Composing and Improvising. In Real Time

  • Carlos GuedesEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 11265)


This paper presents a summary of my keynote address discussing the differences between real-time composition (RTC) and improvisation. A definition of real-time composition is presented, as well as a summary discussion of its theoretical framework. Finally, a comparison between RTC and improvisation is done taking into account Richard Ashley’s discussion of improvisation from a psychological perspective [1], which provides an interesting insight in this distinction. RTC is then redefined as improvised composition with computers, and the possibilities of RTC existing outside of computer music are also briefly addressed.


Composition Improvisation Real-time composition 



To Rui Penha and Matthew Davies for the kind invitation to deliver this keynote address. To George Sioros, Rui Dias, Gilberto Bernardes, Konstantinos Trochidis, and Akshay Anantapadmanabhan for the brainstorms and their commitment on the projects that led to the refinement of these ideas. Some of this work was done in the realm of project “Cross-disciplinary and multicultural perspectives on musical rhythm” funded through NYU Abu Dhabi Institute’s Research Enhancement Fund grant. Earlier work of mine on RTC was part of project “Kinetic controller, driven, adaptive and dynamic music composition systems” funded by the ERDF through the Program COMPETE, by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), Project ref. FCOMP-01-0124-FEDER-011414, UTAustin/CD/0052/2008.


  1. 1.
    Ashley, R.: Musical improvisation. In: Hallam, S., Cross, I., Thaut, M. (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology, 2nd edn, pp. 667–680. (2016)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Berliner, P.: Thinking in Jazz: The Infinite Art of Improvisation. University of Chicago Press, Chicago (1994)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Boden, M.A.: The Creative Mind: Myths and Mechanisms. Wiedenfeld & Nicolson, London (1990)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Brown, O., Eldridge, A., McCormack, J.: Understanding interaction in contemporary digital music: from instruments to behavioral objects. Organised Sound 14(2), 188–196 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Chadabe. J.: Interactive composing. Comput. Music J. 8(1), 22–27 (1984)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Chabade, J.: The limitations of mapping as a structural descriptive in electronic instruments. In: Proceedings of the New Instruments for Musical Expression Conference, Dublin (2002)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Dias, R., Marques, T., Sioros, G., Guedes, C.: GimmeDaBlues: An intelligent Jazz/Blues player and comping generator for iOS. In: Proceedings of the Conference on Computer Music Modeling and Retrieval, London (2012)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Dodge, C., Jerse, T.A.: Computer Music: Synthesis, Composition and Performance. Macmillan Library Reference (1985)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Drummond, J.: Understanding interactive systems. Organised Sound 14, 2 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Eigenfeldt, A.: Real-time composition or computer improvisation? A Composer’s search for intelligent tools in interactive computer music. In: Proceedings of the Electronic Music Studies 2007 (2007)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Eigenfeldt, A.: Real-time composition as performance ecosystem. Organised Sound 16(2), 145–153 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Eno, B., Chilvers, P.: Bloom. [Generative music application for iOS devices]. Opal Inc (2008)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Guedes, C.: Mapping movement to musical rhythm: a study in interactive dance. Unpublished dissertation, NYU (2005)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Guedes, C.: Composição em tempo real. Unpublished typescript. Text submitted for support of public lesson for promotion to Associate Professor at the Polytechnic Institute of Porto, Portugal (2008)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Guedes, C., Trochidis, K., Anantapadmanabhan, A.: CAMeL: carnatic percussion music generation using N-gram and clustering approaches. In: Abstract of Presentation at the 16th Rhythm Production and Perception Workshop, Birmingham (2017)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Guedes, C.: Real-time composition, why it still matters?: a look at recent developments and potentially new and interesting applications. In: Proceedings of the 2017 International Computer Music Conference. ICMA, Shanghai (2017)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Iyer, V.: Improvisation: terms and conditions. In: Zorn, J. (ed.) Arcana IV: Musicians on Music, pp. 171–175 (2009)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Kvifte, T.: What is a musical instrument? Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning 90(1), 45–56 (2008)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Lewis, G.E.: Too many notes: Computers, complexity and culture in Voyager. Leonardo Music J. 10, 33–39 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Magnusson, T.: Of epistemic tools: musical instruments as cognitive extensions. Organised Sound 14(2), 168–176 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Magnusson, T.: Musical organics: a heterarchical approach to digital organology. J. New Music Res. 46(3), 286–303 (2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Rowe, R.: Interactive Music Systems: Machine Listening and Composing. MIT Press, Cambridge (1993)Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Rowe, R.: Machine Musicianship. MIT Press, Cambridge (2001)Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Santos Silva, S.: Quando a música improvisada é boa, soa a música escrita. In: Jornal de Negócios, August, 4, 2017 (2017)Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Sioros, G., Guedes, C.: Automatic rhythmic performance in Max/MSP: the kin.rhythmicator. In: Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression, Oslo (2011)Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Taube, H.K.: Notes from the Metalevel: Introduction to Algorithmic Music Composition. Taylor & Francis, London (2004)Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Winkler, T.: Composing Interactive Music: Techniques and Ideas Using Max. MIT Press, Cambridge (1998)Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Xenakis, I.: Formalized Music: Thought and Mathematics in Music. Indiana University Press, Indianapolis (1992)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New York University Abu DhabiAbu DhabiUnited Arab Emirates

Personalised recommendations