The use of indeterminacy in music composition as a stimulus for developing music improvisation skill in performers




Caesar, Michael

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This study has been undertaken in response to a need for teaching and learning resources that will encourage the development of music improvisation skill in young musicians. The literature reveals that, despite growing evidence of positive educational benefits for students who undertake music improvisation activities, teachers remain reluctant to introduce such activities into music programs. This, according to the literature, is due to a lack of teacher confidence and a lack of suitable resources. Music improvisation is, in reality, spontaneous composition. It is a complex act that involves the simultaneous interaction between three ensembles of factors: 1. the performer profile; 2. the enabling skills including: ability to play by ear, audiation ability, kinaesthetic abilities; 3. the improvisation process including: creative thinking and problem solving skills, cognitive strategies and group or solo contexts. Because these factors are developmental, they can be taught. However, in order to develop music improvisation skills, these factors need to be taught simultaneously. Indeterminacy in music relates to anything that is not fixed. Therefore, if one or more of the six elements of music, which include pitch, duration, timbre, dynamics, texture and structure, or aspects of those elements are not fixed, then they are considered to be indeterminate. The interpretation in performance of these indeterminate aspects becomes music improvisation. These improvisations may be partial improvisation, where only one element of music is being improvised, or improvisation involving more than one element of music; or they may be full improvisation where the performer has total control over the composition process. The calculated use of indeterminacy within a music composition therefore presents itself as an excellent resource for developing music improvisation skill in young musIcIans. Creative musical development is seen to be the key pedagogical underpinning of indeterminacy as a tool in enhancing the development of improvisation skill. Several important factors including audiation ability, ability to play by car. kinaesthetic factors, creative thinking and problem solving skills, information processing including the development and use of cognitive strategies are involved in creative musical development. As these factors are also developmental, they may be learned. Through the carefully planned inclusion of indeterminacy within written compositions, this portfolio demonstrates that it is possible to simultaneously develop all of these skills. This approach also offers several pedagogical benefits including the fact that the composer is able to plan the use indeterminacy in a structured manner that will develop music improvisation skill. The composer is also able to plan works that support a sequential development of music improvisation skill while al so taking into account the level of musical proficiency of the intended performers. Finally, because the use of indeterminacy is incorporated within the structure of the more familiar realm of written compositions it may also be seen as being less of a threat to those teachers who have little or no experience in music improvisation. This study has developed a portfolio of 14 works that all include the calculated use of indeterminacy for developing improvisation skills in young musicians. The works have been divided into five categories of resources: I . Resources for general music classroom students, 2. Resources for individual instruments and performers, 3. Resources for small ensembles of performers, 4. Resources for medium to large ensembles of performers, 5. One example of a resource for large orchestra and voices. The central goal of this study has been the development of suitable resources for developing music improvisation skills in young musicians and by doing so this study aims to encourage music teachers to include music improvisation into their music programs as an important creative musical activity. The examples of compositions presented in this study have also opened the path to other composers and music educators to continue using indeterminacy in music composition as resources for developing improvisation skills in young musicians. Finally, the compositions presented in this study are not only teaching resources, they are also compositions in their own right. This study has therefore added to the repertoire of existing music compositions.






Thesis (PhD)

Book Title

Entity type

Access Statement

License Rights



Restricted until