Musical events often seem to come about as a result of accidents, whether while composing or performing, or even while researching and writing about music. both composers and performers may come across new techniques or interpretations through mistakes. This is especially applicable in jazz and popular music, but is equally so for Western classical musicians.

Maybe a hand stutters and loses its mark on the keyboard in the case of the composer or singer, fingers slip unexpectedly. From nowhere a note is made. Not what was meant, not what was planned, an accident. When such accidents happen, we always reduce them to anomaly status instantly. Maybe we’re carrying on, overlooking the failure, and reaffirming the context in which our success started: that’s how it should have gone. Or, we may replicate the slippage test, with aim this time alone.

Because it is not the same event, the sound is familiar. We repeat it again, and think of it as the “same” accident; it is interesting, it works, and it begins to sound good. We continue to play over the section, transforming the music. What was an accident ceases to be as such. It moves from a singularity to a particular instance of a general type. The accident is subsumed within a framework, and its singularity becomes repeatable, acceptable within the original framework, its surprising affect becoming part of a representational system. It is no longer a singular, idiosyncratic event.

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