Improvisation in Bali: Dr. Leslie Tilley at SMT 2023

At SMT 2023 I had the pleasure of co-leading a discussion of Dr. Leslie Tilley’s award-winning book, Making It Up Together: The Art of Collective Improvisation in Balinese Music and Beyond. As Improv IG co-chairs, Dr. Sean Smither and I invited Dr. Tilley to speak with our interest group about her book, which analyzes collective improvisatory techniques in two different Balinese genres and uses these findings to develop new tools for analyzing collective improvisation in general.

Dr. Tilley’s discussion was deep—pointing out specific interlocking ornamentation strategies in norot and kendang arja—but also strikingly broad, touching on the often tricky alliance of ethnographic and music-analytic methods. Her book, which deservedly received SMT’s Emerging Scholar Award, should be required reading for all theorists committed to expanding their theoretical methodologies beyond Anglo-European repertoires.