Progression of the Music

Due to the intense timeline of our performances (four sets in two days), the development of the music was rapid, with the following three main themes:

      1. Transitions quickened as we progressed (influenced by the building of trust)
      2. Sections became more dramatic and segued more abruptly
      3. We further challenged each other in the search for original soundscapes (not content to simply re-create)

Our first performance – the first time we had all played together as a group – was slightly cautious at times, and this led to slower, more gentle transitions. As we progressed on the tour, however, these transitions quickened as we became more familiar and trusting towards each other. As musical trust developed, so too did the want to push each other and the music into new explorations, strengthening the group’s empathic connection. There was also an avoidance of simply re-creating the textures of a previous performances and this focused the group on being as creative as possible to challenge what went before. Of course, the more creative we were with each previous performance, the more daring we had to be with the next. [1]

[1] This led to Alex Bonney playing cornet on the final performance as he felt he had exhausted his tool kit of resources and needed something new.

Stage Three: Phenomenological Reduction

Firstly, contrasts were extremely important in our improvisations. Not just dynamically, but in a much wider array than those found in more traditional forms of jazz improvisation. Free from the restriction of adhering to pre-determined forms or compositions, we were at liberty to be more dramatic in our differences, with juxtapositions such as: wet/dry (cymbals versus drums, use of electronic reverb); sustained/staccato; short/long; sharp/dull; and some that were less conventional, such as: growl/whimper; scratchy/breathy; and stable/unstable. At times playing as quiet as possible, and other times at the upper limits of our range, the dynamic contrasts were extreme and used to dramatic affect. Indeed, the search for disequilibrium was much used in this research project.

There is an argument to be made here that the lack of pre-determined boundaries made us more focused on empathic interaction. Without the responsibility of numerous pre-composed intricacies, the group was able to singularly focus on sound complex creation. Of course, any established complexes could also be challenged by another player at any time and, as such, resulted in frequent and fluid transition points. Although some of those transitions were too abrupt or too languishing (marked as ‘Transitions Points’ or ‘Pivot Points’ in the analysis), the malleable interchange between sections – controlled by all in the group – highlighted the importance of velocity in transitioning and contributed greatly to the narrative of the overall set.


Musical Themes

Found in analysis, there were many recurring events that pointed to a shared group knowledge and a macro-aware approach to each set. Whilst we did not have the assistance of pre-composed music to facilitate a contrasting set, we were implicitly aware of the need for an arc of performance that covered many moods and dramatic moments, as follows:

  • Solo moments for each instrument

  • Melodic/counter-melodic approach

  • Mimicking and contrasting of pitch

  • Dramatic extremes of range, especially from the horns

  • Acoustic instruments mimicked other band members and vice-versa e.g.: trumpet used 

    brush-type sounds and tried to sound electronically manipulated)

  • Elevated energetic states with transitions that happened at different velocities

  • Contrast of textures signalled transition to a new section

  • Use of plateaus as we sustained a section

  • Use of points of low-energy as we contemplated new transitions (a pivoting of sorts)

  • Use of pedal points to ground a section, enabling us to build upon it

  • Use of pulse and groove in building to an attuned musical climax


Perhaps unsurprisingly, methods more characteristic to traditional jazz improvisation were used in the construction of each set (e.g.: solo moments for each instrument, melodic/counter-melodic approach, mimicking and contrasting etc), but here evolved naturally, without planning, in each performance.

Uniquely in this project however, all members were completely free to enact the micro form of the music and, thereby, affect the trajectory of the piece as a whole. Much like a roller-coaster ride, the shape of each set not only had dips and inclines, but also lulls as we contemplated the next section. The length of time we stayed in that space had the ability to help control the anticipation of the audience. We were, in fact, acting compositionally as both individuals and as a group. Our use of pedal-points, plateaus and contrasts to signal a new section, are all familiar tools in composition, and we used them strategically to help shape the form and structure of each performance.