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Freely Improvised Music

Meeting timeCRNSession
Thursdays 1:00PM - 1:50PM 47872Full Term

This seminar examines both the motivations for and expressions of creativity in unconventional directions as present in freely improvised music.  The first purpose of the course is to introduce students to the music and musicians of free improvisation, across and between genres, and artists including Derek Bailey, Pauline Oliveros, Keiji Haino, Peter Brötzmann, Anthony Braxton, Cecil Taylor, John Zorn, Nicole Mitchell and many others.  The second purpose of the course is to think critically about what drives practitioners of free improvisation to abandon conventional expressions of creativity (and therefore all hopes of broad appeal and/or significant commercial gain) in exchange for an “undiluted” artistic vision in the cultural margin.  We will also discuss relevant topics such as social forces that led to non-idiomatic improvisation, the esthetic limits of music, the development of an ear for “difficult” music, the validity of various measures of success or merit, where popularity is largely irrelevant, and the essential presence of failure in experimental art forms. Hands-on experimentation with idiophonic instruments is part of the course.

Professor Information

David Keffer


  • Materials Science & Engineering
  • Engineering
  • E-mail

David Keffer is a professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, where he uses molecular simulation to understand structure/property relationships in nanostructured materials. He is also an avid student of non-idiomatic improvisation and its application to music, literature and life.