The Free Music Improvisation Performance and the Emergence of New Musical Creations

João Fernandes

Musidanse – Paris 8 university, France


The New Grove defines improvisation as “The creation of a musical work, or the final form of a musical work, as it is being performed”. This simple definition demonstrates the importance of the performance in the Free Music Improvisation (FMI) practice as a way of conceiving new musical creations. We can demonstrate the importance of the performance in FMI by analysing the creation phases of different forms of musical creation . We observe that in FMI we can have only one phase: the performance itself. The musiciens generate and develop new musical ideas while they are performing in front of an audience. They rely on their musical experience to adapt their technical capabilities and interact, in real time, with the environment surrounding them.

In this paper, I would like to propose an analysis of the free improvisation performance and question how can this music practice produce new musical creations at each event? How can improvisers change their performance capabilities for each situation? How can they adapt to all kind of situations that can arise in the performance time? I would like to extend this question to its adaptation to the social, political and nowadays health situations.

For this Meeting, I will focus on the large improvisation ensemble Grand8 with whom I play since 2016. I will propose an analysis of the Grand8 performances to demonstrate the importance of the performance in the improvisation practice, and how crucial it is to emerge new music. I will show the multiple factors that Grand8 explores in its performances to ensure that new musical creations arise each time they stand before the audience. In particular, I will analyse the musical production of the year 2020, during the pandemic lockdown, where the ensemble had to redefine its performances to continue the improvisation practice.

Grand8 is a large improvisation ensemble from the PACA region in France (southeast). It is formed by 19 musicians with very different backgrounds, from popular music to electroacoustic music, passing by classical, jazz, rock, etc. The instruments of this ensemble includes at least ten different types of music instruments.



João Fernandes holds a PhD degree in Aesthetics, Science and Technology of the Arts – Music by Paris 8 University under the supervision of Makis Solomos. At the same university he obtained his master’s degree in Musicology, Creation, Music and Society under the supervision of Horacio Vaggione. His research focuses on musical improvisation and new technologies. His academic training also includes a Masters degree from Escola Superior de Musica de Catalunya, a degree in musical composition from Escola Superior de Música de Lisboa. He is a licentiate graduate in IT from the Instituto Superior Técnico. Parallel to his university research activities, he’s interested in the practice of improvised electroacoustic music. In this area he’s been performing regularly in Europe with the collective Unmapped since 2009, with the duo Electrologues since 2010 and with Le Grand 8 since 2016.