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How can one learn to improvise convincingly within the context of the nineteenth-century piano repertoire? And why is it important to improvise on this repertoire in the twenty-first century? Taking the music of Robert Schumann as a departure point, Playing Schumann Again for the First Time proposes an answer to these questions through methods towards a pianistic practice that is driven by experimentation and strives to continually find more layers where improvisation can take place, both in sounding musical practice and in notation. These practice methods are contextualized by a discussion of the presence of improvisation in Western classical musical practice in the nineteenth century. They are then substantiated by a plea to use improvisation as a tool for rethinking the current performance practice of nineteenth-century music. Improvisation itself and the concepts driving this term will also be addressed: improvisation in musical performance will be described as a process guided by a feedback loop between mimesis and morphosis with which the practitioner engages using his or her individual cognitive and embodied approach to listening, forgetting, and conceptualizing; the results of which bear his or her own sonic signature. The knowledge gained in this project lies within the realm of what will be described as improvisation as practice, a category of improvisational behavior that circumvents the need to be presented as art and is rather intended for the development of one’s own music-making.
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