Improvisationskunst in Literatur und Musik


  • Marijan Dović


improvisation, bertsolaritza, Basque country, jazz, bebop, literature and music, Improvisation, Bertsolarismus, Baskenland, Literatur und Musik


The article deals with the art of improvisation as “extemporization”, i. e., spontaneous production of a (spoken, musical, etc.) text(ure) without a detailed previous preparation, which takes place in real time, during the performance. As history of arts clearly demonstrates, improvisation has always been an important principle of artistic creation as well – particularly in the “temporal” and performing arts. However, it was gradually ousted from most artistic discourses (e. g., from written literature and composed music) and only survived at their edges. This article focuses on structured improvisation, where the essential concept of spontaneity is creatively confronted with tradition (the referential corpus, improvisational principles and patterns) and improvising community (competition). More specifically, it discusses two cases of improvised traditions in literature and music that are still vital (in both of them, the original connection of literature and music remains visible to some extent): the sung improvised poetry of Basque bertsolari which is based upon ancient, yet vibrant tradition of oral literature, and modern jazz improvisation as it has evolved from the mid-twentieth century on. Both cases demonstrate that the most complex forms of improvisation are not primarily a matter of elusive (mystical) inspiration, but should instead be understood as art in terms of Aristotelian skill (technē).