Improvisation on a Theme

When I was younger, I played in several improvising ensembles. Still I’ve never been very confident about improvising. So maybe I’ll attempt a brief improvisation on the theme of improvisation.

Is there any difference between improvisation and composition?

If so, maybe it has to do with notation. If fully notated scores create a written literature of music, then fully improvised compositions create an aural/oral literature of music.

But most improvisation involves some degree of notation, and most notated music involves some degree of improvisation…

Maybe it has to do with speed. Improvisation happens in the moment. Composition can take a very long time.

But if improvisation is spontaneous composition, and composition is considered improvisation, then again it’s just a matter of degree…

Well maybe it has to do with style. Improvisation is practiced more widely in certain musical traditions and less so in others.

But ensembles from the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra to the Deep Listening Band improvise. And it’s very tricky business to articulate just what style is, these days… It’s almost as tricky as defining composition and improvisation.

It beats me.

Just what is improvisation?

What role does it play in your music or the music you like to listen to?