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README.md Update 'README.md' 1 year ago

README.md

README

This repository is for my Master’s in Experimental Publishing thesis being undertaken at the PietZwart institute. Please look towards other parts of my git respository for my project code, and to my research page <https://work.suroh.tk/research/>__.

Project Proposal

I will develop a performance and installation practice that embraces the precarious, and fragile position of improvisation. My motivation is to question whether improvisation can allow greater human agency. To put stress on my ingrained jazz improvisational training, I build custom software instruments and perform with them. I see the building of these instruments as an extension of an improvisational method which acts as a form of resistance against both my inherent training, and have the possibility against wider systems of standardisation. For my final project I will perform a multi instrumental work that embraces the unstable nature of improvisation in software and in music. Additionally, I will expose the existence of free improvisation outside of the musical sphere. Open-source software development, and improvised music both share a strong relationship to collaboration and resistance to standard structures. I will examine this further by establishing a collective of fellow software improvising developers.

Improvisation interests me because of its immediacy, and its possibility for the unexpected. It is an act that we are not openly encouraged to explore, and the fields that perpetuate this practice are often closed and specific. In saying this however, daily events too are imbued with improvisational methods but are largely imposed upon by cultural, social, political and economic systems. We are not openly encouraged to engage in an improvisational practice, as it doesn’t align with many ubiquitous systems within society, such as law or capitalism, nor many of our culturally informed modes of being.

The artist Mattin, proposes that the quality of fragility within the improvisational method, and suggests its essentially in an improvisational music making process [1]. To extend this idea, I believe that by integrating improvisation beyond its standard realms, it can allow anyone as an improviser to break a standard cycle. This is already evident in the open-source community through the self-regulated, collaborative effort of individuals. By embracing the fragility of improvisation and collaboration we can engage differently with systems in new and exciting ways, and resist the forces of standardisation and blind progress.

Music has a long history of improvisation, its roots likely formed by it [2]. Yet too, music has a long history of standardsiation. Much like language, tools were developed for its archival and dissemination in the two pronged intention of wider adoption, and control. Cyclically through history we can see the existences of an improvised mainstream in movements like the Baroque, Blues, and Jazz. Improvisation today, has since dwindled into a relatively fringe practice. We are not openly encouraged to perform outside of the frameworks provided to us through law, education, culture, and consumption. David Toop identifies how the word improvisation has since been relegated to a relatively dirty word, such as, a tactic of making do in unfavorable situations, or worse still, and an Improvised Explosive Device [3]. Improvisation allows us to take a system and play with it, affording us new angles into their functions, possibilities, and sometimes exposing their true nature. The improvised practice is no longer considered within the frameworks of our wider society, which is built upon the motivations of knowledge, progress, product, rules, roles and regulation. Improvisation, as it has in the past, can provide us new and interesting perspectives, as well as resistance against large and abstract systematic standardisation.

Not widely understood, the act of improvisation is different to random acts, although chance is graciously embraced, it reinforces the responsibility of the improvisor. When improvising, one is taking risks to explore possibilities fully accepting failure and the responsibilities of the consequences. Unlike a compositional method, perfection is not an option, nor is it an aspiration. The spontaneous exploration of a system, or network of systems, its deconstruction, augmentation or abstinence is at the core of improvisational motivation. It is the same intention of the software hacker. Examining a system, whether that be technical or contextual, the hacker opens up a system, tries to understand it then chooses to augment, destroy, completely re-interpret or abstain. With the reinforcement of a community of hackers and improvisors, these ideas build, errors are ironed out, all thanks to an inherent acceptance of failure and support.

This has spurred my initial experimentation into algorithmic software instruments and various software languages. My sketches have involved hacking MIDI controllers, playing with audio analysis, and deconstructing my traditional musical training. I will explore this world, and establish a group of fellow artists, musicians and interested people to experiment with improvisation focused software instruments. Not only will this assist in developing my personal practice and that of others, I hope to stimulate an active discussion around the agencies a wider adoption of improvisation can provide.

References

  1. Mattin Free Software Series Neural, 2010, 38, 22-25
  2. NEED REFERENCE
  3. Toop, D., Into the Maelstrom: Music, Improvisation and the Dream of Freedom: Before 1970 Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2016