Literary critic Jacques Derrida was skeptical that jazz improvisation could actually transgress or ignore preset formal and harmonic structure-the "law of jazz"-to achieve totally spontaneous creations and unique, unpremeditated events. Ramshaw argues that no event generated in jazz improvisation is ever totally singular, nor is such an event totally absent in legal institutions, otherwise held to be diametrically opposed to the spontaneity of jazz. She refers to Derrida's own writings on deconstruction for this insight.
Translator Timothy S. Murphy notes that Jacques Derrida wrote "Play-The First Name" in response to Ornette Coleman's invitation for him to perform onstage with Coleman and pianist Joachim Kühn at a concert in France. The piece contains Derrida's meditations on the nature of improvisation.
Two highly original thinkers share their views on improvisation. Both experienced discrimination: one as an Algerian Jew in colonial France, the other as an African-America in depression-era Texas. Both believe it put them at a distance from their own "languages of origin" yet spurred them to creative acts.
Jacques Derrida on improvisation:
"The very concept of improvisation verges upon reading, since what we often understand by improvisation is the creation of something new, yet something which doesn't exclude the pre-written framework that makes it possible."
Jacques Derrida, the influential literary theorist, did not generally address music in his work, let alone jazz. Nevertheless, connections have been made between his ideas about the fundamental ambiguity of texts, of the complexity and instability of systems, and his explicitly radical political project, on one hand; and a form of music that seeks dynamism, surprise, and fundamental change on the other.