This article focuses on children's conception of musical improvisation as exemplified in their practice of spontaneous music making. Fieldwork was carried out with a class of ten eight-year-olds. An ethnographic, open-ended process of generating data was employed, the researcher adopting the stance of an informal interviewer, an empathetic receiver of the music, and, at times, a co-player. In ... [Show full abstract] their engagement with music making the children were immersed into a meaning-making process, giving specific meanings to notions such as "player", "audience", "teacher", "playing", "inquiring". Interpreting the children's insights within the context of their musical conduct became the principal means for the organisation of analysis. In the process of interpretation, the children's specific and contextually-determined understandings are placed within the wider theory of music making as collective action.
The study suggests three analytic concepts as a means for capturing the essential principles of the children's understanding and practice of improvisation:
(a) Objectification; joint creation of the notion of improvised "piece", based on the development of a participation framework which emphasises the irrevocable "diving into" creating music, with the player(s) feeling a sense of "being inside" a framed musical journey attended by the group. (b) Thoughtfulness; the children's awareness of their immersed involvement into self-determined musical thinking. (c) Shared intentionality; a sense of being heard, and a sense of listening, a feeling that music making is essentially a form of joint action and communication of intentions.
The examples presented in this paper constitute instances of positing questions and developing answers through self-determined action. These questions have little to do with skills: they have to do with concepts, which are immanent to the nature of music and its making.
I want to listen to music with my ears,
and not to see it with my eyes.
To make it myself,
not to be told how it is made. [Manos, aged 8]