Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Genre and the cultural politics of territory: the live experience of free improvisation

Atton, Chris


Chris Atton


This paper is concerned with the relationship between performers and audiences in the live performance of popular music, a relationship that is examined through the concept of genre culture and a microsociological study of improvised music as a territory for behaviour. Normative practices of musical performance and audience behaviour are generally understood to be regulated within the ‘social order’ of live performance situations. By contrast, and taking the live performance of freely improvised music as a case study, the paper explores how disruptive interactions between performers and audiences might be considered not merely as challenges to the norms of a genre culture, but as constituents of that culture. Rather than conceptualising a genre in all cases as the negotiated outcome of sets of aesthetic and social practices and expectations, the paper argues that this model of genre construction is less adequate for a consideration of more marginal and less stable music-making such as free improvisation.


Atton, C. (2012). Genre and the cultural politics of territory: the live experience of free improvisation. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 15, 427-441.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2012-08
Deposit Date Aug 13, 2012
Print ISSN 1367-5494
Electronic ISSN 1460-3551
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 15
Pages 427-441
Keywords Audiences; concerts; free improvisation; genre; live music; music; territory;
Public URL
Publisher URL