Check out this interesting Wall Street Journal take on the slight return to improvisation in classical music. Especially dig the last sentence of the first paragraph I quote below.
“Violinist and composer Mark O’Connor, who improvised a two-minute solo passage while performing one of his own compositions at Carnegie Hall last month, says performers have to relearn how to be creative, in part because their training places so much emphasis on the flawless execution of another person’s creation.
‘One of the reasons we don’t see more improvisation in the academic setting is because at some point in our education system, the creative composers were separated from the virtuosic performers. Some of that is starting to be broken down now,’ says Mr. O’Connor, who learned to improvise by studying jazz and folk music and now coaches young musicians in improvisation at UCLA, Harvard and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
Once rare outside jazz departments, such workshops have become more common in recent years. Last month, a group of piano majors at Juilliard gathered in a classroom with two grand pianos and took turns improvising in the style of Bach, Chopin and Beethoven. None had studied improvisation before, and most were hesitant. The teacher, visiting pianist David Dolan, chided them for playing too carefully and challenged the idea that the performer’s job is merely to execute a composer’s intentions perfectly. ‘Do you think Chopin would authorize you to change his text?’ he asked the 10 students, who seemed stunned into silence. ‘Chopin wouldn’t only authorize you, he would push you to do that.'”
Being back in school at the moment, and surrounded by academic approaches to music, it really hits home for me that we spend too much time categorizing music, and not enough time embracing and exploring it all.