Just Improvisation: May 2015

Just Improvisation: Enriching Child Protection Law through Musical Techniques, Discourses, and Pedagogies

This UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)-sponsored international symposium was held at Queen’s University Belfast in May 2015. It featured keynote addresses by Pauline Oliveros (USA) and Ellen Waterman (Canada), and a double-bill concert by Maria Chavez (USA) and Okkyung Lee (Korea). It brought together academic and non-academic participants, both local and international, from musical, legal and social work backgrounds, to explore the improvised creativity that is at the heart of legal decision-making, specifically as it applies to the area of child protection law.

Over the two days of the symposium, panel discussions led by local legal and social work professionals explored the current improvisatory practices in the legal domain. These panels highlighted the importance of improvisation not only as a technical ability, but also as one that demands careful listening and empathy to the multiple parties involved in such delicate and complex cases. Of particular note was participation of two local judges in these discussions, highlighting the highly improvisational role of judicial decision-making.

The second day’s activities began with a Deep Listening workshop, open to the public, led by Pauline Oliveros and poet/playwright Ione. This was followed by parallel workshops on musical and legal improvisation. The music improvisation workshop addressed the development of relationships amongst a group of improvisers, the emergence of hierarchies, as well as listening and its role in the development of form. The legal improvisation workshop introduced HYDRA, a moot court improvisation legal “game piece’’ developed as a training tool for cultivating the creative thinking and advocacy skills of legal advocates, as well as instructing them on how to be nimble-footed and adaptive to unexpected situations in the courtroom.

Full documentation of the symposium can be found here. A special journal issue further exploring the idea of “Just Improvisation” is forthcoming; read on for the call for papers!

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