ISIM promotes research on improvised music. Improvised music may require new angles of research that depart from the conventional musicological orientation.
John Sloboda points out the tendency for musicology to focus on the resultant works, and to neglect the process domain of the creative artists. “There is a vast body of literature on the musical compositions which figure prominently in our art culture, but most of this deals with the product of composition, not the process.” There is very little on “the moment-to-moment psychological history of the genesis of a theme or passage,” let alone the underlying transformations in consciousness that creative artists often talk about as key to their work. If the composition process has been neglected within this orientation, one can only imagine how poorly improvisation has fared.
The ISIM Research Project supports research into improvised music that is conducted by artists/scholars who are both well-grounded in the actual music-making enterprise, and who also possess research skills. In addition to the cognitive dimensions of the improvisation process, research areas might include cultural and trans-cultural considerations, application of complex systems principles, and new structural models for improvised music.
Steve Lacy said that “there is a music that must be composed. There is another music that can only be improvised”. Research is needed that illuminates the unique ontological principles of improvised music that underlie statements such as these.
The ISIM Conference, hosted annually beginning in 2006, and the ISIM Journal provide formalized forums for researchers to present and publish their work.