Jazz, Improvisation and Creativity: Practice, Scenes and Society


Associate Professor Rob Burke


This research group seeks to nurture research in the many elements in the creation and understanding of improvisation. This includes investigation into environments conducive to improvisation, composition, innovation, experimentation, collaboration, the ephemeral moment of improvisation and identity. The group also explores the myriad of improvisational factors that create affordance and agency in an open-ended musical context. The Research Network will further develop this burgeoning area of study though collaborative, interdisciplinary and international engagement.

Areas of study include:

  • What happens when we improvise?
    • flow, intent, intention, sonic ecologies, affordances, agency, indeterminacy and choice
  • Identity
    • singular/ego
    • improvisation
    • scenes/communities of practice
    • national/international contexts
  • Audience, critics and others
  • Methodologies, analysis, synthesis, biographies
  • Gender Equity in Jazz and Improvisation

Expertise within the network ranges from historical/cultural studies of jazz to empirical work on improvisation to artistic research conducted through jazz compositional and improvisational practices.

Current Projects

Diversifying Music in Australia: Gender Equity in Jazz and Improvisation (ARC SRI, 2021-2023) (Associate Professor Robert Burke, Professor Margaret Barrett, Professor Cat Hope, Dr Louise Devenish, Dr Nicole Canham)

Saltzer Foundation for the Monash Art Ensemble (MAE) Burke, R., Williamson, P. & Murray, J.

​​Post Graduate Jazz and Improvisation Scholarship - Burke, R., Williamson, P. & Murray, J. Cripps Foundation
29/11/18 → 28/11/24

Previous (Recent)

Williamson, P., Burke, R., Murray, J., Grabowsky, P., Burslem, M. (2019). “Here Now Hear.” New Australian works recorded by the Monash Art Ensemble, Australia Council for the Arts.  Partners


Body and Soul 2019 (AJIRN)

So What? Jazz and Improvised Music Research and Its impact on Scenes, Artists and Society (2018) (AJIRN)

Agency in Jazz (2017) (AJIRN)

Publications (Recent)

Burke, R. L. (2021). Analysis and Observations of Pre-learnt and Idiosyncratic Elements in Improvisation: A Methodology for Artistic Research in Jazz. In Artistic Research in Jazz (pp. 135-154). Routledge

MacDonald, R., Burke, R., De Nora, T., Sappho Donohue, M., & Birrell, R. (2021). Our virtual tribe: sustaining and enhancing community via online music improvisation. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 4076.

Burke, R. Vincs, R. Williamson, P. (2021 in press). Online Teaching and Learning in Undergraduate Jazz Ensembles. Journal of Music, Health and Wellbeing (Spring 2021)

McAuliffe, S. (2021). Improvisation as Original Ethics: Exploring the Ethical in Heidegger and Gadamer from a Musical Perspective. Journal of Applied Hermeneutics, 1-15. https://doi.org/10.11575/jah.v2021i2021.72634

McAuliffe, S., & Malpas, J. (2021). Improvising the Round Dance of Being: Reading Heidegger from a Musical Perspective. In C. Rentmeester, & J. R. Warren (Eds.), Heidegger and Music (pp. 163-178). Rowman and Littlefield.

McAuliffe, S. (2021). Defending the ‘Improvisation as Conversation’ Model of Improvised Musical Performance. Jazz Perspectives, 13(1), 1-13. https://doi.org/10.1080/17494060.2021.1889640

McAuliffe, S. (2021). The Horizonal Field of Improvised Musical Performance. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 55(2), 78-95. https://doi.org/10.5406/jaesteduc.55.2.0078

McAuliffe, S. (2020). The Significance of Improvisation in the Age of Technology. Critical Horizons, 21(4), 352-366. https://doi.org/10.1080/14409917.2020.1835042

McAuliffe, S., & Hope, C. (2020). Revealing Sonic Wisdom in the Works of Cat Hope. Organised Sound, 25(3), 327-332. https://doi.org/10.1017/S135577182000028X

Whiteoak. J, (2019) “Take Me to Spain” Australian Imaginings of Spain Through Music and Dance, Melbourne: Lyrebird Press (258 page monograph ISBN 9780734037932).

Whiteoak. J, (2020) ‘Investigating ‘Improvisatory Music’ in Australia before Jazz through the Trove Digitised Australian Newspaper Database.’  Context Journal of Music Research 46. 2020, 1–15. https://cpb-ap-se2.wpmucdn.com/blogs.unimelb.edu.au/dist/6/184/files/2021/01/46.01-Context.Whiteoak.pdf .

Whiteoak. J, (2021) [Edited and published]: Pinner M. Brass Bands in Colonial New South Wales a Social History, Healesville, Victoria: Fernmill Books, 2021  (207 page monograph ISBN 9780646833774).

Whiteoak. J, (2021) ‘Why “The Tango Rag”? An Interrupted Revolution in Early Australian Popular Music and Dance.” Kim Karki (ed.) Turns and Revolutions in Popular Music. Proceedings from the XX Biennial Conference of IASPM. Canberra, Australia, 24th - 28th June 2019.  e-book)  https://iipc.utu.fi/iaspm2019/Whiteoak.pdf,  Turku, Finland: International Institute  of Popular Culture.

Luebbers, J., Williamson, P. (2021 in press). Expanding Models of Music Composition: Exploring the Value of Collaboration.  International Journal of Music Education.

Williamson, P., Luebbers, J. (2021). Innovating Models of Jazz Composition: Exploring Signification as a Tool for Collaboration. [composers]

Williamson, P. (2020). Dark Energy. FMR, UK. [Performer/ Composer - CD]



  • Conferences to generate scholarly exchange and public engagement
  • Performances and compositions
  • Postgraduate Research Groups
  • Publication outputs such as books, journal articles
  • Cross-institutional funding proposals
  • Hosting visiting scholars