Sound Practices: The Sonic and the Musical in Interdisciplinary Improvisation
Today, 'performing with sound' can take a great many forms, and can include a broad range of contributions from performers with a wide diversity of backgrounds, including, for example, instrumentalists (from any number of genres), live electronics, electroacoustics, sound art. Further, many individual performers are active in a number of these categories, and their performances may draw freely and flexibly from any or all at any given moment; as a result, there is a great variety of sound languages, vocabularies, and traditions that may be used or referenced at any given moment, from more traditionally 'musical' discourses, to a broader sound-based palette. This flexibility of performance practice is not limited to sound materials and sonic discourse, however; it also extends to performance context. Sound-based practices find themselves in increasingly fluid situations, as collaborative, cross-disciplinary, and interdisciplinary performance environments become more and more common, leaving behind not just the strictures and limitations of the individual conventions, genres, and practices within a given artform, but increasingly, the borderlines between artforms themselves: performer roles expand beyond previous limits and borders; practices shift and lines blur; defined performance practices become less clearly outlined, dissolving instead into a pool of shifting performance possibilities, opportunities, and affordances. Sound-based performance practices therefore find themselves in a fascinatingly fluid period of transition and metamorphosis. This chapter explores some of the issues that develop as these practices, faced with these new and exciting challenges, seek to adapt and evolve. We will focus specifically on sound performance in the context of interdisciplinary improvisation, as this offers a particularly clear case of a fluid performance situation, and of the dissolution or renegotiation of boundaries between practices and artforms. Individual performers are forced to constantly adapt and react to the developing performance moment, thereby granting a valuable opportunity to observe the forces at work. Issues, questions, and implications are considered in some detail, and supporting references are made to relevant recent performance-based research projects, primarily the Sound & Motion project, which explored interaction and communication between sound performers and dancers, and the Research Group in Interdisciplinary Improvisation, which includes a much broader range of performers and artforms. Broadly speaking, there is a two-fold focus: on the confrontation of sonic performance practices with a range of other artforms; and on potential contrasts or differences in perspective between the 'sonic' and the 'musical' in these contexts. Interdisciplinary improvisation offers fertile ground for observing the behaviour of sound-based performance practices in shifting, evolving territory. This has much to contribute to a better understanding of the processes involved in sonic performance, in improvisation, and in cross- or interdisciplinary collaborations.
Citation:Andean, J. and Olarte, A. (2019) Sound Practices: The Sonic and the Musical in Interdisciplinary Improvisation. In: Dack, J. and Doğantan-Dack, M. Music and Sonic Art: Theories and Practices. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
Research Group:Music, Technology and Innovation - Institute for Sonic Creativity
- Leicester Media School