Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Open Cultural Studies

Editor-in-Chief: Miller, Toby

Open Access
See all formats and pricing
More options …

Composing for Improvisers: Negotiating the Issue of Individual Voice

Anton Hunter
  • Corresponding author
  • Doctoral Candidate, Contemporary Arts, Manchester Metropolitan University, Cheshire, CW1 5DU, UK
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2018-09-25 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/culture-2018-0019


This paper addresses one aspect of my Practice as Research project exploring composing for large groups of improvising musicians. It looks at how my practice evolved as a result of contemplating the nature of solo improvisation, together with Garry L. Hagberg’s writings around “Collective Intention.” I discuss a new work for octet that started with small-group improvisations, initially totally freely and then later using thematic material inspired and informed by the initial sessions. By basing the finished compositions on improvisations this way, I aim to bring the creative voice of the individuals into final performance. Not just by employing the compositional techniques of the likes of Graham Collier, John Zorn, Anthony Braxton and many others who allow room for realtime improvised contributions in performance, but by weaving the unique voices of the musicians into the written material as well. In this way, I am challenging the stereotype of a lone composer working away from the ensemble, which the contemporary big band composer often fits.

Keywords: improvisation; composition; large ensemble jazz


  • Bailey, Derek. Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice in Music. 2nd ed., British Library National Sound Archive, 1992.Google Scholar

  • Barthes, Roland. Image, Music, Text. Translated by Stephen Heath, Fontana Press, 1977.Google Scholar

  • Berliner, Paul. Thinking in Jazz: The Infinite Art of Improvisation. University of Chicago Press, 1994.Google Scholar

  • Brötzmann, Peter and Gerard Rouy. We Thought We Could Change the World: Conversations with Gérard Rouy. Wolke Verlagsges. Mbh, 2014.Google Scholar

  • Cobussen, Marcel. “Steps to an Ecology of Improvisation.” Soundweaving: Writings on Improvisation, edited by Franziska Schroeder and Mícheál Ó hAodha, Cambridge Scholars, 2014, pp. 15-28.Google Scholar

  • Corbett, John. A Listener’s Guide to Free Improvisation. University of Chicago Press, 2016.Google Scholar

  • Epstein, Lee Rice. “Anton Hunter-Article Xi (Efpi Records, 2018) ****.” The Free Jazz Collective, 11 March 2018, www.freejazzblog.org/2018/03/anton-hunter-article-xi-efpi-records.html.Google Scholar

  • Fell, Simon H. “Report on the Composition of Improvised Music No.4.” Rubberneck, 1998, www.users.globalnet. co.uk/~rneckmag/fell.html.Google Scholar

  • Hagberg, Garry L. “Ensemble Improvisation, Collective Intention, and Group Attention.” The Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies Volume 1, edited by George E. Lewis and Benjamin Piekut, vol. 1, Oxford University Press, 2016, pp. 481-99.Google Scholar

  • Heddon, Deirdre and Jane Milling. Devising Performance: A Critical History. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.Google Scholar

  • Iyer, Vijay. “Exploding the Narrative in Jazz Improvisation.” Uptown Conversation: The New Jazz Studies, edited by Robert G.O’Meally, Brent Hayes Edwards and Farah Jasmine Griffin, Columbia University Press, 2004, pp. 393-403.Google Scholar

  • Jost, Ekkehard. Free Jazz. Universal Edition, 1974.Google Scholar

  • Lash, Dominic. “Derek Bailey’s Practice/Practise.” Perspectives of New Music, vol. 49, no. 1, 2011, pp. 143-71.Google Scholar

  • Lewis, Judith. “Dialogue as a Way of Knowing: Understanding Solo Improvisation and Its Implications for an Education for Freedom.” Psychomusicology: Music, Mind & Brain, vol. 23, no. 4, 2013, pp. 255-61.Google Scholar

  • Lock, Graham. Forces in Motion: Anthony Braxton and the Meta-Reality of Creative Music: Interviews and Tour Notes, England 1985. Quartet Books, 1988.Google Scholar

  • Mann, Ian. “Various Artists-Live at Lume Vol. 3.” The Jazz Mann, 27 July 2017, www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/live-at-lume-vol.-3.Google Scholar

  • Ninh, Lê Quan. Improvising Freely: The Abcs of an Experience. Translated by Karen Houle, PS Guelph, 2014.Google Scholar

  • Participant A & B. Personal interview. 3 October 2017.Google Scholar

  • Picknett, Michael. “Devising Music-Applying Creative Approaches from Dance and Theatre to Music Composition.” Guildhall, 2014.Google Scholar

  • ---. “Navigating the Uncertain: Performers in Devising Processes.” Music and/as Process, edited by Lauren Redhead and Vanessa Hawes, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016, pp. 156-72.Google Scholar

  • Spicer, Daniel. “Lume Festival.” The Wire 391, 2016, pp. 79.Google Scholar

  • ---. “The Mystery Lesson.” Totally Radio, 28 November 2017, www.totallyradio.com/shows/the-mystery-lesson/episodes/ the-mystery-lesson-28-nov-2017.Google Scholar

  • Stenström, Harald. “Free Ensemble Improvisation.” University of Gothenburg, 2009.Google Scholar

  • Toop, David. Into the Maelstrom: Music, Improvisation and the Dream of Freedom: Before 1970. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016.Google Scholar

  • Whitehead, Kevin. New Dutch Swing: Jazz + Classical Music + Absurdism. 1st ed., Billboard Books, 1998.Google Scholar

About the article

Received: 2018-05-14

Accepted: 2018-08-16

Published Online: 2018-09-25

Published in Print: 2018-09-01

Citation Information: Open Cultural Studies, Volume 2, Issue 1, Pages 203–211, ISSN (Online) 2451-3474, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/culture-2018-0019.

Export Citation

© by Anton Hunter, published by De Gruyter. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. BY-NC-ND 4.0

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in