Extemporaneous Sublime: Indeterminacy and Transience of the Improvised Moment
The qualities of spontaneity, irrationality, and indeterminacy have been hallmarks of musical improvisation, while often largely neglected as attributes of the musical sublime. The connection between musical improvisation and the experience of the musical sublime represents an oft-concealed thread between the very acts of music production and listening. This paper explores analogies between the sense of indeterminacy and transiency in improvised music, concepts of the aesthetics of the musical sublime, and the extemporaneous act of music performance. It examines the notion of the sublime as an attribute of musical experience that can be evoked through the performative act of organ improvisation.
Zvonimir Nagy, a native of Croatia, holds bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in music from the Academy of Music-University of Zagreb, Texas Christian University, and Northwestern University, respectively. He is the recent recipient of the Swan Music Prize in Choral Composition and the Seattle Symphony Composition Prize. His compositions and scholarship are inspired by the intersection of aesthetics and spirituality on one end, and music perception and philosophy on the other. Paraclete Press and World Library Publications publish his music. He has taught on the faculties of Northwestern and St. Xavier University, and currently serves as assistant professor of music studies at the Mary Pappert School of Music at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. He is also the cathedral and diocesan organist at St. Joseph Cathedral in Wheeling, West Virginia. He continues to perform as a solo and collaborative organist and pianist.