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Philip Alperson, in ‘The Instrumentality of Music’, extends the commonsense concept of musical instrument to an understanding encompassing the instrument’s musical, cultural and conceptual situation. This understanding shifts the focus from a work-based aesthetic to one in which “listeners appreciate the human achievement with specific regard to accomplishment in the context of the demands of the particular instrument involved”. With this advanced understanding of instruments and the instrumentality of music in place, I shall discuss a moment of genuine instrumental discovery (as opposed to deliberate design). During an improvisatory extension of the piano’s sound board as part of a trio exploration with Bennett Hogg and Sabine Vogel using fishing wire, suspended bansuri flutes, contact microphones, and, vitally, transducers placed inside violins and on the piano’s sound board, an unintended feedback loop formed, resulting in an additional voice, curiously turning the trio into a quartet. While the found voice’s dynamics and character could be nuanced by varying the dampening of singular piano strings, as well as via the sustain pedal, it could, overall, only be summoned up and influenced in an indirect manner, via an ensemble effort. In analysing the situation of the discovery and in discussing its aesthetic implications, I offer a contribution to Alperson’s notion of instrumentality in two respects: performers may together form a single voice, that is, their instrumentality might join; and an installation may, under certain conditions, acquire its own instrumental agency and identity, extending the cultural situation to include the natural environment, and the algorithmic.
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Alperson, P. (2008). The instrumentality of music. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 66(1), 37–51. CrossRef
Born, G. (Forthcoming). After relational aesthetics: Improvised musics, the social, and (Re)theorising the aesthetic. In G. Born, E. Lewis, & W. Straw (Eds.), Improvisation and social aesthetics. Duke University Press.
Buber, M. (1923). Ich und Du. Leipzig: Insel Verlag.
Hahn, T., et al. (2016). Banding encounters: Embodied practices in improvisation. In G. Siddall & E. Waterman (Eds.), Negotiated moments: Improvisation, sound, and subjectivity (pp. 147–167). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Hardjowirogo, S.-I. (Forthcoming). Medien-Musikinstrumente. In R. Großmann & S.-I. Hardjowirogo (Eds.), Musik und Medien. Laaber: Laaber.
Helmreich, S. (2012). Underwater music: Tuning composition to the sounds of science. In T. Pinch & K. Bijsterveld (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of sound studies (pp. 151–175). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hogg, B. (2013). When violins were trees: Resistance, memory, and performance in the preparatory experiments for landscape quartet, a contemporary environmental sound art project. Contemporary Music Review, 32(2–3), 249–273. CrossRef
Vogel, S. (2015). Tuning-in. Contemporary Music Review, 34(4), 327–334. CrossRef
Waters, S. (2013). Touching at a distance: Resistance, tactility, proxemics and the development of a hybrid virtual/physical performance system. Contemporary Music Review, 32(2–3), 119–134. CrossRef
- Instrumentality as Distributed, Interpersonal, and Self-Agential: Aesthetic Implications of an Instrumental Assemblage and Its Fortuitous Voice
- Springer Singapore
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