Present performer: a humanised augmented practice of the clarinet
Furniss, Peter David
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This practice-based research articulates a performer’s perspective from within the rapidly expanding field of mixed music, wherein traditional acoustic instruments are augmented by means of live electronics. Contemporary technology presents a panoply of sonic and interactive affordances and diverse avenues of potential for a contemporary practice of the clarinet. Pursuing a move from a technically passive approach towards self-efficient onstage operation, the author articulates a journey in which a hybridity of instrumental expertise and technical naivety develops into an embedded practice. A framework of humanising is proposed to establish codes of practice based on the embodied skill and priorities of the onstage performer. A pragmatic and personal approach emerges to managing issues of sound, control, and engagement, with an emphasis on viable rehearsal and performance practices that ultimately privilege an ongoing attention to liveness. The portfolio of sound recordings and the observances contained in this thesis contribute to a growing body of performer-led accounts in a rich environment for the development of new creative work and collaboration, and to facilitating access to interactive music for performers wishing to explore the field. A set of case studies trace three broad roles across a spectrum of creative agency within an interdisciplinary practice of the clarinet, situated at a nexus of diverse approaches—from performing composed works (executant interpreter) to non-idiomatic free improvisation (enactive composer), via hybrid works that blur these authorial distinctions (enabled interpreter). Negotiating multiple, interdependent influences within these respective performance ecologies, and moving over time from a status of technical novice towards one of proficiency and expertise (Dreyfus & Dreyfus 1980), a growing sense of embodied instrumentality is encountered (Nijs et al. 2009). The additional technology becomes less an extension of the instrument, rather the performer becomes present in a new holistic entity (Riva 2009; Rebelo 2006), with an attendant, ongoing re-evaluation of personal sound concept. Instrumental musicianship is reframed as inhabiting an assemblage of tools that filter and resonate physical energy, identity, and culture, and is directed towards an optimal performing presence.