Macquarie University
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Context Responsive: intersections of design and improvised music practice

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posted on 2022-03-28, 17:19 authored by Clare M. Cooper
This thesis explores the practice of improvised music beyond its function as an experimental approach to music making. To date, little research has examined the specific nature of the creative music process in contemporary improvisation and its relational dimensions to audiences, time and space. Through an analysis of music and interviews with performers and curators, the thesis theorises performance and social contexts as key compositional tools in practice. It identifies the ways in which a trans-local (Bennett and Petersen, 2004) improvised music scene disturbs increasingly codified and stabilised modes of presentation. The thesis traces and shares examples of the way the artform has evolved via consciously context-responsive strategies across the trans-local scene over the last two decades. It proposes new models for understanding collaborative and iterative practice, drawn from progressive design scholarship, and presents two `key concepts - 'Contextual Variables' and the 'Context Responsive Improvised Music Practice Cycle' - to better understand the processes that are embedded within improvised music. The resulting investigation leads to new knowledge around forms of engagement, listening and collaborative authorship. The thesis argues that context-responsive improvised music practice promotes and 'futures' a more interconnected set of artistic and community actors, by encouraging us to engage creatively with dissonance and to respond to uncertainty for what it teaches us about collaborative processes overall, rather than focusing solely on solving performance 'problems.'


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Literature Review -- Chapter 2. Genealogy of improvised music -- Chapter 3. Stabilised modes and codified tropes of improv -- Chapter 4. Context-responsive improvised music: evolving the art form -- Chapter 5. Disturbance Strategies in practice -- Chapter 6. Collaborative disturbance, and the need for new lenses -- Chapter 7. Design a lens -- Conclusion. -- Appendix 1. -- Appendix 2.


Bibliography: pages 238-244 Theoretical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Media, Music, Communications and Cultural Studies

Department, Centre or School

Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Andrew Alter


Copyright Clare Cooper 2020. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource ( 271 pages) illustrations (some colour)

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