A frame of analysis for collective free improvisation on the bridge between Husserl’s phenomenology of time and some recent readings of the predictive coding model

  • Lucia AngelinoEmail author


The kind of collective improvisation attained by the “free jazz” at the beginning of the sixties sets a challenge to analytic theories of collective intentionality, that emphasize the role played by future-directed plans in the interlocking and interdependent intentions (and attitudes) of the individual participants, because in the free jazz case the performers’ interdependence or [interplay] stems from an intuitive understanding between musicians. Otherwise said: what happens musically is not planned in advance, but arises from spontaneous interactions in the group. By looking at the way jazz improvisers take up the challenge of making music together without a pre-conceived notion as to what kind of effect they will achieve and without a pre-set code of agreements (related to theme, chord patterns and chorus lengths), my aim has been to clarify what kind of strategies — other than advanced action plans and joint commitments — are used by improvising musicians to integrate their improvisations into a unified shared activity. In developing this proposal I initially drawn pre-theoretically on one paradigmatic study case — Ornette Coleman’s double quartet Free Jazz, A collective Improvisation (1960) and brought it in conversation with Husserl’s phenomenology of time. In a final move, I brought this phenomenological frame into dialogue with some recent readings of the predictive coding model. All in all, what we learned from the Free Jazz case is that the interdependence and interlocking of attitudes among individual participants characteristic of shared intention is not determined by a future-directed plan and the rational pressure to be responsive to and coordinate with others, it typically engages. Rather, in the free jazz case, the performers’ connection and interplay depend on the players’ readiness to feel each other out, by listening to each other playing, in a way that no doubt presupposes the Husserlian retention-protention scheme.


Phenomenology of time Collective free improvisation Collective intentionality Collective action Temporal affordances Husserl Schutz Predictive coding model 


Funding information

This paper has received funding from the AIAS-COFUND II fellowship programme that is supported by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 (Grant agreement no 754513) and the Aarhus University Research Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies (AIAS)Aarhus UniversityAarhus CDenmark
  2. 2.University Paris 1 Pantheon – SorbonneParisFrance

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