SINTA Studies in the Arts

Portraits der Doktorierenden


Raphaël Sudan, SINTA PhD Student : FREE IMPROVISATION - part of the Schweizerische Tonkunstlerverein research project. Pianist, composer and improviser, Raphaël Sudan studied in Fribourg, Basel, Barcelona, Hartford and Versailles. Multiple award winner, Master of performance - classical piano (2012), Master in Free Improvisation (2018), Raphaël Sudan studied with Ricardo Castro, Francis Vidil, Luiz de Moura Castro, Fred Frith, Alfred Zimmerlin, Josep Colom and Paul Badura-Skoda, among others.He has performed on 5 continents, in nearly 30 different countries, triangulating between classical, contemporary music and improvisation.

Raphaël Sudan is member of ISIM, board member of the Swiss section of EPTA, he regularily takes part in masterclasses, intercultural collaborations, roundtables and seminars.

PhD project

Free improvisation : nod to the future, crystallization of the present or reminiscence of the past ?

We can find a certain proportion of improvisation in the historical musical landscape, either as a composing or pedagogic tool, or as a stage art, according to temporal, geographical and stylistic esthetics and flexibility. For a long period, the art of improvising was intimately bound to a specific musical style or its historical root. After an explosion of styles in the XXth Century, appeared a new approach to musical creation called free improvisation, or one of its numerous synonymes: «non-idiomatic improvisation», «generative improvisation» amongst others.
One key question is «Is free improvisation a musical style?». The non-idiomatic definition would tend to mean that free improvisation rejects the stereotypical vocabulary of any other existing musical styles, and therefore becomes an idiom by itself. Many free improvisers describe it more as a creative attitude rather than a style, but considered this way, it could potentially include some music that would commonly not be considered as free improvisation. Free improvisation escapes limitations and goes beyond. It's definition varies from artist to artist, from country to country, from epoche to epoche. But how could free improvisors pretend to have any credibility if they are not even capable of giving a comprehensive description of what they do? The inclusion of free improvisers in the Schweizerische Tonkünstlerverein already divided between conservative and avant-garde composers has been complicated, and reflects clearly the fragile position of this sort of music making. In his article «Is free improvisation at its end?», Thomas Meyer defined free improvisation as a musical style, which is in fact probably dead for a long time if we consider it like an archetype of the 1970 years. At the contrary, if we give it a wider definition, free improvisation grew up with time, beeing totally porous and directly influenced by the zeitgeist.


First supervisor: Prof. Dr. Cristina Urchueguía
Second supervisor: Prof. Dr. Thomas Gartmann, Hochschule der Künste Bern (HKB)