Conscious Improvisation: a deep and functional approach
(This Lab has been conceptualised by Prof. Carla Conti.)

Improvisation, from Latin improvisus, tells us about the unforeseeable which we are confronted with, especially in unpredictable, uncertain, unknown events, and urges freedom to take risks and to learn from mistakes.

The unscripted nature of improvisation is an invitation for gaining confidence in an atmosphere of play, risk-taking, and collaborative problem solving. Experiences with improvisation for musicians/performers are described along with teaching implications in consideration of research in the field of arts. The challenge is to accept and to foster the uncertainty and unfamiliarity, while using them to shape a connecting and relevant point of reflection.


What contribution can Improvisation give to such a project like RAPP Lab - Reflection-Based Artistic Professional Practice?


The Lab 6 did not intend to make improvisation its object of study, and it's not just a theoretical question: it's too much fascinated by the 'play'. Improvisation, in Lab 6, was tackled outside the usual and dichotomous perimeter with extremes, on the one hand an ecstatic experience and on the other a practice of recycling clichés[1].

Thus, Lab 6 undertakes to 'repeat' the improvisation gesture.

Improvisation in HEI contexts is in itself a challenging topic, since speaking of improvisation as an ongoing process of pure creation means not only speaking of something which cannot be taught but which will not even let itself be represented by a definitive discourse.

How many daily practices, techniques or devices may match the term "improvisation" and which kind of relationship they may have with music?

Improvisation is not only an intrinsic aspect of musical practices that has evolved over the centuries and to which no musical culture is extraneous, it is considered a crucial topic recently too, as witnessed by the authoritative Oxford handbooks[2] on Critical Improvisation.

Improvising is what happens in situations that force us to make snap decisions, changing our behavioural patterns.

Artists are increasingly confronted with unforeseen situations in research environments that include not-defined and/or complex situations.

Improvisation as suddenness in creation is a symbol of how our life might seem to us beyond our rational planning and over our rhythms in which we tend to represent it in our daily lives: a continuously springing event, an arrival by surprise, irreversible, rambling, always more or less approximate.

Improvisation is an all-pervasive aspect of both everyday and ritualized interactions.

Improvisation is inherent in artistic performing practice/research not only as a performative process but as an environment for experiencing our reactions to the new and developing the ability to grasp from it. Improvisation can be captured with the oxymoron: on the one hand, an act which, by definition, manifests itself in the present by surrounding itself with its characteristic aura of amazement, surprise, enthusiasm, but also risk, misstep, fear of emptiness, impossibility of return and erase the mistake; on the other, an object that aspires to be recognized in its lasting and complete nature, fixed by the signature that accompanies it, concealing the background of uncertainties and attempting to accompany its genesis.

There is an inherent link between improvisation in performing arts and daily life. This link is based on a deep understanding of corporality, imagination, affect, being-with, covering areas that traditionally have been considered as belonging to domain of sociality as well as to performing arts too.

Demarcating boundaries in improvisation, historically as well as geographically, is quite impossible.

Demarcating boundaries in improvisation, according to music repertoires, is hardly impossible too.

The purpose of the Lab 6, a 5-day lecture/workshop, is to explore possibilities, limitations, and resistances of improvisation to foster individual and collective reflection. Lab 6 is addressed to HEIM students (Master, pre-PhD, PhD), artists, researchers, and teachers dealing with performative practices.

With the Lab 6 we realized that there is more than one reason to embrace improvisation in our artistic professional practice as a path to reflecting because doing so will bring us beyond what we already know about our artistic research too.


The Lab 6 has been designed according to the following five days’ schedule:  

  • 10:30-11:30 lectures

Milena Cappabianca / Adriano Ercolani / Raffaele Di Mauro / Duilio D’Alfonso / Fiorella Battaglia.

  • 12:00-13:00 workshops

Carla Conti / Manish Madankar, Victor Vertunni, Valeria Vespaziani / Nando Citarella / Marko Miladinoč / Daniele Roccato.

  • 14:00-15:00 working groups; 
  • 15:30-16:30 presentation; 
  • 17:00-18:00 discussion.

[1] Gary Peters, The Philosophy of Improvisation, Chicago University Press 2009.

[2] The Oxford Handbooks of Critical Improvisation Studies Voll 1, 2. Ed by George E. Lewis & Benjamin Piekut, Oxford University Press, 2013.