Skip to main content
For students Search

Impro­visa­tion-based con­tem­por­ary music I/II

  • Year of study: 2 semesters, fall and spring. Wednesdays 10:30–15:30.
  • Final assessment: Assessment from the course instructor.
  • Prerequisites: The 20 variant is a prerequisite for the 21 variant.
  • Language of instruction: Norwegian and English.

Course description

The course aims at deepening students' understanding of their own artistic agenda, by way of contemporary music, performance and improvisation. The course will also develop and expand students' exploration of timbre registers and the technical possibilities which exist on their main instrument.

The course is open to all students and does not have any prior knowledge of harmony based improvisation, as this type of improvisation is not relevant in this case. The course can be taken twice.

Responsible department: Brass, Woodwind and Percussion Department.

Course coordinator: Rolf Erik Nystrøm and Håkon Thelin.

Learning objectives

Upon completion of the course, students are expected to

  • be able to express personal musical ideas on their main instrument
  • be able to present independent, creative musical sound-making on their own instrument in forms which are relevant in the international contemporary music, and/or personal compositions
  • be able to create soundscapes/textures which are appropriate in musical sequences of various kinds
  • have knowledge of central musical pieces requiring co-composition/improvisation from the performer
  • have a technical understanding of their instrument's mode of operation and sound generation


The course consists of a performance module and a theoretical module. During the academic year, students will be in contact with benchmarking performers, composers and other artists. Students will be introduced to a number of established compositional, improvisational and instrumental techniques, and gain experience in solo and ensemble playing. Students will also perform their own improvisations and musical works at the Academy.

Subject topics:

  • Introduction to movements and ideas in contemporary music and improvisation music
  • Intuitive music-making
  • Free improvisation
  • Improvisation to visual art
  • Basic exercises in improvisation
  • Exercises in "program" music (mood / "plot")
  • Techniques to make one conscious of forms and the development of memory
  • Instrument exploration
  • Sound exploration and simulation of non-instrumental sounds
  • Microtonal intonation
  • Performance of one's musical works/improvisations
  • Staging a performance: the concert's dramaturgy
  • Various notation strategies
  • Circumvention of instrumental limitations

Examples of relevant repertoire and works:

  • Graphic notation: For instance John Cage, Rolf Walin
  • Interpretation: For instance John Cage, Xenakis, Christian Wolff, Giacinto Scelsi
  • Pieces in open form: Karlheinz Stockhausen, Christian Wolff and others.
  • pieces including improvised sections
  • Traditional music: For instance NOH, Gagaku, Asia Africa


Group instruction, 3 x 45 minutes per week for 24 weeks.

Instruction will include class lectures, demonstrations and ensemble playing. Prominent performers, composers and other artists will also be brought in so that the course can act as a window to other relevant musical communities.

Course requirements

  1. Attendance and active participation are mandatory. More than 20 % absence from class will normally cause the student to fail the subject.
  2. Students will perform improvisations and pieces at least two concerts during the academic year. Concert location must be approved by the teacher.
  3. Students will hand in two reflection papers, one at the start of the semester, and one at the end (approx. 1000 words, 2-3 pages). Topics may include expectations for the course, the student's own qualifications, learning processes, and areas of utilization for the skills acquired.
  4. Students will create and hand in their own instrument manual.

Deadline: Reflection paper and manual must be handed in by 1 June in the course's second semester.

Final assessment

All course requirements must be approved prior to obtaining a final assessment.

Assessment is based on learning objectives. The final assessment is given as a pass/fail mark, which is determined by the course coordinators based on each student’s level of achievement throughout the course period.

New assessment

In the case of re-assessment, students must retake the course in its entirety.

Published: Dec 3, 2020 — Last updated: Feb 3, 2021