Free Improvisation – Method and Genre
Michael Francis Duch
`My area of research has been free improvisation both as a method and a genre, as well as the use of improvisation in experimental music. This essay seeks to clarify why I believe that free improvisation is to be seen as both a method of music-making and a genre of its own. I will investigate this by discussing the relationship between free improvisation and experimental music and its origins, and the history of free improvisation will also be briefly discussed through examples of some of its practitioners. I will also use examples from my own experience during my research period.`
Copyright and moral rights for this thesis are retained by the author A copy can be downloaded for personal non-commercial research orstudy, without prior permission or charge
This thesis cannot be reproduced or quoted extensively from without first obtaining permission in writing from the Author
The content must not be changed in any way or sold commercially in any format or medium without the formal permission of the Author
When referring to this work, full bibliographic details including the author, title, awarding institution and date of the thesis must be given
The recent resurgence of experimental music has given rise to a more divergent range of practices than has previously been the case. The Ashgate Research Companion to Experimental Music reflects these recent developments by providing examples of current thinking and presenting detailed case studies that document the work of contemporary figures. The book examines fourteen current practitioners by interrogating their artistic practices through annotated interviews, contextualized by nine authored chapters which explore central issues that emerge from and inform these discussions. Whilst focusing on composition, the book also encompasses related aspects of performance, improvisation and sonic art. The interviews all explore how the selected artists work, focusing on the processes involved in developing their recent projects, set against more general aesthetic concerns. They aim to shed light on the disparate nature of current work whilst seeking to find possible points of contact. Many of the practitioners are active in areas that span disciplines, such as composition and improvisation, and the book explores the interaction of these activities in the context of their work. The other chapters consider a range of issues pertinent to recent developments in the genre, including: definitions of experimentalism and its relationship with a broader avant garde; experimentalism and cultural change; notation and its effect on composition; realising open scores; issues of notation and interpretation in live electronic music; performing experimental music; improvisation and technology; improvisation and social meaning; instrumentalizing objects; visual artists' relationships to experimental music; working across interdisciplinary boundaries; listening and the soundscape; working methods, techniques and aesthetics of recent experimental music.
About the Author
James Saunders is a composer, with an interest in modularity and series. He performs in the duo Parkinson Saunders, and with Apartment House. He is Head of the Centre for Musical Research at Bath Spa University, currently working on the composition and performance practice of text notation, and directs the ensemble Material.
Improvisation as a tool for worldwide communication and interaction Bjørn Alterhaug, NTNU
Improvisation as a concept and phenomenon has remained a largely unstudied and untheorised topic, especially in terms of its relevance for contemporary work in cultural studies, anthropology, pedagogy, sociology, and philosophy – in other words, it is an interesting and obvious topic for interdisciplinary research. Improvisation is the human practice from which all music derives; as such, it represents a tool for communication and interaction that seems crucial in a global context. In this paper, I reflect on improvisation and argue that improvisation with its dialogic character has the potential to play a vital role both as an artistic phenomenon and as a social force.
Free improvisation is often explained as a non-hierarchical musical process that emerges out of the precise acoustic, emotional, environmental, psychological, and social conditions in existence at the time of the music’s creation. But given that free improvisers continue to perform in conditions that involve the static positioning and formal separation of the performer and the audience, the extent to which these claims can be realized is questioned by this chapter.
This article reports on a practice-based research project, ‘Musicians in Space’ (MiS), which aims to offer insights into how the free improviser, through the introduction of a spatialized approach to the music, can develop an all-encompassing and non-hierarchical musicking practice. An outline of the research process and the findings from the first stage of the research are offered, before the discussion is extended to look at the connection between spatialized free improvisation and deep ecology.