Tuesday, August 31, 2004

"Just wing it!"

Improvisation is in the purest sense composing music while performing. However, there are a wide variety of improvisation techniques. In some songs (especially the vocal genre) musicians are allowed to add certain ornaments, alter high notes, or even improvise a cadenza (an ornament played or sung while the accompaniment rests or sustains a chord). Improvisation is seen especially in the medieval use of oral transmission. Until the 1960s improvisation always had a loose model or starting point to guide the musician through the improvisation. This usually came in the form of guiding harmonies. Improvisation has always been secondary in western music to the "finer" art of composition, but in many other cultures of the world, it is the primary ability of a musician. In conclusion improvisation can be as small as a simple ornament or as large as an entire performance.

Source: The New Harvard Musical Dictionary, 4th ed. Editor: Don Randel Article: Improvisation