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The doctoral research investigates the orchestration of timbre from a performer’s perspective. Through the dissertation, I explore orchestration as means to “unfold” improvisational processes. The foundation of the work lies in my practice as a pianist in the realm of improvised music, in which I often use preparations and objects as extensions of the instrument. Whilst timbre is often understood as a purely sonic perceptual phenomenon, this view of timbre does not accord with its use within con- temporary site-specific improvisational practice. This research grew out of the need to explore the potentiality of timbre, and to renew and situate it within my own practice. Through the research, I argue that a range of aspects that exceed the purely sonic—for instance, changing spatial circumstances, the affordances and agency of instruments and objects, and the performer’s movements and gestures— all impact upon a performance and the listening experience. All of these aspects need to be taken into account in understanding and working with timbre. In this dissertation, I introduce and argue for an extended and situated understanding of timbre in relation to material, space, and body that recognizes timbre’s complexity and embraces its potential to contribute to an ethical engagement with the contextual environment. I understand these material, spatial, and embodied relations to be non-hierarchical, inseparable, and in constant flux, and to require continuously re-configuration without being reduced or simplified. This timbral approach, which navigates multiple media beyond the sonic, radiates throughout my research. From a performer’s perspective, I define “orchestrating” timbre as the attentive re-organization of these active agents and the creation of musical structures on micro and macro levels through the sculpting and transitioning of timbre— spatially, temporally, physically, and mentally—within a variety of com- positional frameworks. Understanding timbre in this way requires that we recognize the multiple and complex roles that memory plays in contemporary improvisational practice. I therefore introduce the term timbral memory in order to describe how I use memory strategically as means to gain knowledge about improvisational processes undertaken in line with an extended understanding of timbre. In the course of the research, I conducted four investigative projects that were integrated into my practice, which were further extended through collaborations with sound engineers, an instrument builder, and a choreographer. The resulting practice-based research explores multiple, combined, artistic, and analytical approaches to timbre: I use systematic mappings to detail vocabulary and technique, explore amplification and recording in the creation of spatial compositions, em- ploy a custom-built device for live spatialization as a means to expand and deepen spatiotimbral relationships, adopt gestural approaches in composing timbre choreographies, and articulate a range of diverse perspectives through dialogues and interviews with other practitioners. Taken together, these diverse studies constitute an exploration of both timbral memory as a structural, reflective, and performative tool, and the creation of performing and listening modes as integrated parts of timbre orchestration. The thesis opposes the notion of generalizable, reproducible, and transferable techniques and instead offers detailed and intimate approaches to technique and material, describing object timbre, action timbre, and gesture timbre as active agents in sound-producing processes. Orchestrating timbre forms a hybrid compositional approach, which can be applied to various improvisational contexts and which, by engaging with dynamic relationships, reconfigures them; in this, it offers a way of understanding and using the potentials that instrument-body-space interactions afford. By reaching beyond the sonic, my research makes a contribution to the field of critical improvisation studies. It addresses practitioners and audiences in music and sound art alike, attempting to constitute a bridge from artistic research in music—which is often viewed and treated as a self-contained discipline—into multiple artistic fields, in order to inspire discussions, creation and education in broader audiences.
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