University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : Music

Undergraduate Course: Improvisation as Social Process (MUSI10090)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryIn this course, the complete class of students form a large improvising ensemble to explore improvisation in its broadest possible sense, and to develop a deeper understanding of the practice and theories of improvisation, in an intense and supportive environment. The course offers a critical and experiential examination of group musical improvisation as a multifaceted, creative form of social interaction encompassing a broad field of practice.
You will develop a deep and broad knowledge of practical and theoretical approaches to group improvisation in a variety of contemporary contexts, including an historical sense of the modern emergence of group improvisation aesthetics.
Course description This course will introduce you to the broad field of practice represented by contemporary group improvised music, allowing you to develop knowledge, experience and critical orientation towards this unique form of collaborative creativity. Topics covered in the weekly seminars will include: What is improvisation? Understanding improvisation as a unique, social, collaborative and universal form of creativity; Psychological models of improvisation; Improvisation as real-time composition; Graphic scores; Constrained improvisation; Text-based approaches to improvisation; Distributed creativity; Improvisation as means of fostering collaboration across disciplines and across cultures; Improvisation and identity; Improvisation in educational, therapeutic and community contexts.

The course is taught through weekly 2-hour seminar sessions. In each session leading up to the final performances, students will play together and develop as both individual and collective improvisers. By means of weekly recording and playback, you will be guided in skills of critical analysis, collaborative critique, and development of their own individual contributions. Between improvising and the playback/critical listening session where students reflect on their collective practice, the central part of the weekly seminar is given over to discussion and teaching based on specific reading and listening preparation tasks, according to the topic.

Through weekly practice in performing/improvising and critical listening, you will accumulate the skills and judgement to participate creatively and productively in group improvisation, and to formulate and test out ideas for developing works for large ensemble. The weekly reading and listening tasks require you to rehearse and improve on your ability to articulate musical, improvisation-based ideas through critical commentary.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesStudents should have achieved at least the equivalent to 20 credits pre-Honours in a Music programme.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate detailed knowledge and understanding of a variety of approaches to group improvisation, some of which are at the forefront of current thinking on the meanings and value of collective and improvised performance
  2. Critically review and consolidate skills, practices and thinking in developing group musical improvisations.
  3. Demonstrate some originality and creativity in responding to the compositional brief of developing a new piece for large improvising ensemble
  4. Exercise autonomy, initiative, creativity and responsibility in interacting musically and socially with peers in the large ensemble.
Reading List
Bailey, D. (1992). Improvisation: Its nature and practice in music. London: Da Capo Press.
Fischlin, D., & Heble, A. (2004). The other side of nowhere: Jazz, improvisation, and communities in dialogue. Wesleyan University Press.
Lewis, G. (2008). A power stronger than itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music. Chicago, USA: University of Chicago Press.
B. Piekut & G. Lewis (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Prevost, E. (1997) No sound is innocent. UK: Small Press Distribution
Stevens, J., Doyle, J., & Crooke, O. (2007). Search and reflect: A music workshop handbook. Rockschool.
Wigram, T. (2004). Improvisation: Methods and techniques for music therapy clinicians, educators, and students. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.


Anthony Braxton Creative Ensemble:
Creative Orchestra (Guelph) 2007 Spool 2009
Creative Orchestra (Koln) 1978 Hat Hut 1995

Art Ensemble of Chicago:
A Jackson In Your House BYG-Actuel 1969
Message to our Folks BYG-Actuel 1969
Nice Guys ECM 1978

Butch Morris:
Berlin Skyscraper FMP 1998

Feminist Improvising Group:
Another Evening at Logos Sub Rosa 2015
European Women Improvising Group - Live in Zurich (CH) 1983. Available at
(Other recorded performances available on You Tube)

Glasgow improvisers Orchestra:
Artificial Life Future Music Records 2014
Schweben - Aye, but can ye? Maya 2012
Improcherto for HB Iorram 2012
Metamorphic Rock Iorram 2009
Separately and together Emanem 2008 (with London Improvisers Orchestra)
Poetics Creative Sources 2008
Munich and Glasgow FMR 2004

International Contemporary Ensemble:
Artificial Life 2007 (Available online at

London Improvisers Orchestra:
Lio Leo Leon Psi 2010
Improvisations for George Riste Psi 2003/7
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills To exercise autonomy and initiative in the development of projects
To reflect on and act with social responsibility in large group settings
To be able to respond creatively and individually to a project brief
Special Arrangements This course requires prior musical performance skills and ensemble experience. Outside students should contact the course organiser.
KeywordsMusic,large ensemble,communication,creativity,social interaction
Course organiserDr Graeme Wilson
Tel: (0131 6)50 8027
Course secretaryMiss Carrie Lyall
Tel: (0131 6)50 2422
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information