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Acta Fluens – Generatives Handeln und Improvisation im Jazz

Sparti, Davide

Zeitschrift für Ästhetik und Allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft, Bd. 59 (2014), Iss. 1: S. 49–60

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Sparti, Davide


While improvised behavior is so much a part of human existence as to be one of its fundamental realities, in order to avoid the risk of defining the act of improvising too broadly, my focus here will be upon one of the activities most explicitly centered around improvisation – that is, upon jazz. My contribution, as Wittgenstein would say, has a »grammatical« design to it: it proposes to clarify the significance of the term »improvisation.« The task of clarifying the cases in which one may legitimately speak of improvisation consists first of all in reflecting upon the conditions that make the practice possible. This does not consist of calling forth mysterious, esoteric processes that take place in the unconscious, or in the minds of musicians, but rather in paying attention to the criteria that are satisfied when one ascribes to an act the concept of improvisation. In the second part of my contribution, I reflect upon the logic that governs the construction of an improvised performance. As I argue, in playing upon that which has already emerged in the music, in discovering the future as they go on (as a consequence of what they do), jazz players call to mind the angel in the famous painting by Klee that Walter Benjamin analyzed in his Theses on the History of Philosophy: while pulled towards the future, its eyes are turned back towards the past.