Prof. Andrew Goldman recently published an article, “Returning to the Continuum: On the Value of Typological Distinctions in the Analysis of Improvisation,” in the latest volume of Music Theory Online. To view the entire article, visit the MTO Webpage.
“Sometimes music theorists describe an improvisation continuum connecting the extremes of completely determined performance and completely free and novel performance,” Goldman explains, “but, much of the theoretical work actually lies in determining the types of performance that define those extremes, not in drawing a continuum per se. What types of improvisation exist!?”
Goldman is assistant professor of music in music theory at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and assistant professor of cognitive science at the IU College of Arts and Sciences. His research, which has primarily focused on improvisation in music and dance, considers how scientific methods can be used to learn about musical perception and cognition in principle. He also designs and conducts behavioral and neuroscientific experiments with musicians and has worked on projects concerning the perception of musical form, embodiment in music, musical syntax, and corpus studies.
His work has been published in both music and psychology journals and has been presented at national and international conferences, including the Society for Music Theory, International Conference for Music Perception and Cognition, and American Psychological Association.
ABSTRACT: Improvisatory musical practices are often characterized as lying on a continuum between complete prior determination and complete in-the-moment novelty. Continua allow music analysts to avoid problematic absolutisms and enrich their comparative analyses, but their construction ultimately relies on typological distinctions. The poles or dimensions of the continuum must be defined, and this is where much of the theoretical work actually lies—including in constructing new typological distinctions. To this end, I discuss and demonstrate how a typological distinction between embodied and propositional improvisation—a distinction primarily motivated by (but not limited to) a performance practice called Live Coding—predicates a music-analytical research program. I show how this typological distinction forms productive connections with cognitive-scientific research that helps refine the distinction and its application to music analysis, and then use it to discuss the relative contributions of typologies versus continua in the analysis of musical improvisation more generally.