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9 - Improvisation as concept and musical practice in the fifteenth century

from Part II - Improvisation and composition

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 July 2015

Anna Maria Busse Berger
Affiliation:
University of California, Davis
Jesse Rodin
Affiliation:
Stanford University, California
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Summary

Toward the end of the fifteenth century, several writers on music address the respective statuses of composed and improvised music. In his counterpoint treatise of 1477, the composer and theorist Johannes Tinctoris considers musical creation as either a collective action in process (cantare super librum) or the fruit of an individual activity resulting in a written product. Numerous written accounts, testify to a fifteenth-century fascination with spontaneous creation and improvised performance, be it musical, poetic, or a combination of the two. To consider the cultural background in an attempt to understand how the phenomenon of improvisation was perceived, one must look at the poetic and rhetorical theories of fifteenth century. The association of improvisation with an absence of planning is a modern misconception. In fact, during this period improvisation should be understood only through the lens of extemporaneitas, the act of creating in a given moment.
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2015

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