- Edited by James Saunders, Bath Spa University, UK
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.
Contents: Foreword; Preface; Part I: Why experimental? Why me?, Christopher Fox; Writing, music, Michael Pisaro; A prescription for action, Philip Thomas; Open sources: words, circuits, and the notation/realization relation in live electronic music, Ronald Kuivila; Instrumentalizing: approaches to improvising with sounding objects in experimental music, Andy Keep; Free improvisation in music and capitalism: resisting authority and the cults of scientism and celebrity, Edwin Prévost; Beyond the soundscape: art and nature in contemporary phonography, Will Montgomery; Soundwalking: aural excursions into the everyday, John Levack Drever; 'We have eyes as well as ears…': experimental music and the visual arts, David Ryan. Part II: Fourteen musicians, James Saunders; Antoine Beuger; Laurence Crane; Rhodri Davies; Christopher Fox; Bernhard Günter; Bryn Harrison; Philip Jeck; Alvin Lucier; Phill Niblock; Evan Parker; Tim Parkinson; Jennifer Walshe; Manfred Werder; Christian Wolff; Bibliography; Index.
About the Editor: 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.
Reviews: This fine collection of essays and interviews casts light on, through, and around the fabric of experimental music, woven as it is from threads first spun by John Cage in the 1950s. Whether tracing single lines or analyzing complex patterns, the authors—composers and performers, more than scholars—write with a clarity and focus that derives from decades of practical experience. Their work illuminates not only a half-century of invention but also the present and future of what has become, paradoxically, an experimental 'tradition'.
William Brooks, University of York, UK
‘Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.’ Choice
‘British composer and experimentalist James Saunders has produced an excellent Companion… the result is an extensive, non-prescriptive resource, ideally matching its subject-matter.’ The Wire
‘This is fascinating, with artist statements coming from the likes of Phill Niblock and Chris Hobbs discussing his radiophonic 'MERZsonata' in two different chapters, not to mention the interest in soundscape, phonography, and so on.’ Organised Sound
‘A central strength of this book is the obvious engagement of the authors in the experimental tradition. All, in some way, are active in the creation and performance of experimental music and their observations are clearly informed by their practical experience and personal familiarity with the subject. Their insights allow for rare glimpses into a scene that is often marginalized and not fully understood.’ Canadian Association of Music Libraries Review
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