Author: Cynthie van Eijden

This research has been a subject within he Master of Music at the Royal Conservatoire The Hague.

Main Subject: Theory of Music

Research supervisor: Karst de Jong

Master Circle leaders: Henk Borgdorff, Gerda van Zelm, Paul Craenen

Presentation date: Friday, 22th. of June, Royal Conservatoire The Hague



This research aims to explore and develop an updated approach to "open form" in music. "Open form" is traditionally referred to as "aleatoric music": a score is provided but the composer has left some choices open. The term "aleatoric" music implies that chance determines how to fill the open spaces. The renewed approach in this research however aims to provide a score in which a performer as an improviser or co-composer is invited to shape the music according to his own opinion. The score provides a plan and context for improvised content and, in doing so, invites the performer to co-create the piece.


The research developed in three phases. In the first phase, improvisation was used as a learning tool in music theory classes. Different approaches to improvisation were studied and practiced. In the second phase, one group of musicians evolved from an improvisation course and went on a tour of five concerts. For them an open form score was created in order to provide context to the improvisations of the musicians. This composition is called View from a high mountain, a composition in six parts that allows improvisation at several moments. In the third phase, findings from the outcome and performance of View from a high mountain caused a renewal of the approach in the classroom. Through this renewal the boundary between education and musical production became a thinner line that allowed several cross-overs. Instead of a handbook containing a method or exercises or a new open form score The Improvisation Tree was created. The Improvisation Tree is a model that can be used as a help for creating, analyzing, categorizing and comparing open form scores.

Research questions


An open form score contains instructions (sometimes including notated music) through which its resulting performance is partially determined. 


Which type of instructions in open form scores leads to which results in its performances?


Which type of instructions in present-day open form scores is suitable and challenging to musicians trained in improvisation nowadays?



In what way do instructions in an open form score guide the performer?

What kind of training does the performer need in order to perform this kind of score?

How can distinctive types of instructions be described and categorized?

What purposes can open form scores serve?

What are the differences of the scores created in this research when compared to existing repertoire?

Which criteria are to be used to decide whether the resulting performance is artistically valuable?