter each other in different constellations, through philosophical and musical discourse. In lectures, panels, interviews, workshops, and moderated concerts, various registers and possibilities of improvisational and philosophical dialogues will be explored.

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