The Ends of Improvisation

Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 68 (3):291-296 (2010)
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This essay attempts to address the question, "What makes an improvised jazz solo a maturation of the possibilities of this artform?" It begins by considering the significance of one distinguishable feature of an improvised jazz solo - how it ends - in light of Joseph Kerman's seemingly parallel consideration of the historical development of how classical concertos end. After showing the limits of this comparison, the essay proposes a counter-parallel, between the jazz improviser's attitude toward the solo's end and Ludwig Wittgenstein's attitude toward our (or philosophy's) arriving at the end of justifications. The parallel depends on one's granting that both the improviser and Wittgenstein are, in their distinct ways, doing battle against the recurring human fantasy of the fixity of experience.

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William Day
Le Moyne College


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