The Instant Composers Pool: Music Notation and the Mediation of Improvising Agency

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This article relates the recent development of a “relational musicology” to debates about participatory art and relational aesthetics. I present results from an ethnographic study of the Dutch improvising music collective the Instant Composers Pool, founded in 1967 and still performing. With a background in jazz, experimental music and performance art, this group developed an improvisatory musical practice in which musical notations are freely used. These pieces mediate the social and creative agency of the musicians in the group. As such, they provide a case for reconsidering the nature of musical notation, and the distinction between composition and improvisation, which have been foundational for the academic study of music, and constitutive for a distinction between the aesthetic and the social. I employ the concept of “microtopia” to describe not only the way in which artistic practices subvert such conventional categories, but also to account for the value of ethnographic fieldwork to take such practices as inspiration for disciplinary innovation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-58
Number of pages20
JournalCadernos de Arte e Antropología
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • improvisation
  • music notation
  • relational musicology
  • mediation
  • ontology
  • creativity


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