Freedom and Improvisation

Learning Objective
This course will encourage students to reflect on topics that we as improvisers often perceive as self-evident. Students will be exposed to the academic language of philosophy and will develop strategies for how to approach the complex content of primary and secondary sources.  Moreover, they will be encouraged to ask questions and to think about their own view of freedom.

Course Content
Freedom is a key element in jazz. It has almost become self-evident that, when improvising, we exercise freedom at least to a certain extent. But what does it mean to exercise freedom? What is freedom? How 'free' are we when we improvise? What kinds of freedom are there? Is there a difference between freedom in 'free jazz' and freedom in 'traditional' jazz? Throughout this course, students will get a better understanding of the fundamental requirements that they, as improvisers, are expected to meet – requirements that all fall under the header of freedom. For instance, what does it mean to develop a 'unique style', to create an 'artistic identity' and to be 'authentic' and 'original'? How can the individual relate to the musical heritage of the past, without losing his authenticity/freedom? In other words, how do we reconcile tradition with uniqueness? We will listen to different kinds of improvised music and discuss how we can connect these improvisations to our newly discovered philosophical dimensions of freedom.

Related Electives
Building a Successful Professional Practice
* Music Theatre and Stage Performance
* Patterns of Performance: The Neuroscience of Improving Experts
* Reading Black Music

Course details

teacher Joris Roelofs
term September-December 2019
method of instruction 3 hours a week, consisting of:
  * A lecture, incl. listening examples (50 min.)
  * Questions (40 min.)
  * A group presentation led by students (30 min.)
  * Discussion/questions (60 min.)
  The group will be divided into small groups. On a rotating basis, one small group will prepare a presentation about the assigned reading material. All other small groups will formulate questions and send their questions to me before class starts.
readings * Isaiah Berlin: excerpts from Two Concepts of Liberty (1958)
  * Friedrich Nietzsche: excerpts from Beyond Good & Evil (1886), The Birth of Tragedy (1872), On the Future of Our Educational Institutions (1872) and Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883-1885)
  * Hannah Arendt: Freedom and Politics (1960)
  * Secondary literature on the Jazz Ambassadors Program (from 1957 onwards)
  * Secondary literature on the connection between the 1957 Little Rock Crisis, Charlie Mingus’ music and Hannah Arendt’s Reflections on Little Rock (1959)
  * Heidegger: short excerpts from Being and Time (1927).*)
  * Theodor Adorno: excerpts from The Perennial Fashion - Jazz (1953) and On Jazz (1936) **)
  * A selection of relevant philosophy videos
  * Additional reading
  *) Mostly secondary literature on Heidegger's notions of 'authenticity' and 'inauthenticity'.
  **) If time allows
  Reading assignments are obligatory.
listening examples * Just Friends' (Charlie Parker with Strings)
  * Max Roach: We insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite
  * Charles Mingus: The original Fables of Faubus
  * Ornette Coleman (selection)
  * Art Tatum (selection)
  * Han Bennink (selection)
  * When it Rains (Brad Mehldau)
  * Chris Potter (selection)
course requirements Readings, final assignment and 80% attendance are mandatory
final assessment Based on the material covered during this semester, students will write an essay of approx. 2000 words, exploring their personal perspective on freedom in relation to improvisation. The student's arguments must refer to at least one or two of our discussed topics.
credits 5