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date: 02 December 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The chapter focuses on modern uses of “improvisation,” its derivatives (I-words), and its constitution with “composition” of a duality of opposites that—like many dualities—works as a hierarchy, valuing reason over impulse, order over entropy, coherence over incoherence, integration over disarticulation, organic wholeness over disjunction. It evaluates the effect of such a conception in accounts of music-making in the Middle Ages and the eighteenth century. It compares those accounts with language left by writers of the periods in view, finding contrariety by commission in the first and omission in the second. Regarding the power of language in shaping such portrayals, the chapter demonstrates the cloaking of eighteenth-century doctrine about what music is for and how it should be—expressive, moving, pleasing, free, unpredictable, original, in short, its aesthetic—that attends the simple act of transmuting “fantasy” to “improvisation” and fantasizing from that a “style” that is labeled “improvisatory.”

Keywords: improvise, compose, fantasy, fantasize, aesthetic, expressive, moving, pleasing, graceful, free, unpredictable, original

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