Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Australian Music Centre


Faculty of Education and Arts


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) / Music Research Group




Kosowitz, S. , & Vickery, L. R. (2013). Retaining a sense of spontaneity in Free Jazz improvisation through music technology. In Sound scripts : proceedings of the 2011 Totally Huge New Music Festival Conference. / Volume 4. (pp. 88-96). Grosvenor Place, Australia: Australian Music Centre. Available here.


The Free Jazz genre has many interpretations and takes different forms from one musician to another, which makes it difficult to define as a single entity. This paper focuses on the style pioneered by Ornette Coleman (b.1930) as his form is probably most well known. Whilst his could be considered one of the most spontaneous Jazz styles in terms of its improvisational language, it does come with its limitations. His Free Jazz improvisations whilst created in the moment, are not truly spontaneous as Coleman still relies heavily on the idiomatic Bebop ensemble culture, melodic language and formal structures in his music. This paper is an account of some attempts to retain a sense of spontaneity in Free Jazz improvisation by incorporating music technology. Through my own experiments and research I have found that through the use of live recording, sampling, processing and playback technologies, it is possible to surprise the improvisers with even their own musical ideas and hence inspire them to break away from using the idiomatic Bebop language. In this approach a laptop performer is employed in the ensemble, using live recording, sampling, processing and playback technologies to choose (in an uninformed manner) which materials will be explored in the group’s improvisations. This adds a layer of spontaneity as not only can the instrumentalists’ improvisations be replayed from any point, but also extended beyond the technical capabilities of the performer through electronic processing. Hence, not only are the opening improvisations spontaneous to the performance but so too are their development. The implications of this strategy, not only in creating original works, but also in the performance of ‘Jazz standards’ will be discussed.

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