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This thesis explores the healing capabilities of musical improvisation using a two-fold approach. First, it proposes a theoretical framework to understand improvisation as a preventive or curative event. Second, it employs the proposed framework to discuss data collected through fieldwork and a pilot study. Broadly, the thesis links improvisational behavior to the experience of transcendence and personal transformation. More specifically, the study focuses on a group of improvisers living in North Florida and the intricacies of three improvisatory sessions held at Florida State University. The research follows a medical ethnomusicological approach to understand the way these musicians articulate and describe the embodiment of "non-ordinary states" while performing. Throughout the discussion, the notion of non-ordinary states is frequently recapitulated and reframed. Roughly, it refers to the thoughts and emotions that distance the musician from common, everyday activity. In a sense, transcendence is viewed as a spectrum in which those unusual inner-phenomena unfold. The main argument of the thesis is that improvisation leads to the experience of transcendence, and that the experience of transcendence is in itself a vehicle to promote health and healing.
Medical Ethnomusicology, Transcendence, Improvisation, Spirituality and Music
Date of Defense
March 22, 2011.
A Thesis Submitted to the College of Music in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Music.
Includes bibliographical references.
Benjamin D. Koen, Professor Directing Thesis; Michael B. Bakan, Committee Member; Juan Carlos Galeano, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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