Document Type



Master of Arts



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Professor Berit Brogaard


John Brunero

Eric Wiland


There is widespread disagreement about how to understand musical improvisation in the current literature. My paper is motivated by the desire to settle this disagreement. I do this, in part, by emphasizing the important role action descriptions play in classifying specific actions as specific action-types, like improvised or intentional. In order to further settle the disagreement over the nature of musical improvisation, I defend a general account of improvisation, which can also aid in understanding a wide variety of specific types of improvisation. According to my general account, an improvised action is any unplanned and novel action performed by an agent within a predetermined improvisational framework. This definition helps make sense of the disagreement over the nature of musical improvisation, provides clarity for empirical project studying the neural correlates of improvised action and more generally helps us separate improvised action from other types of action, like planned or deliberate action, and also random action.