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MP18: Improvisation in Theory and Practice


From plainchant to free jazz and beyond, this Working Group explores how musical improvisation has been conceptualized, performed, construed, and analyzed across a broad range of periods, places, and genres.

Open to New People

Active since: 2013

  • Syracuse University
  • University of Rochester
  • Cornell University

Collaborative Goals

To provide opportunities for faculty and students to engage with improvisation in theory and practice.

Group Organizers

Anne Laver

Assistant Professor of Applied Music and Performance; University Organist, Syracuse University

Annette Richards

Given Foundation Professor in the Humanities and University Organist, Cornell University

David Higgs

Professor of Organ; Chair, Organ, Sacred Music, and Historical Keyboards Department, Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester

Roger Moseley

Associate Professor, Music, Cornell University

Group Members

  • William Porter, Professor of Organ, University of Rochester
  • Ivan Bosnar, Instructor of Organ, Syracuse University

Group Outcomes

Students learned about the context for improvisation in the Historically Black Church. They also learned how to harmonize melodies with some of the traditional patterns from the gospel tradition. This experience led the working group members to develop a signature event to take place in 2024 that will continue to explore the gospel idiom and put it in conversation with improvisation practices from western European liturgical traditions.