Dan DiPiero is a musician and Ph.D. candidate in the department of Comparative Studies at the Ohio State University, where his work focuses on the intersection of musical improvisation and everyday life. Prior to Ohio State, Dan earned an M.A. in Aesthetics and Politics and an M.F.A. in Jazz Studies from the California Institute of the Arts.
My dissertation–“Contingent Encounters: Improvisation in Music and Everyday Life”–directly investigates the social significance of improvisation by comparing its musical and quotidian iterations, and by calling into question how we understand improvisation in the first place. Against conventional readings of improvisation as a domain of relative freedom, I argue that improvisation is more properly understood as a singular contingent encounter between subjects, objects, and multiple environments, and that in this sense it is particular social investments that cause improvisation to be read as an exercise in freedom. I make this argument in three three parts: in the first, I focus on my key concept, developing “contingency” into a framework through which to examine my musical examples. In the second section, I closely read one track each from Eric Dolphy, John Cage, and Norwegian free improvisers Mr. K. In the third section, I compare my conclusions on musical improvisation with improvisation’s appearance in the space of everyday life.