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The microphonic process is the term I use to encapsulate how microphones, loudspeakers, and related media are used to support, extend, and innovate musical practice. In this research-creation thesis, I contextualize, document, and analyze my own application of the microphonic process – feedback saxophone. My feedback saxophone system combines the unique characteristics of the tenor saxophone with the idiosyncrasies of various microphones and loudspeakers to produce and manipulate acoustic feedback. While there are examples of similar systems, there is no standardization and little documentation exists outside of audio recordings. Furthermore, my work employs feedback in a systematized fashion that challenges its conventional, indeterminate use in performance and composition. To support this research-creation, I discuss the history of the microphonic process, examine contemporary “microphonic” practices, and use these findings to describe and analyze my own works. For the history of the microphonic process, I discuss how microphone amplification changed popular vocal technique through the work of early-microphone singer Bing Crosby. I then discuss how microphonic instrumentaria were variously employed by avant-garde and popular artists using the examples of Mikrophonie I by Karlheinz Stockhausen, Hugh Davies’ feedback work Quintet, and the guitar-feedback practice of Jimi Hendrix. Following this discussion of instrumentaria, I establish the contemporary context in which my research-creation occurs by examining two present-day microphonic saxophonists, Colin Stetson and John Butcher. I use their distinct electroacoustic practices as a springboard to explain recent musical-technological trends: from the accelerating consumption of digital media in the new paradigm of sound, to the reactionary concepts of post-digitalism and the minimally augmented instrument. Lastly, I describe the creation of three concert etudes for my post-digital, minimally augmented feedback saxophone system, and critically examine the new works’ processes of creation, musical materials, and aesthetics.
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