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Who exactly is in charge here?: Composing for large groups of improvisers




Dr Moss Freed, ‘Who exactly is in charge here?: Composing for large groups of improvisers’, Chaired by Dr Tullis Rennie

Composing for improvisers is an area that poses a significant conundrum for those composers who are curious, or perhaps foolish, enough to try and tackle it. Overly scant compositional structures can easily negate the whole process, producing functionality and sonic outcomes all but indistinguishable from free improvisation, whereas more substantial predeterminations risk alienating free players by robbing them of a critical freedom to interact in real-time, as the situation demands. Nevertheless, recent years have seen a surge in such pursuits, alongside increased interest from academics, journalists, broadcasters and programmers, and the practice has presented itself as one in need of greater understanding.

In this talk, I will discuss some of the theoretical and practical considerations that I have encountered in my PhD research over the past few years, which has investigated this topic through the generation of a portfolio of compositions. Referring in part to Eddie Prévost’s (1995) defining improvisational characteristics of ‘dialogue’ and ‘heurism’, I will argue that the conundrum is surmountable through a handful of key shifts in compositional approach and analysis. I will detail the ways in which I have aimed to incorporate these shifts, which revolve around performer obligation, into my recent collection of pieces, Micromotives, and comment on the specific ontological issues that resulted. I will specify my attempts to balance various composer/performer controls, and describe how the reflexive and iterative process of working closely with Union Division, a large ensemble established specifically to perform these pieces, has enabled the work’s evolution through addressing needs and difficulties brought up in practice.

Please note, this event will be held on Zoom, you will need to sign up to receive joining details.

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When and where

5.00pm - 6.30pmTuesday 7th July 2020

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+44 (0)20 7040 8037

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