Composing Improvisors: Habit and Agential Responsibility


Improvisation, Agential Responsibility, Deleuze, Habit, Composition, Voyager

How to Cite

Macaulay, A. (2023). Composing Improvisors: Habit and Agential Responsibility. Scenari, (17). Retrieved from


The improvising machine, Voyager, was composed by pioneering theorist and improvisor George Lewis in the 1980s. Sitting at the nexus of action and wider events, improvisation is a fertile field in which to conduct the Turing test. Here, we see whether an AI system can convince someone it is intelligent by responding to a complex environment.  Although spontaneously produced improvisors rely on their trained behaviour to respond to unforeseen contributions. Drawing a parallel between the programming of an improvising machine and the habits of a human improvisor, Lewis’ denotation of Voyager as a composition seemingly threatens improvisation’s aptitude for self-expression and creativity.  Through the example of Voyager, this article examines the relationship between habit and agential responsibility. I argue that the novelty of improvisation lies in the improvisor learning about new patterns in the musical material, or about themselves, as their habits are extended by unpredictability.