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Philosophy of Improvisation: The Aesthetics of Imperfection

6th-7th October 2018, Newcastle

In this two-day event, the idea of the aesthetics of imperfection was explored by jazz and improvising musicians in Western and non-Western music, plus practitioners from visual art, architecture, garden design and dance.

The contrast is between process and product, the unfinished and finished work, spontaneity and structure. We explored the compositional aspects of improvisation, and the improvisatory aspects of composition.

Kris Tiner (trumpet) and Mike Baggetta (guitar)

2016 workshop, Durham University Music Department. Photo: Lara Pearson.

The event included performances by participants. It highlighted the energy and spontaneity of improvisation, with contributors drawing on their individual artistic visions to explore contrasts and continuities between spontaneous kinds of creativity and the search for perfection that guides composed forms of art.

With thanks to funding from Durham University.

The workshop was part of the Newcastle Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music - full festival programme here.

Please contact Samuel Horlor at for more information.


Saturday 6th October: The Black Swan, Newcastle Arts Centre, NE1 1SG


09.45-10.00:   Andy Hamilton (philosophy academic and jazz writer)


10.00-10.30:   Claire Zakiewicz (visual artist)

                       ‘Struggle and Surrender: Process and Material in Painting’ 

10.30-11.00:   Martin Mayes (improvising horn player and alphornist)

                       ' "Stardust": Seeing and Imagining What Isn't There'


11.00-11.15:   Break


11.15-11.45:   Corey Mwamba (improvising vibraphone player)

                       ‘The Mistake as Material’

11.45-12.15:   Elizabeth Baldwin Gray (architecture and design academic)

                       ‘Architecture of Imperfection: Unfinished Sketches and the Sublime’


12.15-13.15:   Lunch


13.15-13.45:   Annie Kloppenberg (theatre and dance academic)

                       ‘Moving Principles and Principled Movements: Ethics and Embodiment in Dance Improvisation’

13.45-14.15:   Graeme Wilson (free improv researcher and performer)

                       ‘Cross Purposes: Imperfect Interactions When Improvising with Others’

14.15-14.45:   Philip G. Robinson (author, editor, working gardener, and researcher)

                       ‘Still Water Moves’ 


14.45-15.00:   Break


15.00-15.45:   David Brown (improvising guitarist and composer)

                       ‘Rarely Heard, Small Unwanted Sounds Form the Focus’

15.45-16.15:   Dave Lloyd (rock guitarist and recording engineer)

                       'Perfection and Authenticity: Editing Improvised Recordings' 


Sunday 7th October: Literary and Philosophical Society, Newcastle, NE1 1SE

10.00-10.30:   Andy Hamilton (philosophy academic and jazz writer)

                       'The Aesthetics of Imperfection Revisited'

10.30-11.00:   Pak Yan Lau (improvising pianist)

                       ‘The Aesthetics of Possibilities’

11.00-11.15:    Break


11.15-11.45:   John Snijders (pianist and music researcher)

                        ‘ “That's Not Freedom, That's Taking License”: The Pitfalls in Interpreting Morton Feldman's Graphic Scores’

11.45-12.15:   Adam Fairhall (improvising pianist)

                       ‘The Instrumental Impulse: Developing an Improvisation Vocabulary for Unconventional Keyboard



12.15-13.15:   Lunch


13.15-13.45:   Chris Corsano (free improv drummer)

                       ‘The Present Imperfect’

13.45-14.15:   Joe McPhee (improvising multi-instrumentalist)

                       Interview with Andy Hamilton 

14.45-15.00:   Break


15.00-15.30:   Nate Wooley (improvising trumpeter)

                       ‘Built from the Root, Ever-changing at the Bloom: The Role of Imperfection in the Processes of Musical

                       Phonology, Morphology, and Syntax’

15.30-16.00:   Mark Hanslip (improvising saxophonist)

                       ‘Processes and Outcomes: Generative Systems for Improvised Music’

16.00-16.30:   Otto Willberg (improvising bassist)

                       ‘Evading Manipulation and Control: Playing with Perspectives’

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