Improvisation, as that which occurs ‘on the spur of the moment’, is commonly assumed to eschew all law, convention, structure or form. A growing number of improvising musicians and critical improvisation scholars criticise this understanding of improvisation. To improvise well requires enormous discipline and skill, as well as an attention to cultural history and memory.
Although improvisation is most often associated with the musical realm – for example, jazz music – this symposium highlights the fundamentally improvisatory nature of Western common law and justice. As no two legal actions can be exactly the same, each judicial application of existing rules or past precedents to new facts creates, in fact, a new and improvised law. And it is the very nature of legal judgment that elicits a negotiation between the singularity of a particular case and the pre-existing rules or laws to which it must adhere or follow. Novelty and creativity, however, must be subordinated to tradition and precedent in order for law to remain legitimate and commanding in contemporary society. Law, in other words, cannot be seen to be produced on the spur of the moment. To be just, it must apply fairly and equally and be known by all in advance.
Bringing together academic and non-academic participants, both locally and internationally, this symposium explores the improvised creativity that is at the heart of legal decision-making, specifically as it applies to the area of child protection law. Through panel discussions, keynote addresses, improvisation workshops and performances, symposium participants will interrogate how to best equip those working in child protection (lawyers, judges, social workers, policy makers, community activists and third sector employees) to be confident in the improvisatory role which they are being called to undertake, where improvisation is understood as the technical ability and responsiveness to negotiate a smooth path between the general system of legal rules and an individual case. The symposium is free and open to the public. Please RSVP in advance to Matilde Meireles at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the symposium, and the AHRC-funded research project upon which it is based, please visit www.translatingimprovisation.com.
Sonic Arts Research Centre, Queen’s University Belfast
Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Keynote addresses by Pauline Oliveros (USA) and Ellen Waterman (Canada) and concerts by Maria Chavez (USA) and Okkyung Lee (Korea)