Concepts of Improvisation Between the Two World Wars

Performativity, Staged Presence and Participation in Music

September 30th – October 1st 2016, Department of Musicology, University of Basel, Switzerland.

The conference will be held as part of the SNSF-funded research project “Concepts of improvisation and their impact on early twentieth century art music” organized by the Department of Musicology at the University of Basel (Musikwissenschaftliches Seminar der Universität Basel, project website:

This project aims to advance current musicological research in improvisation and art music of the first half of the 20th century. It draws on contemporary discussions about the improvisatory approach to classical performance and the use of extempore techniques in the first decades of the 20th century. Moreover, it seeks to integrate notions of “staged improvisation” and “performativity” discussed in aesthetics as well as in cultural or performance studies.

Call for papers

Suggested topics for the conference might include:

  • Staged contingency in music of the 1920s
  • Western music compositions that integrate improvisatory and participatory qualities
  • Influences of popular, and folk music (e.g. African American popular music, Romani music, music performed by non-literary cultures) on compositions of the 1920s
  • The reception of African American music on classically trained composers and performers
  • Performance techniques of the “historical avant-garde”
  • Performance as a ritual in theatre or ballet music
  • Participatory relationships between performer and audience in art music contexts
  • Preluding and extemporization techniques in the 1910s-1920s

Although the conference will focus on the interwar period, relevant topics pre-dating WWI are also welcome. The preferred official languages of the conference are English and German.

Keynote speakers

  • Prof. Dr. Sabine Feisst (Arizona State University)
  • Prof. Dr. Michael Fjeldsøe (University of Copenhagen)

Please email your proposal (250-350 words) for 20-minute papers (thereby allowing 10 minutes for questions and discussion) as well as a short biography to

The deadline for proposals is midnight May 1, 2016.

Abstracts will be reviewed and participants will be notified by the end of May 2016.

Please feel free to address any queries to:

Conference website: