Improvisation in Arts

Improvisation is of paramount importance for enabling us to cope with our everyday environment and its contingencies. It is also something we value highly as an artistic achievement in music, dance and improvisational theatre. However, despite its obvious importance, improvisation is an aspect of human agency that has hardly been studied within philosophy of mind and action, which has either focused on action that is structured by prior planning and deliberation or on one-shot “basic actions” such as raising one’s arm or pulling a trigger.

With a view to investigating the nature and philosophical importance of improvisation in both artistic and non-artistic practices, we will organize three interdisciplinary workshops on the topic in 2017 and 2018.

The aim of the first workshop in Copenhagen is to secure evidence-based insights into how improvisation informs individual and small-scale collective actions. In particular, we will look at forms of improvisation in art and, especially, in music, dance and physical theatre. Questions that will be addressed during this first workshop include: Is the ability to improvise a by-product of expertise and mastery or a precondition for being an expert musician or actor? To what extent does the term ‘improvisation’ label a unified phenomenon? Are there several forms of improvisation? In the case of joint improvised action, what is the role of mutual trust among the participants in improvisation? How does responsibility and ownership connect to improvisation in individual and joint cases? Does the fact that an action is performed based on improvisation increase or decrease the level of responsibility attached to the action? What are the “norms,” if any, of improvisation?

Speakers and artists

Stefan Pagels Andersen, Olle Blomberg, Ingar Brinck, Tom Cochrane, Simon Høffding, Vida Midgelow, Barbara Montero, Torben Snekkestad,  John Sutton, Susanne Ravn and Rasmus Ölme.

Registration/expression of interest

The workshop is now full and it is no longer possible to register.


June 12 
09:30 – 10:00 Welcome and Coffee (South Campus, Festsalen, building 11)
10:00 – 13:15 Dance (Susanne Ravn, Barbara Montero, and Rasmus Ölme)
13:15 – 14:45 Lunch 
14:45 – 15:45 Music  (Tom Cochrane, Simon Høffding, and Torben Snekkestad) (Lecture room 27.0.09)
15:45 – 16:00 Coffee break
16:00 – 18:00 Music continued 

June 13
10:00 – 11:00 Improv theatre (Stefan Pagels Andersen and Olle Blomberg) (Lecture room 27.0.09)
11:00 – 11:15 Coffee break
11:15 – 12:15 Improv theatre continued
12:15 – 13:45 Lunch
13:45 – 15:00 Keynote: Vida Migelow
15:00 – 15:15 Coffee break
15:15 – 16:00 Summary and reflections: John Sutton
16:00 – 16:45 Open discussion 

June 14
10:00 – 12:30 Discussion and planning meeting for the NOS-HS IMPROV grant members only (Lecture room 4A.0.68)