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Title: Seeking out the spaces between: Using improvisation for collaborative composition and interactive technology
Authors: Nicolls, S
Issue Date: 2010
Publisher: The MIT Press
Citation: Leonardo Music Journal, 20: 47-55, 2010
Abstract: This article presents findings from experiments into piano performance live electronics undertaken by the author since early 2007. The use of improvisation has infused every step of the process---both as a methodology to obtain meaningful results using interactive technology and as a way to generate and characterize a collaborative musical space with composers. The technology used has included pre-built MIDI interfaces such as the PianoBar, actuators such as miniature DC motors and sensor interfaces including iCube and the Wii controller. Collaborators have included researchers at the Centre for Digital Music (QMUL), Richard Barrett, Pierre Alexandre Tremblay and Atau Tanaka. In seeking to create responsive “performance environments” at the piano, I explore live, performative control of electronics to create better connections for both performer (providing the same level of interpretive freedom as with a “pure” instrumental performance) and audience (communicating clearly to them). I have been lucky to witness first-hand many live interactive performances and to work with various empathetic composers/performers in flexible working environments. Collaborating with experienced technologists and musicians, I have witnessed time and again what, for me, is a fundamental truth in interactive instrumental performance: As a living, spontaneous form it must be nurtured and informed by the performer’s physicality and imagination as much as by the creativity or knowledge of the composer and/or technologist. Specifically in the case of sensors, their dependence on the detail of each person’s body and reactions is so refined as to necessitate, I would argue, an entirely collaborative approach and therefore one that involves at least directed improvisation and, more likely, fairly extensive improvised exploration. The fundamentally personal and intimate nature of sensor readings---the amount of tension created by each performer, the shape of the ancillary gestures or the level of emotional involvement (especially relevant when using galvanic skin response or EEG)---makes creating pieces with sensors extremely difficult for a composer to do in isolation. Improvisation therefore provides a way for performer and composer to generate a common musical and gestural language. Related to these issues is the fact that the technical or notational parameters in interactive music are not yet (and may never be) standardized, thereby creating a very real and practical need for improvisation to figure at least somewhere in the process.
Description: Copyright © 2010 ISAST
ISSN: 0961-1215
Appears in Collections:Music
Dept of Arts and Humanities Research Papers

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