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date: 19 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the challenging question of curriculum and assessment for music improvisation pedagogy. It begins by offering a critical review of standard approaches to improvisation pedagogy, arguing that they often neglect the processes of discovery and collaboration that more open or “free” approaches afford. It then discusses the challenges that free improvisation poses to traditional modes of practice and assessment in music education. The chapter considers the argument that improvisation, in its fullest sense, cannot be taught and assessed according to standardized models; it is not something to be inculcated in students, but rather is a fundamental disposition that should be nurtured. This perspective is then developed in light of recent advances in enactive cognitive science, in which living cognition is explored as a fundamentally embodied, embedded, enactive, and extended (4E) phenomenon. The suggestion is made that because the ways living agents engage with these dimensions are not pre-given but rather reflect the adaptive processes associated with survival and well-being in contingent sociomaterial environments, there is a very strong sense in which cognition may be understood as an improvisational process even at the most fundamental levels. Following this, the chapter explores how a 4E cognition model might help guide curriculum development and offer a framework for forms of self-assessment involving collaborative processes of creative action and reflection. In conclusion, the chapter offers a few final thoughts drawn from existing musical communities and the author’s experience as an improvising musician.

Keywords: music education, free improvisation, 4E cognition, self-assessment, creativity

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