Indeterminacy (music)

Indeterminacy is a composing approach in which some aspects of a musical work are left open to chance or to the interpreter's free choice. John Cage, a pioneer of indeterminacy, defined it as "the ability of a piece to be performed in substantially different ways".

The earliest significant use of music indeterminacy features is found in many of the compositions of American composer Charles Ives in the early 20th century. Henry Cowell adopted Ives’s ideas during the 1930s, in works allowing players to arrange the fragments of music in a number of different possible sequences. Beginning in the early 1950s, the term came to refer to the (mostly American) movement which grew up around Cage. This group included the other members of the New York School. In Europe, following the introduction of the expression "aleatory music" by Meyer-Eppler, the French composer Pierre Boulez was largely responsible for popularizing the term.