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date: 26 November 2020

Abstract and Keywords

During the summer of 1997, Ornette Coleman, pianist Joachim Kühn, and philosopher Jacques Derrida performed together at the La Villette festival outside Paris. This chapter revisits this now famous event—one the philosopher reported to be a collaborative failure—and repurposes it into a philosophical inquiry by developing a question Derrida’s thinking poses to Ornette Coleman’s music: Is improvisation present? In search for an answer, the chapter places Derrida’s observations about improvisation in dialogue with a theory of improvisation forwarded by moral philosopher and amateur pianist, Vladimir Jankélévitch. It concludes by proposing a theory of improvisation centered on the playful exposure to the necessity of inscription, the instability and uncertainty of idiom, and a form of fidelity to the vanishing now.

Keywords: temporality, inscription, idiom, Jankélévitch, Derrida, Ornette Coleman, Fred Moten

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