Music Improvisation as an Aesthetic Event Towards a transactional approach to meaning-making

Main Article Content

Christina Larsson
Johan Öhman


Improvisation in general music education is still a somewhat underdeveloped practice. Moreover, attempts to justify its place in the curriculum have often focused solely on its (measurable) outcomes. In this article, we claim that a deeper understanding of students’ meaning-making processes in experiences of improvisation is necessary in order to develop improvisation practice and research. The purpose of this article is to offer a music education perspective on improvisation based on John Dewey’s transactional perspective on aesthetic experience and meaning-making. Related to this, we suggest and illustrate a Practical Epistemology Analysis (PEA) as a way of analysing meaning-making in music improvisation within general music education. The method of analysis is illustrated by vignettes from video analyses of music lessons in two Swedish schools with pupils aged 9-10 and their free improvisations. The vignettes show how PEA enables analyses of situated meaning-making in the progress of the pupils’ improvisation activities. Further, the transactional perspective makes educational values of improvisation visible, such as musical and personal agency, and elucidates cognitive, embodied and ethical aspects of musical meaning-making.

Article Details

Author Biographies

Christina Larsson, Örebro University

Christina Larsson is a classical singer and singing pedagogue and currently a PhD candidate at The School of Music, Theatre and Art at Örebro University in Sweden. She has previously worked as music teacher in primary school and as educator for primary school and recreation centre teachers at the University of Stockholm. Her ongoing thesis is about improvisation in general music education in primary school year four. Her research interests focus children’s aesthetic experiences and meaning-making of improvisation and development of music teachers’ teaching and learning practices. Larsson is currently also co-editor of an anthology Expanding the space for improvisation pedagogy in music. A transdisciplinary approach, which is due to be published by Routledge 2019.

Johan Öhman, Örebro University

Johan Öhman is professor of education at Örebro University’s School of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences and is one of the founders of the research group SMED (Studies of Meaning-making in Educational Discourses) and is head of the research school UVD (Educational Sciences with Emphasis on Didactics). His area of research is ethical and democratic perspectives on education, especially learning outcomes of student discussions, students’ argumentation and teacher-student interactions. His work is based on John Dewey’s pragmatic philosophy and especially on Dewey’s concept of transaction. In relation to this pragmatic perspective he has developed several different research methodologies which has been used in both empirical and theoretical studies. His work has been published in a number of international research papers, book chapters and books.