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Improvising Improvisation

From Out of Philosophy, Music, Dance, and Literature

Gary Peters

Improvising Improvisation

Gary Peters

288 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2017
Cloth $40.00 ISBN: 9780226452623 Published May 2017
E-book $40.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226452760 Published May 2017
There is an ever-increasing number of books on improvisation, ones that richly recount experiences in the heat of the creative moment, theorize on the essence of improvisation, and offer convincing arguments for improvisation’s impact across a wide range of human activity. This book is nothing like that. In a provocative and at times moving experiment, Gary Peters takes a different approach, turning the philosophy of improvisation upside-down and inside-out.
Guided by Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, and especially Deleuze—and exploring a range of artists from Hendrix to Borges—Peters illuminates new fundamentals about what, as an experience, improvisation truly is. As he shows, improvisation isn’t so much a genre, idiom, style, or technique—it’s a predicament we are thrown into, one we find ourselves in. The predicament, he shows, is a complex entwinement of choice and decision. The performativity of choice during improvisation may happen “in the moment,” but it is already determined by an a priori mode of decision. In this way, improvisation happens both within and around the actual moment, negotiating a simultaneous past, present, and future. Examining these and other often ignored dimensions of spontaneous creativity, Peters proposes a consistently challenging and rigorously argued new perspective on improvisation across an extraordinary range of disciplines. 

1 I’ve Started, so I’ll Begin: Heidegger’s Other Beginning and the Origin of Improvisation
2 With What Must the Improvisation Begin? Kant and Hegel on Certainty
3 Memoir: Lol Coxhill (In Memoriam)
4 Case Study: The Recedents (Lol Coxhill, Roger Turner, and Mike Cooper)
5 Precision, Decision, and Accuracy: Heidegger and Arendt on Singularity and Solitude
6 Decentered Center/Displaced Periphery: A Deleuzian Perspective
7 Memoir: San Sebastian Jazz Festival, July 20– 25, 1980
8 Case Study: Bernard “Pretty” Purdie
9 Fixing and Unfi xing Idioms and Non- Idioms: Developing Derek Bailey’s Concept of Improvisation
10 A Diff erent Sameness: Borges and Deleuze on Repetition
11 Memoir: Bluegrass in Cheltenham
12 Case Study: The Del McCoury Band
13 Virtuality and Actualization: Deleuze and Bluegrass
14 Deleuzian Improvisation
15 Improvisation and Habit
16 Case Study: Jurij Konjar and Steve Paxton: The Goldberg Variations
17 Habit and Event: Rehearsing, Practising, Improvising
18 Memoir: The Woburn Pop Festival, 1968
19 Case Study: Jimi Hendrix
20 Composition, Improvisation, and Obligation: Schoenberg and Beckett on Duty
21 Bits and Scraps: Derek Bailey and the Improvised Situation
22 Memoir: Miles Davis, Royal Festival Hall, July 1984
23 Case Study: Cyndi Lauper, “Time After Time”

Review Quotes
Michael Gallope, University of Minnesota
"This book is an exceptionally sophisticated treatment of improvisation. Peters is equally immersed in music and philosophy, making this a substantial contribution and a giant step forward for the topic."
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