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Our Virtual Tribe: Sustaining and Enhancing Community via Online Music Improvisation

This article documents experiences of Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra’s virtual, synchronous improvisation sessions during COVID-19 pandemic via interviews with 29 participants.

 

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This article documents experiences of Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra’s virtual, synchronous improvisation sessions during COVID-19 pandemic via interviews with 29 participants. Sessions included an international, gender balanced, and cross generational group of over 70 musicians all of whom were living under conditions of social distancing. All sessions were recorded using Zoom software. After 3 months of twice weekly improvisation sessions, 29 interviews with participants were undertaken, recorded, transcribed, and analyzed. Key themes include how the sessions provided opportunities for artistic development, enhanced mood, reduced feelings of isolation, and sustained and developed community. Particular attention is placed upon how improvisation as a universal, real time, social, and collaborative process facilitates interaction, allowing the technological affordances of software (latencies, sound quality, and gallery/speaker view) and hardware (laptop, tablet, instruments, microphones, headphones, and objects in room) to become emergent properties of artistic collaborations. The extent to which this process affects new perceptual and conceptual breakthroughs for practitioners is discussed as is the crucial and innovative relationship between audio and visual elements. Analysis of edited films of the sessions highlight artistic and theoretical and conceptual issues discussed. Emphasis is given to how the domestic environment merges with technologies to create The Theatre of Home.

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