Buy, Build, Break: Composers and Objects [dissertation]-
Experimental music demonstrates a dialectic between two compositional attitudes. One seeks tools to realize abstract musical ideals, while the other strives to find the best way to describe objects through music. This study focuses on the latter approach, which the author calls "object-oriented composition." In this mode of composition, the composer engages in a dialogue with his instruments, treating them as partners in the creative process.
The body of this dissertation discusses three modes of practice in experimental music that constitute aspects of object-oriented composition: buying, building, and breaking. Chapter 3, "Buy," considers objects that composers use for their particular sonic and semiotic associations. Chapter 4, "Build" focuses on objects designed and built by composers for new musical functions. Chapter 5, "Break," analyzes objects that are modified to elicit new capabilities. The discussion of these modes of practice leads to a concluding chapter that demonstrates the author's object-oriented compositions. [More info]
Buy, Build, Break: Modes of Practice in Experimental Music
The author proposes three modes of practice in experimental music: buying, building, and breaking. Each is a way of interacting with sound-making objects, and each serves as a means to critique or resist cultural expectations for music and its practitioners.
Available on request.
Object-oriented composition is a perspective in which composers and instruments have
equal say in the creative process. Composers attempt to articulate an instrument’s ‘essence,’
and the instruments’ capacities inform the composers’ musical decisions. Composers,
especially those with an experimental outlook, have been continually fascinated by the
extraneous noises, inconsistencies, and undiscovered techniques of musical instruments.
Object-oriented composition asks for composers to use these capacities as the basis for
compositions, rather than decorative effects. To formulate this concept, the author draws upon
recent philosophical trends such as Object-Oriented Ontology and Actor-Network Theory,
which promote a nonheirarchical relationship between humans and things. To illustrate, he
explores compositions for three 20 th -century instruments: the theremin, the synthesizer, and
the prepared piano. Finally, he describes his recent attempts at object-oriented composition in
two recent works.
Available on request.
Vital Materiality in Cage's Music for Amplified Toy Pianos
In this essay, I use my recent performance of John Cage's Music for Amplified Toy
Pianos to relate Cage's practice of indeterminacy to Jane Bennett's concept of vital
materialism. I briefly address the objects used in this work – the toy pianos, graphic
score, and unnamed noises – before discussing the performance itself as a human-
nonhuman assemblage. Chance is not random coincidence, but a 'distributed agency'
among the objects involved in realizing the work.
Available on request.
Master's thesis (2008) and related papers
The Continuum of Indeterminacy in Live Computer Music [thesis]-
The laptop ensemble (sometimes dubbed “laptop orchestra” depending on its size) is an exciting new type of ensemble emerging all over the world. The aural and
interactive possibilities afforded by these ensembles are attractive to composers, but
many of the performances by these groups favor improvisation over composition.
This project includes five compositions for laptop quartet which explore a continuum
between determined composition and pure improvisation. Each work is an attempt to
engage the performer as well as the listener, encouraging exploration and
expression while controlling form and ensemble interaction in order to create
coherent and identifiable compositions.
Abstract: The laptop ensemble (sometimes dubbed “laptop orchestra” depending on its size) is an exciting new type of ensemble emerging all over the world. The aural and interactive possibilities afforded by these ensembles are attractive to composers, but many of the performances by these groups favour improvisation over composition. This project includes five compositions for laptop quartet which explore a continuum between deterministic composition and pure improvisation. Each piece encourages exploration and expression while controlling form and ensemble interaction in order to create coherent and identifiable compositions. In this abbreviated report, I will discuss three of the five works: Presets, (Not) For Tape, and Baffin Bay.
Idealism and failure in improvisational laptop performance
Abstract: The four composer/performer members of the Florida League
for Indeterminate Performance (FLIP) discuss the successes
and failures of the ensemble from individual perspectives.
Each section presents a subjective window into FLIP, informed
by a member’s own musical interests and ideals concerning
laptop performance and improvisation. The windows
presented can be encapsulated as follows: issues of
spectacle and performance context, musical missteps and
individual/group tension, thwarted orchestrational concerns
respective to a free improvisation model, and a re-evaluation
of the potential to not perform. In light of these individual
perspectives, we begin to see FLIP as a discursive arena for
music and music politics that surrounds a collaborative/
confrontational performance practice.