Improvisation, 2018


Artistic activity lies somewhere within the “interpenetration of creation and preservation” (Gary Peters, The Philosophy of Improvisation) or what Peters calls improvisation. “Improvisation has already happened. The decisiveness of a beginning, the marking of an unmarked space, always comes after a multitude of false starts, erasures, and abortive attempts to get things done.” (Ibid.) “All improvisers,” he writes, “must face the demand for a work from within the confines of a limited material universe. […] Our main concern will be with what Adorno calls the ‘inherent tendency’ of aesthetic material. Here it is not a question of the availability or not of actual technical resources so much as the inherent possibilities of material at any particular historical moment as part of an inherent temporal unfolding that is largely unresponsive to the whims of the individual subject. It is not a question of how much material the improviser has available but in what ways all material contains, sedimented within it, historical patters of human engagement and creativity that impose limits on what can and cannot be done on the occasion of the material’s subsequent reworking, whether improvised or not. It is this intertwining of matter and creativity, thought as the historical objectivization of subjective spirit in artworks, that sensitizes Adorno to the complex interplay of autonomy and heteronomy within aesthetic practice and, thus, to the predicament of the artist in his or her struggle with the work: to its demand.” (Ibid.)