I just wrote what I think will be the end of my dissertation. Perhaps true to form, it reprises an idea from my master’s thesis. Or I suppose, insofar as the whole dissertation is a reinvention/elaboration of my thesis, it’s not so much that things come back around as it is that they never leave at all (but constantly change). It reads:
Throughout this dissertation I have attempted to follow where my questions have led, exploring in as much detail as possible these cases of music and of living. In the end, all of the arguments that I have made about the nature of improvisation, its political implications, and the specificities of each case study have been in service of answering that larger first question: what is the relationship between musical improvisation and everyday life? The answer, it seems to me, is that both operate in and through the medium of contingency, that improvisation is a necessary outcome of contingency. If, in pursuit of this answer, I have tended to conflate my key terms “improvisation” and “contingency”, it is because there is never a moment of living that does not involve the latter, and which does not consequently both require and instigate the former. It is true that this conflation can render improvisation inert, or threaten its revolutionary potential as a praxis. In many ways, bringing improvisation ‘down to size’ has been exactly my aim. But at the same time, it is always true that improvisation’s neutrality vanishes when it is exercised by specific people in specific circumstances. In this spirit, I end by referencing that other meaning of “contingent”, which is a group in solidarity.