The journal Music and Arts in Action (MAiA) emerges from international, cross-disciplinary work that takes a wider, holistic approach in researching the dynamic role of music and the arts in social life and cultural experience. Cutting-edge work in this area considers how aesthetic experiences and artistic forms are unconsciously, semi-consciously and actively used by individuals and groups to structure social relations, situations, environments and action. Simply put, how, when and where do music and art do something, how do music and art matter?

Keywords in Musical Free Improvisation

Carl Bergstrøm-Nielsen


This article presents some keywords and concepts concerning free improvised music and its recent developments drawing from ongoing bibliographical research. A radical pluralism stems from musicians' backgrounds and the mixtures and fusions of styles and idioms resulting from these mixtures. Seemingly very different "performance-driven" and "play-driven" attitudes exist, even among musicians who share the practice of performing at concerts. New models of musical analysis aiming specifically at free improvised music take into account these interactional dimensions and point to the existence of certain typical sounding characteristics.

Musical Improvisation and the Academy

Jesse Stewart


Academic interest in musical improvisation has increased signiffcantly in recent years. This is evidenced not only by the increasing number of publications focused on improvisation, but also by the growing number of improvisers to have received academic appointments at major universities. In this essay, I examine the changing historical relationships between musical improvisation and the academy, as well as some of the implications of those relationships for both the academy and the field of musical improvisation itself.

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Playing with Distinction? Music Therapy and the Affordances of Improvisation

Simon Procter


In the United Kingdom (UK), improvisation seems to be regarded as central to, and even definitional of, the practice of music therapy. This article considers reasons why improvisation might b e professionally prized in this way but also turns to Tia DeNora's (2003) notion of musical affordance to consider what in practical terms improvisation may have to offer within music therapy practice, focusing on two vignettes from a mental health environment.

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Improvisation Among the Discourses

Jesse Stewart

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The Modern Idea of Creativity and its Influence on Music Therapy

Yu Wakao

In recent years, improvisation has been recognized as one of the most important tools for music therapy. Several accounts have beenmade concerning the importance of improvisation, each from a particular music therapist’s point of view. In this essay, my objective is to consider how modern, Western ideas concerning improvisation have informed the practices and philosophies of music therapy. I begin with a comparison of traditional Japanese ideas concerning creativity and modern Western conceptions of creativity and improvisation, focusing in particular on the influence of ‘reflexive modernity’. Next I consider the influence of reflexive modernity on improvisation within contemporary music therapy, discussing the psychologized tendencies of modern music and music therapy. I conclude by invoking Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of ‘line of fight’ to advocate for a model of music therapy that connects the music and the individual to something outsideas in The Otoasobi Project in Japan and in various non-Western healing traditions.

Creating a Dialogue through Improvisation in Cross-cultural Collaborations

Griselda Iseult Sanderson


This research paper investigates the role of improvisation as dialogue between oral music practitioners from different cultures and compares modes of practice between the subject of this research and other similar collaborations. Ideas for developing good practice through processes of familiarisation, learning and communication are discussed alongside issues surrounding musical identity. With regard to creative outcomes, an attempt is made to devise a model whereby cross-cultural collaborations can provide benefits to both participants and their wider communities.

The Otoasobi Project: Improvising with Disability

Rii Numata


This paper discusses a community-oriented, improvisation-focused initiative known as The Otoasobi Project. First, I situate the project in relation to the felds of free improvisation, “outsider music,” and music therapy. Then, in reference to several video excerpts, I discuss The Otoasobi Project, examining the ways in which individuals with learning disabilities, musicians, and music therapists have been able to make improvised music with one another, forging an inclusive space for musical and social interaction that has had both aesthetic and therapeutic benefits.