CICERO Learning Guest Lecture February 5, 2018 by Raymond MacDonald (University of Edinburgh, Scotland)

Professor Raymond MacDonald (University of Edinburgh, Scotland) will give a guest lecture at University of Helsinki. The event is free of charge and does not require registration. Welcome!

Date and place

February 5, 2018 at 14:15-16:00

Seminar room K113, K1 floor, Minerva Building Siltavuorenpenger 5A

Title of lecture

Improvisation, pedagogy and all that jazz:  new directions for cross disciplinary education research and collaboration.


In recent years there has been a significant growth in psychological interest in improvisation, not just as a feature of jazz, but as an accessible, unique, spontaneous, social and creative process that can facilitate collaboration between many musical genres and across disciplines. More specifically, there is growing evidence to suggest that improvisation is a universally accessible form of collaborative creativity that can be utilised as a way of introducing children and adults to music within educational context. This presentation will highlight how improvisation can be utilized as a contemporary approach to creative engagement within educational contexts that can facilitate the development of musicality and creativity across a range of contexts.  This paper sets out a framework, based on psychological findings, for understanding improvisation as a universal capability and an essentially social behaviour, with important implications for education, contemporary artistic practice, therapy and the psychology of social behaviour.

A number of research projects that investigate the fundamental features of improvisation will be outlined.  Musicians’ critiques of their own improvisations are discussed and key links with children’s music making and music education are made.  The paper draws together recent advances to frame improvising as an innovative and vibrant way of engaging musically, and from educational and cross disciplinary perspectives.

A model is presented for the process of choice that individuals undertakes when improvising, with examples provided to illustrate how the model functions. The presentation also outlines a comprehensive set of options children, or any improviser, may take over the course of a musical collaboration to allow a group to generate music. This way of conceptualising improvisation has utility across all forms of music and across different art forms.  It also offers a less daunting challenge to the novice improviser, and a potential way round a ‘block’ for creative practitioners. The implications are discussed in relation to broader social and cultural change.

Key words: Improvisation, collaborative creativity, musical identities

Raymond MacDonald is Professor of Music Psychology and Improvisation at Edinburgh University.   His ongoing research focuses on issues relating to improvisation, musical communication, music health and wellbeing, music education and musical identities. He studies the processes and outcomes of music participation and music listening and has a particular interest in collaborative creativity. His work is informed by a view of improvisation as a social, collaborative and uniquely creative process that provides opportunities to develop new ways of working musically.  He published over 70 peer reviewed papers and has co-edited five texts, Musical Identities (2002) and Musical Communication (2005), Musical Imaginations (2012) and Music Health & Wellbeing (2012), The Handbook of Musical Identities (2017) He was editor of the journal Psychology of Music between 2006 and 2012 and was Head of The School of Music at Edinburgh University between 2013 and 2016.  He is also a saxophonist and composer has released over 60 CDs and toured and broadcast worldwide.


Link to Raymond’s webpage at University of Edinburgh: