Tactile Paths is a native digital, media-rich PhD dissertation. It aims to articulate and expand the nexus of notation and improvisation in contemporary and experimental music. The project interweaves direct artistic experience with insights from improvisation studies, the social sciences, philosophy, and various scholarship in the arts to reveal methodological connections among diverse artists such as Richard Barrett, Cornelius Cardew, Malcolm Goldstein, Lawrence Halprin, Bob Ostertag, Ben Patterson, and the author. By focusing on how notation is used, rather than on what it represents in an abstract sense, the author shows how written scores emerge from and feed back into ongoing improvisational processes. Thus, it is argued, they are not fixed texts whose primary purpose is to prescribe and preserve, but rather tactile paths in the improviser’s ever-crescent musical and social environment. This practice-based approach aims to lay the conceptual groundwork for theorizing and broadening the creative relevance of work whose importance to practitioners belies its marginal presence in academia and institutions.
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