Małgorzata A. Szyszkowska

Following the Process of Improvisation in Music Performance: the example of Gabriela Montero

As improvisation may be seen as a creative source (Scruton 1992:) or maybe even the ground for creation itself, following the improvisational process may be especially fruitful for studying music. Improvisation – music created on the spot – is one of rarely executed ways of creating music in classical performances. Even though in most of superb music performance there is a lot of room for changes and modification, improvisation and especially free improvisation seem not to be considered serious enough to be a part of the program. Yet, as Arnold Berleant reminds us performance “is a central function in music” and in some sense it is necessary (Berleant 1999: 73). Free improvisation makes performance this much more free. One of the classical musicians, who improvises during her concerts is pianist Gabriela Montero. Author proposes a closer look at the creative processes behind improvisation during Ms Montero performances. Taking into account both the remarks made in interviews and analyzing videos with Ms Montero’s performances, author attempts to describe what is happening during these highly inspiring music performances. The aim of the presentation is to describe and explain author’s account of Gabriela Montero’s improvisation in music in the context of music performance as an extreme occasion (Said 1991). The methods employed are those of description, hermeneutical analysis and philosophical interpretation. Author suggests that Ms Montero’s work allows her to communicate with audiences and create a performance space based on trust, common experience, imagination and musicality. In this particular situation Ms Montero creates, audience is welcome to not only to suggest a melody for improvisation but to talk and laugh together with the artist, therefore the situation is radically different, based on dialogue and understanding. There are many aspects of improvisation that help in providing such common ground. Author proposes to talk about the aspects of play, pretend and shared community. The improvisation undertaken by Ms Montero has all the necessary elements to allow for creativity and at the same time to spun creative processes of among the audiences as well. The thesis put forward during presentation is that the creative process often appear in discussion with the others, or in relation to suggestions, speaking more generally: in response to situation. Such claims were made earlier in aesthetics of Robin G. Collingwood (Collingwood 1938) and in phenomenological aesthetics of Luigi Payerson (Payerson 2009) as well as in ecological acoustics (Clarke 2005). Author intends to recall such claims and to describe Gabriela Montero’s creative playing in terms of phenomenology of artistic process.


University of Warsaw, Poland

Is educated at University of Warsaw studying philosophy. After writing her doctoral thesis she went to work in UK at the University of Cardiff as a research fellow. In 2004 she started working at the Institute of Philosophy University of Warsaw and worked there ever since. In 2016 alongside her colleagues she formed a Center for Research in Philosophy of Music and since then has been devoting her time to researching and studying musical work and music’s perception from phenomenological perspective. In 2017 National Science Center has awarded her project “Philosophy of Music. Metaphysical, Phenomenological and Deconstructionist Paths to Researching Music, its Theory and Practice” with financial grant. She writes on aesthetics, philosophy of music and phenomenology of music and listening (especially on Theodor Adorno, Jean-François Lyotard, John Dewey, Roman Ingarden, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Mikel Dufrenne and Jean-Luc Nancy).