Confluences: folk wisdom in contemporary music
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This thesis explores ways of adopting elements of Calabrian folk music in compositions of contemporary music beyond the mere adoption of melodies and instruments. Through this work, I aim to create a practice for contemporary improvisation and composition that is deeply imbued with elements derived from the music theory, the sonic environment and the performance practices of Calabria. The work described in this dissertation consists of two components: ethnomusicological research and a practice-based enquiry. This research focuses mainly on three aspects of Calabrian folk music: generative principles, the tuning system and processes of bagpipes, and soundscapes created by animal bells. These aspects guided both the ethnomusicological enquiry and the creative exploration. They are first described and analysed in their original context: folk music was studied in the field, amid and within the tradition bearers; research was conducted from a cultural and musicological perspective within the methodological and ethical framework of ethnomusicology. The data emerging from the ethnomusicological investigations informed the creative enquiry carried out through practice-led research. The outcomes of my investigation into Calabrian music became the core principles of my compositions of contemporary music. Generative principles were explored from the perspectives of both composition and improvisation They informed primarily a series of pieces for saxophone solo and a composition for chamber ensemble. The tuning system and processes of Calabrian bagpipes were investigated in compositions centred on pitch and extended harmonic spaces. They informed two compositions for string quartet and a piece for saxophone quartet. Soundscapes informed the composition of a piece of spatial music for goat bells that adopts indeterminacy methods for structuring the performance. The creative work, attached to this thesis as a portfolio of compositions, is analysed through self-reflective methods and in relation to the work of other contemporary music practitioners. My enquiry of the folk sources contributes to the field of ethnomusicology with new insight into Calabrian music. The creative processes and the techniques developed throughout this research also have implications for the broader field of contemporary music, as they offer a perspective on new ways of engaging creatively with folk materials.