Freedom and Improvisation (Master elective Conservatory of Amsterdam)

Freedom is a key element in jazz. It has almost become self-evident that, when improvising, we exercise freedom at least to a certain extent. But what does it mean to exercise freedom? What is freedom? How ‘free’ are we when we improvise? What kinds of freedom are there? Is there a difference between freedom in ‘free jazz’ and freedom in ‘traditional’ jazz? Throughout this course, students will get a better understanding of the fundamental requirements that they, as improvisers, are expected to meet – requirements that all fall under the header of freedom. For instance, what does it mean to develop a ‘unique style’, to create an ‘artistic identity’ and to be ‘authentic’ and ‘original’? How can the individual relate to the musical heritage of the past, without losing his authenticity/freedom? In other words, how do we reconcile tradition with uniqueness?
All these questions will be asked and answered in this course. We will discuss various conceptions of freedom – by Friedrich Nietzsche, Hannah Arendt, Martin Heidegger, and Isaiah Berlin. We will then listen to different kinds of improvised music (for instance: Max Roach and Charlie Mingus) and discuss how we can connect these improvisations to our newly discovered philosophical dimensions of freedom.