Ad libitum


"As you like it", a score annotation that gives a level of freedom to the performer.


Let's just appreciate the fact that this term refers to the preference of the performer of music. It's an interesting occurence, because within classical music the experience of the audience is considered the most important with occasional cult celebrations of virtuosos or maestros.

In popular music the situation is harder to interpret, because the on-stage pleasures of star-performers are often on a display. But we might also notice that in many cases their actual preferences don't matter and acting may complement music-making.

In tabletop gaming, spectating the game (audience experience) might be considered more of an exception and the pleasures of the performer of the game are commonly in focus. All games are intrinsically "ad libitum" with exceptions of ones that developed professional culture, mainly in the genre of abstract board games, like Chess. Although nowadays, on the internet, there are also shows presenting RPG playthroughs, and alike, where acting and gaming is blurred.


The term might mean things like:

  • performer decides on the tempo and/or phrasing,
  • there is a place to perform an optional virtuosic cadenza ("solo"),
  • a part can be omitted,
  • performer chooses one of the few presented versions of the section.

Strictly speaking, ad libitum isn't applicable often in music games, because dealing with musical notation is relatively rare. The last definitions would be useful in modular composition approach which is a historically important way of realizing open works of music.

See also

Aleatoric counterpoint of Witold Lutosławski is fully based on "ad libitum" phrasing.

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