Experimentation in Improvised Jazz: Chasing Ideas

Burke, R & Onsman, A. Experimentation in Improvised Jazz: Chasing Ideas. Routledge. 2018.

Experimentation in Improvised Jazz: Chasing Ideas challenges the notion that in the twenty-first century, jazz can be restrained by a singular, static definition. The worldwide trend for jazz to be marginalized by the mainstream music industry, as well as conservatoriums and schools of music, runs the risk of stifling the innovative and challenging aspects of its creativity. The authors argue that to remain relevant, jazz needs to be dynamic, proactively experimental, and consciously facilitate new ideas to be made accessible to an audience broader than the innovators themselves. Experimentation in Improvised Jazz explores key elements of experimental jazz music in order to discern ways in which the genre is developing.

The book begins with an overview of where, when and how new ideas in free and improvised jazz have been created and added to the canon, developing the genre beyond its initial roots. It moves on to consider how and why musicians create free and improvised jazz; the decisions they make while playing. What are they responding to? What are they depending on? What are they thinking? The authors analyse and synthesise the creation of free jazz by correlating the latest research to the reflections provided by some of the world’s greatest jazz innovators for this project. Finally, the book examines how we respond to free and improvised jazz: artistically, critically and personally. Free jazz is, the book argues, an environment that develops through experimentation with new ideas.


Perspectives on Artistic Research in Music

Burke, R & Onsman, A.  (Editors) Perspectives on Artistic Research in MusicLexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Jan 2017

The increasing interest in artistic research, especially in music, is throwing open doors to exciting ideas about how we generate new musical knowledge and understanding. This book examines the wide array of factors at play in innovative practice and how by treating it as research we can make new ideas more widely accessible.

Three key ideas propel the book. First, it argues that artistic research comes from inside the practice and exists in a space that accommodates both objective and subjective observation and analyses because the researcher is the practitioner. It is a space for dialogue between apparently opposing binaries: the composer and the performer, the past and the present, the fixed and the fluid, the intellectual and the intuitive, the abstract and the embodied, the prepared and the spontaneous, the enduring and the transitory, and so on. It is not so much constructed in a logical, sequential manner in the way of the scientific method of doing research but more as a “braided” space, woven from many disparate elements.

Second, the book articulates the notion that artistic research in music has its own verification procedures that need to be brought into the academy, especially in terms of the moderation of non-traditional research outputs, including the description of the criteria for allocation of research points for the purposes of data collection, as well as real world relevance and industry engagement.

Third, by way of numerous examples of original and creative music making, it demonstrates in practical terms how exploration and experimentation functions as legitimate academic research. Many of the case studies deliberately cross boundaries that were previously assumed to be rigid and definite in order to blaze new musical trails, creating new collaborations and synergies.


Book Chapters

  • Kellett, J. Michael, Dave Wilson and Robert L. Burke.  2024. “Settler Colonization and Austrological Improvisative Musicality Since the Late Nineteenth Century,” In Johnson, Bruce, Adam Havas and David Horn eds. The Routledge Companion to Diasporic Jazz Studies. New York: Routledge (in press)
  • Hall, C. Burke, R.L. (2022) Negotiating Hegemonic Masculinity in Australian Tertiary Jazz Education. Handbook of Jazz and Gender 
  • 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.


Track name: Tahdon [MP3 12.8MB]Composer: Jukko Perko. Burke – Gould Quartet Live at Bennetts Lane. Rob Burke – Sax, Tony Gould Piano, Nick Haywood – Bass, Tony Floyd – Drums.

Appendix A: Tahdon Transcription [PDF 59KB]

Appendix B: Tahdon 3 choruses stacked Concert Sept 2019 – Full Score [PDF 59KB]

Appendix C: Tahdon Solo over melody – Full Score [PDF 71KB]

Appendix D: Melody [PDF 47KB]

Appendix E: Tahdon Solo phrase lengths [PDF 319KB]

Appendix F: John Coltrane A love Supreme [PDF 187KB]

  • Burke, R & Onsman, A.  Perspectives of Artistic Research in Music. Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Chapter 1. January 2017
  • Onsman, A & Burke, R  .  Perspectives of Artistic Research in Music. Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Chapter 15. January 2017
  • Burke, R.L., Evans, S.J.N., 2012, Pathways to learning and teaching indigenous and world music ensembles, in The Oxford Handbook of Music Education, Volume 1, eds Gary E McPherson and Graham F Welch, Oxford University Press, New York, USA, pp. 890-906.



  • Canham, N., Goh, T., Barrett, M. S., Hope, C., Devenish, L., Park, M., Burke, R.L & Hall, C. A. (2022, November). Gender as performance, experience, identity and, variable: A systematic review of gender research in jazz and improvisation. In Frontiers in Education (Vol. 7, p. 987420). Frontiers.
  • Burke, R. Vincs, R. Williamson, P. (2021). Online Teaching and Learning in Undergraduate Jazz Ensembles. Journal of Music, Health and Wellbeing (Spring 2021)
  • 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.


Conference Proceedings: Recent

  • Burke, R (2017)  Mapping Agency – Sydney Conservatorium – Conference – Artistic Research
  • Burke, R (2017)  Mapping Agency in an improvisational setting – Australasian Jazz and Improvisation Network Conference (Melbourne – MIJF)
  • Burke, R (2016) Discordant methodologies: prioritising performance in artistic research in music – Conference in Artistic Research Prague
  • Burke, R (2016) Exceeding My Reach: ‘Inside’ the Unfamiliar. Rhythm Changes Birmingham UK
  • Burke, R (2015).  DDCA – (Directors and Deans of Creative Arts) Conference – Sept 2015
  • Burke, R. & Onsman, (2015) A ‘The use of artistic research in music to develop expertise and creativity (in improvised jazz performance)
  • Burke, R. (2014) Analysis and observations of pre‐learnt and idiosyncratic elements in improvisation: a reflective study in jazz performance (IAML – International Association of Libraries, Archives and Documentation centres Australia)
  • Burke, R. (2014) Analysis and observations of pre‐learnt and idiosyncratic elements in improvisation: a reflective study in jazz performance. Rhythm Changes-Jazz beyond Borders -Amsterdam
  • Burke, R (2004) SIMS


  • Analysis and observations of pre‐learnt and idiosyncratic elements in improvisation – Robert Burke – Download PDF [15MB]
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