Contingent Encounters is divided into two parts: “contingent music” and contingent life.” In the first part, I compare how improvisation appears across three musical case studies: “Waves, Linens, and White Light” by Norwegian free-improvisers Mr. K; “Out to Lunch” by Eric Dolphy; and the two improvised tracks on Kris Davis and Ingrid Laubrock’s duo album, Blood Moon. By tracing contingency through the musical, semiotic, material, historical, and affective forces on which each recording depends, I attempt to elicit a different conversation about what it means to improvise.

In part two, I continue tracing contingency in everyday life. First I use Michel de Certeau’s formulation of city walking as an archetype through which to think about quotidian improvisation. Then, I continue exploring everyday practices like baking, listening, inhabiting, and working. Finally, I use Sara Ahmed and Merleau-Ponty to consider what it means to claim that perception itself is a practice, necessarily improvised. By the end of the book, all of the differences between these various examples bring into relief what is consistent about improvisation in every case, which is always and only contingency.