Harp Techniques.pdf

February 19, 2019 | Author: dorito3d | Category: String Instruments, Violin, Musical Instruments, Double Bass, Musical Compositions
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CONTENTS INTRODUCTION…..……………………………………………... (Page 3) CHAPTER 1: Influence, Expectation and Evolving Ears……… (Page 4-19) Promises the Harp makes simply by being a Harp Cultural Baggage, Stereotype and Cliché The ‘whole’ Harp and its co-conspirators CHAPTER 2: “This Music” - the problem with defining approaches to extending the vocabulary of an instrument…………..………………………….. (Page 19- 29) “This Music” “Extended Technique” and “Non-traditional” playing “Preparation” Know the rules before you break them Lifting the sanctions CHAPTER 3: Improvisation and Necessitating Sounds………….. (Page 30- 34) CHAPTER 4: Mimicry……………………………………………….. (Page 35-37) Mimicking machines: Field Recordings CHAPTER 5: Exploring Physical Structure and Resonant Spaces (Page 38- 44) Exploring the instrument’s physical structure and resonant spaces Amplification and Electronic Extension Feeding tones CHAPTER 6: A Guide to Submitted Works …………………....… (Page 45-47) CONCLUSION ……………………………………………………...... (Page 48) References / Resources / Bibliography List of Interviews conducted via Email Performances / Collaborations / Residencies 2005-2007


Introduction This research project explores methods of extension of the pedal Harp vocabulary in an attempt to develop a unique language that challenges the instrument's stereotype and better responds to a range of contexts. I have investigated three key areas of extension: the physical structure of the Harp and its internal resonant spaces, mimicry as an exploratory tool useful in better understanding the Harp in relation to the Australian environment, and improvisation both free and structured used to challenge the vocabulary of the Harp in solo performance and collaborative contexts. The research stems from my longstanding curiosity with regards to the limits that a sanctioned or stereotyped repertoire of sounds and techniques places on an instrument for those who engage both as players and listeners. This critical commentary documents the results of the three areas of exploration indicated above as well as exploratory practice undertaken by other Harpists, it also discusses the problematic term 'extended techniques’ and draws on interviews conducted with progressive Harpists and improvisers with regards to extending the vocabulary of their own instruments. The sixty concerts I have performed internationally over the research period have also been central to my research. The final work consists of three elements: a solo Improvised Harp performance in my family home in suburban Sydney (filmed and recorded), a recording of Second Stabbing (Ohnedaruth), a Harp-lead composition by my Berlin-based ensemble: Hammeriver, and a series of three short studies composed of recordings of the resonant spaces inside the Harp entitled Spinal Fluid. All four pieces draw from and address what I have learnt from exploring the resonant physical structure, mimicry and improvisation. The result is a unique language that challenges the stereotypical profile of the Harp as a decorative instrument by embracing both its unique resonance and capacity for darkness, subtlety and texture. This language allows for a more flexible response to a broader range of contexts.


Chapter 1 Influence, Expectation and Evolving Ears

Promises the Harp makes, simply by being a Harp To some degree, all musical instruments are trapped by the listener’s pre-conceived notions of their limits and the social context with which they are associated. Even before a sound is produced, the audience’s knowledge (or lack thereof) of the equipment/instrument/artist inevitably dictates their experience and subsequent digestion of the sounds, approach, and performance. Having studied the Harp for 12 years, I have come to see this as an annoyance as well as a challenge and advantage – more often than not depending on context. In the 8 years that I have been performing live as a harpist I have felt certain expectation from an audience. What do they expect to hear from the harp? How much does this expectation hinder a listening experience? Do my assumptions about what an audience expects affect how I choose to play the instrument? This audience expectation – based on the clichés that result from the instruments limited public profile – has been problematic enough to deter me from playing the Harp for extended periods. I grew defensive if people sighed in awe of the instrument, and resolved to ‘liberate the harp’ from it’s stereotype. If I assume that the majority of the audience has not seen a harp up-close then the physicality (engagement of all limbs) and the revelation that the instrument is filled with a complex mechanical system is bound to surprise. How much of what I choose to play is fuelled by this reaction? After discovering improvisation, the next phase of exploration was purely reactive and, in hindsight, quite hypocritical (being that I silenced much of the instruments’ voice in order to bring to the fore hitherto unfamiliar sounds and radical approaches). I consciously rejected and avoided any pretty or decorative sounds on the harp, choosing to employ preparations that were as much performative as they were tools to create new timbres (corks, plastic bags, nails, forks and spoons). As a performer I embraced the stereotype by confronting it at the first opportunity: attempting to maximise the shock factor – violently slamming and thrashing the strings and soundboard within the opening moments of a performance in the knowledge that most audience members had not seen this ‘angelic’ instrument in person, let alone heard it sound like a lawnmower. I soon grew tired of this performance art, shock-tactic approach to sound making. A number of people shared their frustrations with my aggressive approach to playing the harp – asking for “just a taste of the beautiful sounds every now and again”… I found that these people were listening for something that I, as an artist, had not promised to provide – but the instrument itself had - simply by being a Harp.


Cultural Baggage, Stereotype and Cliché What is the clichéd image or stereotype of the Harp? What expectations does this instrument set-up by its physical aesthetic and does this determine what people expect from its aural aesthetic? Overused and limiting descriptions, contexts and pop-culture references for the classical Harp abound (see Images 5-12). American Harpist Zeena Parkins describes her harp as a “sound machine of limitless capacity”1, but more often than not Harps are associated with rich and religion-laden imagery, heavenly cherubs, gargoyles, mermaids, gold leafed virginal figureheads or, at it’s most experimental – the comic skits of Harpo Marx. When replying to those who ask what instrument I play, I more often than not hear a wistful sigh and cocked head; “I looooove the harp! How beautiful!” – indicating to me that in their minds they hear the classic angelic song of the harp,2 I doubt they would have such a reaction if they had been exposed to the Harping of Emi Maeda,3 Anne LeBaron4 or Rhodri Davies. The Harp carries ‘cultural baggage’, in that assumptions are made about the instrument and its role that inhibits a fuller understanding of situations where contemporary performance techniques are applied to it. It is up to the listener whether the baggage is a burden that hinders freedom, or a wealth of experience that can inform exploration into new territories.


– From Artists’ website: www.zeenaparkins.com - accessed August 2006


It is important to note that Harpists from non-classical circles (eg. Celtic/folk) will have experienced different

expectations from their communities/audiences. 3

Japanese Harpist based in Helsinki who works with feedback and distortion on the harp.


See Interviewee Biographies











Harpist Anna Maria Mendieta - picture from www.dancedress.com - accessed July 2007


Australian Harpist and Soprano singer Emma Horwood http://emmahorwood.wedd.com.au - accessed July 2007


http://reigninggifts.com/WINDCHIMES.htm - accessed July 2007


Photo from a ‘Busby Berkeley spectacular -- Fashions of 1934’ www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/pembfun/busby_harp.jpg -

accessed May 2007 9

"Lady with a Harp: Eliza Ridgely", portrait by Thomas Sully, 1818 www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/emharpld.html -

accessed July 2007 10

Section of King David stained glass window from Christ Church Riverton new Jersey. Image from

www.churchgiftshops.com/riverton/index.htm - accessed November 2007


Technical Illustration of a double action pedal Harp


The Harp my research is based on is the ‘Double-action’ harp model, this refers to the set of seven pedals used to sharpen or flatten each note in the scale, allowing for complex chromatic changes.14 The complex mechanical system is designed in such a way that the resonant wooden frame, often elaborately decorated, masks all but the pedals.


http://cdxonline.co.za/product_info.php?cPath=95&products_id=1077 - accessed July 2007


http://www.gabrielleangelique.com/music-light.html Cover art for Gabrielle Angelique solo CD - accessed July 2007


Technical illustration drawn by Clare Cooper


The single-action harp was created in 1770, but the disadvantage of this design was that not every key could be played.

The double-action pedal harp was patented in1810, the design included the seven pedals that could be depressed twice and each string passed through two pronged discs instead of just one. When a pedal was depressed into the first notch, the upper disc turns holds the string so that it sharpens a semitone. To further sharpen another semitone, the pedal is depressed again into the base notch and the bottom disc grips the string.


Is the Harp’s typecast problematic? If so, who for? Not all harpists in the field of new and experimental music feel that the Harp’s stereotype imposes limitations on their approach or their audience. One such Harpist is Victoria Jordanova15 from the former Yugoslavia, she is based in the USA and composes for Harp and real-time processing/ electronics I like to think of the harp's typecast/cliché as a precious and wonderful tradition; the tradition in which many people had invested their whole lives in: the craft of making the instrument and the craft of playing it. Both crafts transmitted from generation to generation, from the master to the student and so on, until today. Every tradition in order to be preserved has to be ‘standardized,’ and ‘codified,’ and so it has to take its chance in becoming a ‘cliché.’ …I see it rather as a grid of diverse manifestations. 16

Many of the reviews listed on her website mention surprise at her approach to the Harp,17 but when I asked her how much of her research and composition is fuelled by challenging expectations she said that surprising people has never been her goal I merely pursued my ideas as a composer and in the process I was developing my own vocabulary of sound. In my case the ‘sound gestures’ or the ‘sound colors’ came into being spontaneously as part of making music and often during improvisation. But in those instances when I ‘needed a specific sound’ I had to get it from the harp, because that was the only instrument I had.

In my experience, this typecast is problematic for Harpists who are working with ‘extended’ vocabulary. It is not uncommon to hear audience members begrudge a harpist who has not included angelic glissandi in her/his performance. So when working with a primarily textural, electronic or percussive piece this limited and clichéd view paints the player as cheating the audience (or the 15

see Interviewee Biographies


Email interview 30/08/2007


Victoria Jordanova will confound your expectations of what the harp can sound like. Her music is alarmingly beautiful -

San Francisco Bay Guardian, May 18, 1997 As much as anyone alive, Victoria Jordanova has tried to haul her harp away from the shadow of the raised Steinway lid. She has added a bark to the plucky voice by using electronic enhancements. She often abjures the conventional, subserviently seated position, stands up to her instrument and berates it with dozens of tools from her magic bag... - 20th Century Forum News Letter, March , 1997 : From the Artists’ website


instrument) of its ‘mother tongue’. Radical Harpist and composer Anne LeBaron agrees with this statement and also acknowledges the value of the stereotype The harp is for most people, an anachronism, a ghost-emblem of the romantic past. I believe it’s difficult for most listeners (meaning the general public) to let go of the fantasy...but this would be true of most instruments that are played with non-standard techniques. Yet the clichéd image and sounds elicited that one might also call clichéd also have their place in the scheme of things, bringing joy to newlyweds and their friends and families, reverie to patrons of restaurants, and comfort to the dying. Most harpists, even those who took a more radical direction, began by performing in such venues. 18

As I noted earlier, I had vowed to ‘liberate the harp’ from it’s stereotype, as I believed it was restricting to me as a player and to the audience. I questioned whether this was simply a personal obsession until I shared the idea with a number of other improvisers. Do other Improvisers make a conscious decision to change the way people listen to their instrument? Does it contribute anything to music to have this goal? Is it a pointless exercise? If it is, then why do so many improvisers see it as positive when an audience responds that they have ‘never heard X instrument sound that way before?’ Among the most gratifying comments I hear from people in audiences is "I've never heard music like that before." To which I think to myself, "Thanks, there are thousands of people playing it all over the world." It's hard for me to judge whether I've had any particular effect … but I suppose if I've been told that I've played music that someone's never heard before, then maybe I have in some way. - Chris Forsyth (New York)19

On recordings or even at concerts sometimes people (mostly non musicians) couldn’t tell where the sound came from, how I produced it and so on. That changed their picture of the piano I think. - Magda Mayas (Berlin)20


Anne LeBaron email interview 27/12/2007


Email interview 15/11/ 2007


Email interview 21/11/ 2007


This comment infers that it is a positive thing that an audience member cannot identify the source of a sound. Does this signify a change in their listening or simply a confirmation that they ascribe particular sounds to particular instruments and are, therefore, easily surprised? I play my chosen instrument (guitar) because I love the instrument, it's sound, it's feel, it's clichés, and it’s potential. …My composition and playing are fuelled by a desire to challenge and express myself. - Chris Forsyth (New York)21

[Audience expectation is] problematic for improvisers/performers who want it to be a problem. It’s problematic for audience members whose consciousness is determined by the popular images they have absorbed. It's not a problem for open-minded, exploratory performers or listeners. - Warren Burt (Wollongong)22

Eugene Chadbourne doesn’t see the audience’s expectation as a problem, but a bonus: For example, I can get a reaction from certain people just by having a banjo on stage. Already I am ahead of people whose instruments cause no reaction at all. Then by playing anything other than expected banjo music, another excited reaction. So for some instruments, just reaching outside what is expected already creates some interest. 23

This comment suggests that it is in the Improvisers interest to ‘get a reaction.’ Chadbourne is a well-known entertainer and humorous performer. It is something that sets him apart from many other improvisers who do not engage in humour or see themselves or their music as entertainment. Thinking back to when I first started to explore an extended language on the Harp I had a similar attitude to Chadbourne, searching for a reaction. I have since come to find a less provocative playing/listening experience much more rewarding. I am fascinated by the power of subtlety and of extended exposure to a minute but highly detailed sound world. American Trumpet player Nate Wooley is not concerned with the relation his sounds have to the expectation of his audience and considers it a ‘pleasant surprise’ if he happens to challenge their ‘perceptions of what the trumpet is capable of’.24 He notes his experience of the negative affect jazz tradition has had specifically on American musicians finding their own voice on their chosen instruments:


Email interview 15/11/ 2007


Email interview 15/11/ 2007


Email interview 15/11/ 2007


Email interview 15/11/ 2007


“I don't know if it is a problem with the audience, but as a student, it is very difficult to find your own language when the culture tells you that the greatest statement you can make can only be contained within a certain lineage.”25

Is it possible to change the way people listen to an instrument by extending its vocabulary? If so, how much of an improvisers’ playing /composition /research is fuelled by challenging an audience’s expectations of their instrument? Karlheinz Stockhausen noted that his experiments and compositions were not a reaction against the music that had come before him, but that he was ‘continuing and widening’26 the tradition. Is it possible to ‘widen’ the way people listen to an instrument? Can a single musicians’ development of their own vocabulary on their instrument have an effect? Arguably the most famous Harpist, Harpo Marx demonstrated that it was possible to change the way people listen to the Harp by providing an alternate context – slapstick comedy through film and television. Certainly, he drew on the Harp’s more traditional vocabulary and repertoire, but through including the Harp in this unique context he questioned and mocked the instrument’s association with upper class, and religious institutions.




Email interview 15/11/ 2007 Lecture V: Four Criteria of Electronic Music (KONTAKTE) and Questions and Answers on Four

Criteria of Electronic Music given at the Oxford Union on May 6th 1972. 27

“…Dalí sent Harpo a Christmas present: a harp with barbed wire for strings and spoons for tuning knobs, wrapped in

cellophane.” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2007/05/26/baharpo126.xml - accessed August 2007


I can't help but be aware of past and recent developments on the violin. I have had many people come up to me after a performance remarking that they'd never seen a violin played that way before (even more complimentary when it comes from people I consider vaguely contemporaries). Though that initial 'surprise' is flattering, it's a 'quick fix' of feedback to the performer, and might eventually create a vicious escalation in which the improvisor becomes a trained monkey forced to come up with new tricks continually. - C. Spencer Yeh (Cincinnati)28

I am often told by people that they are surprised about what I can get out of a mixing board. This sort of surprise is not something that guides me while playing. Although I'm flattered by such comments, I also find them somewhat disappointing since the mere fact that I'm generating sounds with a mixing board draws that much attention. I often feel that some listeners pay more attention to the technical phenomenon rather than to the sonic and musical result. - Peter Blamey (Sydney)29

It is currently a bigger challenge for me to surprise an avant-garde audience with unexpected conventional playing - Kai Fagaschinski30

It appears that I must divide ‘the audience’ here, as I have found that the expectation I initially set out to investigate is that of ‘new listeners’ (in terms of improvised and experimental music). As Gary Butler noted in our correspondence, the seasoned experimental music audience (‘the converted’) is a different animal altogether: [Audience expectation] can be an issue if the audience insists on hearing the instrument played in the way they're used to. Generally not an issue when the audience has some experience of avant-garde techniques (eg. ‘the NOW now’ and ‘What Is Music?’ Festivals’ audiences are comfortable with instruments being played in various ways), but sometimes a problem for an audience who has only heard the instrument used in limited ways. …There are times when I deliberately refer to those expectations (eg. playing a short excerpt from "Stairway to Heaven", or an AC/DC riff, or a Bach excerpt), although this is generally in a context where the "conventional" sounds seem surprising (eg. in the midst of a noise guitar/atonal assault, there might be a couple of bars of "House of the Rising Sun").31


Email interview 15/11/ 2007


Email interview 15/11/ 2007


Email interview 15/11/ 2007


Gary Butler (Wollongong) - Email interview 15/11/ 2007


Chicago-based percussionist Michael Zerang believes that it is the artist that must change the way he or she listens to their instrument, as it ‘would suggest a continued evolution of the improvising artist’ he also notes that is not possible to ‘speak to listeners approach to listening and all of the expectations and baggage they bring to it.’32 I think that people that can be changed will [be], those who can't won't hear our music anyway. My approach has changed things for me; I can't speak for anyone else. - Nate Wooley (New Jersey)33

I disagree with both Zerang and Wooley here with regards to their attitude towards the ‘listeners’ or audience, as I think it is pivotal to reaching new audiences that one learn what their expectations might be and that through understanding the lay-mans’ knowledge or expectation of an instrument (or a whole music tradition) one can create contexts in which open listening is at maximum capacity – be it by addressing the venue, the mode in which the event is publicised, the acoustics, the line-up, time of day etc – all elements of context which can either ‘widen’ or limit the listening experience of an audience. It is an apathetic, defeatist viewpoint rampant in experimental music circles that there is a predisposed, elite audience for ‘this’ music, and there is nothing we can do to change it. Do we not attempt to lead new listeners to this music because we can’t make them hear it? Using new modes of performance, alternate contexts, exploration of amplification, electronic manipulation, innovative techniques, preparations and improvisation a handful of Harpists are contributing to a new, multi-dimensional profile of the Instrument.


Michael Zerang (Chicago) - Email interview 15/11/ 2007


Email interview 15/11/ 2007


The ‘whole’ Harp and its co-conspirators Looking more to drummers or other instrumentalists for inspiration, my search for a personal language on the Harp was underway before I had heard of any of the following Harpists. Their collective contribution to a broader public perception of the Harp has been significant. Welsh Harpist Rhodri Davies34 is widely acclaimed for developing a new voice for the Harp, exploring the intersection between improvisation and composition and aspects of noise, silence and time. Apart from the conventional ‘upright’ pedal Harp he also plays ‘table-top harp’ (allowing for gravity reliant preparations and has restrung his lever Harp with guitar strings enabling him to use electronics extensions such as e-bows) and playing the harp pillar-down.


He is a celebrated Harpist in the field of experimental and improvised music as well as Chamber, Orchestral and Welsh folk music. Rhodri’s unique exploration of resonance made a significant impression on me. From the first time I listened to his solo harp album Trem36 I identified with his approach more than with any other harpist I’d ever heard. In 2004 I visited Davies in London, keen to collaborate and learn more about his approach. We performed a Harp duo concert to a seasoned Improvised music audience in London that, without previous discussion, navigated our distinctly different textural vocabularies.


See Interviewee Biographies


Image from the artists’ website www.rhodridavies.com - accessed August 2005


Trem is Rhodri's first solo harp release on the Confront Recordings label. Recorded live during 2001 at the West

London church St Michael and All Angels.


Figure 1 - Rhodri Davies with lever harp strung with guitar strings.37

Davies’ approach has been lauded by the press as ‘downright revolutionary’.38 The following quotes from music critics39 are representative of the public’s limited expectation with regards to what the Harp has to offer outside it’s clichés: “…as if he's determined to set the harp free from any of the usual preconceptions we civilians might have about that instrument... Rhodri Davies throws the rulebook out of the window, and I can only guess from this recording what violence he's doing to conventional playing techniques. The harp has never sounded so bizarre, so impolite, or capable of a dirty sound - as near as acoustic improv gets to heavy metal!” - Ed Pinsent (The Sound Projector)

"Forty minutes of Bisset and Davies serves as a Cubist journey around both instruments: rediscovered as resonant still-life subjects, they are viewed anew, free of cultural baggage or musical precedent." - Stewart Lee (Sunday Times)

"His unorthodox approach and technique is transforming the role and scope of the harp and confirms why he is an important innovator who is transcending the traditional limitations and perceptions of the role of his instrument." - Cadence Magazine


Photo from artists’ website www.rhodridavies.com - accessed February 2006. Please note that Davies is already

‘upsetting’ the traditional profile of the harp by being photographed against a ‘defaced’ public wall and casually leaning on the pious instrument. 38

Ed Pinsent- The Sound Projector (from the artists’ website www.rhodridavies.com - accessed February 2006)


All quotes taken from the artists’ website www.rhodridavies.com - accessed February 2006


Davies continues to be proactive in the Harp community, and has recently commissioned 18 composers to write new works for the Harp of ‘an experimental, reductionist or improvisatory nature.’ Dr. Anne LeBaron is an accomplished harpist, and recognized internationally for her pioneering work in developing original techniques and electronic enhancements for the Harp. Based in the USA, LeBaron often approaches the harp in such a way that the composition leads to unexpected places, often surprising herself. In an email interview with LaBaron, I asked her how she felt the physical structure of the Harp informs her approach to playing it, with particular regards to extending upon its sanctioned language: The harp is an instrument that is basically diatonic, diabolical, and diverting due to its size and dramatic shape. Its large size means that there is more territory offered for exploration. My investigations into an expansion of the typical ways of playing the instrument stemmed from a desire to take it in directions that were challenging to the stereotypical sounds---namely, finding ways to sustain the tones (various bowing techniques); to bend the pitches and play microtonally (using slides and physically bending the strings, and live detuning); to vary the timbre (preparations); and to heighten the percussive potentials (playing with mallets and brushes).

Another name synonymous with unconventional Harp playing is American Multi-instrumentalist, composer, and improviser Zeena Parkins.40 Known for popularising the electric harp, she also extends the language of the acoustic harp through extended technique, preparations (household objects and hardware store finds such as alligator clips, rubber erasers, rubber tubing, felt, metal candy lids, hair clips, glass jars, and discarded strings) and extensive digital and analogue processing. Critical responses to Zeena’s approach to the Harp are as filled with as much frenetic expression as the music to which it refers: ‘Parkins, one of the only avant-garde harpists around, uses both her acoustic and an electric harp complete with wah-wah (whammy) bar to dance the tarantella on the stuffy Harpo Marxist image her instrument has. She is not afraid of its natural beauty and sophistication but more often than not her hands are dirty to the elbows in discordant tangents, Hendrix distorto-feedback, and fierce multiphonics ” – WDC Period


See Interviewee Biographies


"Zeena Parkins..is my favorite living harpist... kucks of sonic gristle that she pulls from it are dandy as jack. A truely ginchy exploration of forgotten string potential." – Spin Magazine

"Parkins takes her celestial axe-heretofore thought of as delicate - and gets tough, unafraid of its recourse. It’s what some listeners used to call abstract lyricism, and the way Parkins deftly deploys her spur-of-the-moment ideas is refreshing." – The New Paper

I attended an intimate solo Harp performance by Parkins in a New York dance studio in 2005. Needless to say I was full of anticipation, and my expectation was to have my expectations blown away. Indeed they were. What I heard was akin to a toy music box drowned in it’s own kitsch, with Parkins moving from excessive use of delay and sample pedals on a toy xylophone to the small electric harp at it’s most sugary and decorative. Her performance was a wet blanket on everything I have felt she had worked for in regards to breaking the typecast of the harp. I left a disappointed hypocrite: someone who wants her audience to be open to the entire language that the Harp has to offer, annoyed that Parkins had not dished out her Harp’s famous hardcore-electro-acoustic-noise guts. Figure 2, Figure 3, Figure 4, Figure 5 : Zeena Parkins electronics and preparations41


From Artists’ website: www.zeenaparkins.com - accessed August 2006


Figure 6: Zeena Parkins performing with electric harp42


From Artists’ website: www.zeenaparkins.com - accessed August 2006


Chapter 2 “This Music” - the problem with defining approaches to extending the vocabulary of an instrument Many of the terms associated with extending vocabularies of instruments with a limited public profile are themselves fraught with cultural baggage – ‘extended techniques’, ‘prepared instruments’, and even ‘improvisation.’ I have not been satisfied with any of the popular definitions of these terms or the motivations behind them. The terminology associated with this exploration is loaded and, by being a definition, essentially limited. Gary Butler’s thesis [Prepared Instruments in Improvised Music: Precedents and Purposes]43 is a detailed discussion of the artists engaged in extending the vocabularies of their instruments primarily through ‘preparation’ and ‘extended technique’. Butler admits early on in the paper the problems associated with defining what it means to ‘prepare’ an instrument and how it differs from ‘extended technique’, and although he goes to great depths to provide a more practical definition of these terms, it is in his case-studies and discussions with other musicians about their personal application of the terminology where most is revealed.

“This Music” Her style defeats categorization, and is therefore all the more interesting The New York Times (on Zeena Parkins)44

Our shit is beyond the people who are trying to define it Lester Bowie 45

It is common these days to hear musicians engaged in improvisation/experimental music/contemporary composition/sound art/noise/instant composition/graphic scoring/free-jazz etc… referring to the illusive “This music.” I believe this is due, in part, to the growing number of musicians who are not interested with being associated with a particular definition or genre. It is a recognition of the deliciously ‘un-categorisable’ nature of the music we are engaged in, not a decisive rejection of other loaded terminology associated with methods of music making unsanctioned by the conservatoriums or the mainstream. The most fascinating aspects of “this music” are the elements that dodge definition, that are instinctive and are by their very nature, un-categorisable.


(University of Wollongong 2000)


www.zeenaparkins.com - accessed August 2006


Quoted at the beginning of Sun Ra’s ‘The Immeasurable Equation’


“Extended Technique” and “Non-traditional” playing With relation to music, the term ‘extended technique’ is used to describe non-traditional methods of playing a traditional instrument. Those on the outside of this practice may use terms like ‘unconventional’, ‘unorthodox’ and ‘improper’. The term is problematic for the simple reason that it suggests that there is a ‘condoned’ or ‘sanctioned’ vocabulary on an instrument, and everything outside of this is a rebellion against it. What is regarded by the academy as ‘Extended techniques’ have been used widely in contemporary music for the last 100 years or so and of course in improvisation, jazz, rock and pop. If Erik Satie inserted paper between the strings of his piano during his performance of Le Piege de Méduse in 191446, why is it still considered new to prepare a piano? Perhaps it comes down to the over-exposure to a limited number of ‘sanctioned’ techniques on an instrument. Perhaps, if one of the sanctioned sounds of a violin was that of ‘emulating a drum as soldiers go to battle,’ then more violinists would ‘thread parchment between the strings and beat them with the bow’ as per the direction of the composer of The Battle, Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (1644-1704), in the late 1600’s.47 Extension of an instrument is now synonymous with improvisation. Most Improvisers that I interviewed agreed that it is not necessary for an improviser to extend upon traditional techniques or to use preparations, but encouraged the search for new forms, shapes and colours in sound. Of course it very much depends on how, with whom and in what context a musician wants to make music. Some musicians choose to improvise as they are drawn to searching for new sounds and new ways to communicate with other musicians. There are many musicians who do not extend their instrument through preparation or new techniques but perhaps through the context in which it is heard, the musical influences, or simply through the act of improvising itself.


The Battle by Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (1644-1704), “the violone player is instructed to thread parchment between

the strings and beat them with the bow, emulating a drum as the soldiers go to battle” (Gary Butler PHD – correspondence with Double bassist improviser/composer Barry Guy) 47

The first use of a prepared piano in classical music occurred during the premiere of Le Piege de Méduse in 1914, when

Erik Satie, “…apparently on impulse, . . . inserted paper between the strings of the instrument . . .” (Dearling, 7647). Maurice Ravel used the same technique as a substitute for the luthéal47 in L’Enfant et les sortilège (1920-5) (Brooks, 348; Orenstein 258). [Butler PHD]


An improvising instrumentalist should always be searching for an expanded palette. That might mean preparations or just further exploration of the traditional techniques that are employed on a specific instrument - Michael Zerang (Chicago)48

For the development of my music it was very important to explore sounds; leaving the piano the way it used to get played. By playing the keys I couldn't find a musical language that satisfied me. Looking for sounds that I like (developing "extensions") is an essential part for me. - Andrea Neumann (Berlin) 49

I suppose it depends on the definition of "extension." As I understand it, in the most general sense it could be a catch all term for pushing the sonic limits of one’s instrument. - Chris Forsyth (New York)50

As I believe there is no conclusive definition of the above terms, I have collected a series of questions and suggestions from musicians I admire in the hope of getting closer to an understanding of the practice of extending the vocabulary of an instrument: I do think that calling something an extended technique detracts from what is actually going on. The guitars of Son House and Jimi Hendrix - the Inuit vocal 'games' - traditional shakuhachi - Korean court music - Pharoah Sanders on Coltrane’s Ascension. These all have extraordinary sound/technique qualities that are necessitated by the music - not by the idea of a ‘conventional’ instrument that has 'extensions' added to it. Maybe that way of thinking comes from composers who work on paper, and it nearly always sounds terrible - certainly what I’ve heard in the realm of reed instruments. It seems to make more sense for strings, i.e. from Heinrich Biber to Cage's prepared piano, maybe because these are more reproducible by different players. - John Butcher (London)51


Email interview 14/11/ 2007


Email interview 28/11/ 2007


Email interview 15/11/ 2007


Email interview 19/11/ 2007


As I worked deeper and deeper I realized I was moving further and further away from the instrument (does a trumpet being blown into the sound-holes of a violin count as "playing the violin" still)? Say I establish myself as "yeah, the violin player" -- but next time I'm seen I have replaced the back of the instrument with a drumhead and a snare (similar to a banjo) and I blow a trumpet against it. …How many members of Guns n Roses can you replace before it's no longer Guns n Roses, you know?? Or is it just Axel that can remain constant? - C. Spencer Yeh (Cincinnati)52

Is it considered traditional to drag a horsehair bow across the strings of a violin? In this case, is the bow a part of the Instrument, or is it considered and "extension"? Similarly with drum sticks, plectrums etc... Are these part of the traditional instrument or are they too extensions. The reason for this simple question is that the result is more important than the tool. A violinist can certainly create very new and innovative sounds from their instrument with just bow and fingers, without ever resorting to the introduction of other implements. Also, when does a technique or implement go from being "experimental" to being traditional? - Michael Zerang (Chicago)53

Sydney-based Improviser and academic Peter Blamey does not consider the term ‘extended technique’ useful outside of the context of the post-war era European avant-garde (used as a way of ‘breaking the tonality deadlock caused by serialism’, and therefore now relatively institutionalised) and instead considers a spectrum of approaches ‘from mastery to ineptitude capable of producing interesting results’. I’ve always considered the concept of ‘extended technique’ to have its roots in musicology and the academy, and as such defined a set of practices largely considered a kind of performative surplus - in other words, a kind of rhetorical defence mechanism that reinforced doctrinaire composition and performance practices that defended a core or 'proper' technique against outside influences. - Peter Blamey (Sydney)54


Email interview 15/11/ 2007


Email interview 15/11/ 2007


Email interview 15/11/ 2007


Confronted with the trio's intricately plaited tones, sometimes it's hard to tell the provenance of a particular sound - like many musicians exploring extended techniques, they're at war with their instruments...” - Will Montgomery 55

Are musicians exploring extended techniques ‘at war with their instruments’ as Will Montgomery suggests? I see those expanding an instruments’ vocabulary as at one with their instrument. If we are at war with anything, perhaps it is with the tradition that limits/hinders this exploration.

Preparation In terms of my own practice, I apply the term preparation simply as a way to describe the use of external, secondary and temporary implements to alter the essential nature of an instrument. Although the idea of altering an instruments timbre through the use of external objects is not new, its popularity as a method of sound creation could be said to be at an all-time-high within the Improvised music community. Dr Gary Butler of Wollongong, completed his PHD on the subject; Timbre/texture is frequently used as a central feature of improvisation (as opposed to the pitch/rhythm focus of most notated music). However, I'm reluctant to consider ANY feature as "necessary" - I remain attached to the notion that "free" impro means that there is no such thing as "necessary" (or forbidden, required, essential etc) because each improviser determines their own parameters (which may change at any moment).

Butler sorts his ‘wide variety of stuff’ into a number of descriptive categories – Things attached to/inserted between strings to mute, rattle or emphasise harmonics;56 things to hit, scrape or rub the strings;57 alternative plectrums;58 dropping things on the strings;59 a range of what would be considered ‘extended technique’;60 ‘additional noisemakers’;61 speakers held over the pickups;62 55

"Silence is a rhythm too: The Sealed Knot”, The Wire, June 2002


“polystyrene, electrical clips, cutlery, potato wedges, pizza, burning flags, etc etc”


rulers, toy violin bow, a christmas tree, a sink


serrated edges cut in conventional picks. Found objects - corn chips, buttons, pebbles etc used to pluck strings


pasta, rice, ping pong balls


‘Harmonics, muted strings, plucking behind the bridge, scraping strings with thumbnail, feedback.’


Pieces of metal held over the pickups & rubbed, scraped, hit etc: metal ruler, ashtray, chains, a birdcage

filled with golf balls, beer can . . .


motors.63 He has also made more permanent changes to the instruments such as putting frets in random places, adding extra strings, attaching toys to the body of the guitar & wiring the output from the toy directly to the guitar output, using a child’s playmat as a substitute for footpedals. He has also nailed a guitar to a cross. Butler’s PHD lists a great number of different musicians’ approaches to preparing their instruments. An insight into the personal origins of such exploration is given by Irish double bassist Barry Guy: “The idea to “explore different sticks and beaters” began when Tony Oxley accidentally threw his drum stick across the stage - I caught it and started beating the pitches”.64 The list of preparations I have experimented with to date pale in comparison to Butler’s. Mine are made up of mainly household or ‘found objects’ such as (in chronological order of discovery) plastic bags, corks, cutlery, Violin and Contrabass Bows, assorted mallets, glass cups and glass ornaments, sheets of paper, plastic, foil, cardboard, tin, ribbons of fabric, CDs, sticky tape. Some examples of playing the preparations used on the harp include: hitting the strings with mallets and drumsticks (muted or un-muted), holding a glass jar or cup on the string when plucked, alligator and bulldog clips attached to strings, hanging small objects from the disks to bounce off the strings when played, weaving objects such as chopsticks, drumsticks, plastic bags, paper and wire through the strings, sliding metal or my nails down the strings. Due to practicality when touring, I have limited my preparations to a few mallets, a cello bow and a custom built steel brush given to me by improviser, sculptor and instrument builder Rod Cooper. Along with his unique sculptural instrument inventions, Cooper has custom made ‘extension’ pieces for Australian improvisers Will Guthrie, Clayton Thomas, Mark Harwood, Dale Gorfinkel, Rory Brown to name a few. In my email interview I had used the term ‘extensions’ so I asked Rod Cooper whether he considered these creations to be instruments unto themselves or does he refer to them as ‘preparations’. He prefers to refer to them more as subversions that add to the array of preparations an Improviser might already have on hand: Ideas are triggered by the specific way an individual performer incorporates a selection of found objects, to expand the very personal relationship they have with their instrument. I feel it is the unique gestures a performer makes when playing, that triggers my subconscious into realising a new design possibility.65


(held over the pick-ups) Talking dolls, radio, portable cassette player


(held over the pickups) vibrators, cordless power tools, wind up toys



Gary Butler Personal Correspondence 17/11/07.

Email interview 15/11/ 2007


‘Know the Rules before you break them’ One of the unfortunate reactions to musicians looking to extend the vocabulary on their instruments is that it is unorthodox, irregular or unconventional – all of these terms imply that there is a ‘correct’ way to approach playing music. In my experience an audience often gives credit to a musicians’ innovation with regards to their approach to the instrument only if they know that they are also capable of playing their instrument ‘properly.’ It goes without saying that dissonances and noises are welcome in this new music. But so is the dominant seventh chord if it happens to put in an appearance. - John Cage 66

Opinions about free music are plentiful and differ widely. They range from the view that free playing is the simplest thing in the world requiring no explanation, to the view that it is complicated beyond discussion. There are those for whom it is an activity requiring no instrumental skill, no musical ability and no musical knowledge or experience of any kind, and others who believe it can only be reached by employing a highly sophisticate, personal technique of virtuosic dimensions. - Derek Bailey67

Does throwing a guitar from a 3rd storey window or chopping it up with an axe count as "extending" it?? - Gary Butler (Wollongong)68

Ed Pinsent said of a recent performance by Harpist Rhodri Davies ‘…He is one who knows his chosen instrument back to front and inside out; he is fully informed as to the liberties he may take.’69 I asked a number of improvisers how they felt about the old saying “know the rules before you break them” with regards to Pinsent’s comment: Pinsent's statement seems to conflate two ideas - one about a technical facility on the instrument, and one about an awareness of a history of performing and listening (to his own sounds, and others) - and it's the second one I find more cogent. One doesn't need to be a virtuoso in order to do 'fucked up shit,' just to avoid the accusation of being unable to play. That kind of accusation is more often than not a safeguard against having to ask why someone is doing what they do, rather than what. I think there is little music that really involves a


Silence (p.11)


Improvisation (p.85)


Email interview 15/11/ 2007


Review of CD ‘Trem’ - The Sound Projector, Issue 12 2004


transgression, and even then only when considered from particular stances. However, a knowledge of the history of your art-form is always a good thing, as long as it does not become a source of incapacitation. We all need some breathing space. - Peter Blamey (Sydney)70

Of course music can result from an untrained approach to an instrument. A focus on skills and a singular school of thought is by nature going to limit how one can respond to various contexts, particularly within improvisation. New Zealand saxophonist Reuben Derrick suggests that Pinsent’s statement is valid when commenting on a defined style of music, “The spirit of new and experimental music is by nature constantly challenging and re-thinking previous developments. The same was true of jazz a long time ago.”71 In my own experience I’ve found the deeper I understand the ‘rules’ which are many and varied, the more room I have to move, the more fuel for ideas and the more subtle and complex the relationship I am able to have with silence and other musicians. I played a lot of concerts before I knew anything about music, but now that I’m learning a bit I do feel greatly liberated and inspired by that knowledge. - Clayton Thomas (Berlin)72

This is no doubt a classic question and issue that has bounced around quite a few skulls. One knee-jerk response is to ask if the Ramones needed to be able to play King Crimson before they did their thing, presented their vision…It's interesting because often this inquiry happens just as much within the [improvised music] world as outside of it. I know of few improvisers who are able to break the curse of “one player, one instrument” willingly, or to avoid having that tag put on them altogether. It's always been my thought that a good improviser should be able to pick up most any instrument and object and create something interesting… Whether or not it becomes a decades-long fruitful investigation of the broom and dustpan, or the singing toilet remains to be seen, but for the time being the improviser should be able to work around these tools. Same way a stranded military man should be able to make a rifle out of branches and leaves, and take down a whole enemy squad with it (or at least trick them down a canyon). - C. Spencer Yeh (Cincinnati)73


Email interview 15/11/ 2007


Email interview 16/11/ 2007


Email interview 3/12/ 2007


Email interview 15/11/ 2007


…how does one know if one is breaking the rules if one does not know what they are? - Michael Zerang (Chicago)74

To suggest that someone is "fully informed as to the liberties he may take" implies that some liberties can't be taken, and I don't accept that - ANY sound is permissible, and ANY method of producing that sound is reasonable if it produces interesting results (barring certain ethical considerations - amplifying the sound of a human sacrifice might be going a bit too far – these involve legal rules rather than aesthetic ones). – Gary Butler (Wollongong)75

Can a musician evade expectation? Does the pressure to subscribe to a sanctioned vocabulary depend on the choice of instrument? Instrument builder Rod cooper noted that one of his motivations for building instruments was that he didn't want the audience to know how his instrument ‘should be played’ - by designing the instrument from scratch he’s free to determine the way to play it. I feel a great deal more freedom playing on the ancient Chinese Guzheng than I do on the Western classical harp, both of which are afflicted with a host of clichés. I attribute this to the lack of knowledge of ‘sanctioned sounds and techniques’ a western audience assumes will be produced by the instrument. Only since the release of Stephen Chow’s ‘Kung Fu Hustle’ (2004) have most non-Asian audiences had a pop-culture reference for the Guzheng. 76 I’m sure this would be a different story should I be living in Asia. I have only performed on the Guzheng in Asia twice during a visit to Japan in 2004, the context for both concerts was to an exclusive and well-informed ‘converted’ audience.77 Although I assumed that a Japanese audience would have much more of an awareness of the instrument (being that the Guzheng is very similar to the Koto), it was unlikely that I would offend its ancient tradition in this context. I noted the difference in the atmosphere of pre-concert expectation due to the absence of initial curiosity that generally occurs in non-Asian countries.


Email interview 15/11/ 2007


Email interview 15/11/ 2007


Includes a unique fight scene in which the Guzheng is used as a weapon from which ghostly deadly swords shoot

through the air at the opponent at each ‘strum’ of the strings. 77

One concert at ‘Offsite’ the other at ‘Enban’ Record store, both rooms with a 12 person capacity and virtually non-

existent publicity, or motivation to expand their audience.


Lifting the Sanctions Educator and musician Warren Burt believes that knowledge of extended techniques and preparations is necessary – and not only for improvisers, but also all composers, performers, sound designers and foley artists. “The idea that an instrument is simply an open-ended set of soundmaking resources, of which "traditional usage" is just a small part, should be well and truly common knowledge by now.78 At a recent performance in Berlin79, Australian composer Liza Lim spoke of how ‘thrilled’ she is when a musician divulges a secret about their instrument to her – a new approach, a new sound, a personal extension of the instruments’ vocabulary. Like Lim, most contemporary or ‘new music’ composers strive to represent a broad vocabulary on the instruments they write for, interestingly enough even including particular ‘improvisers’ in their compositions due to the particular sounds they, and only they are able to achieve on their instrument.80 Some extended techniques are almost impossible to achieve, or require an instrument in a particular condition – either top condition (Alvin Lucier writing for Robin Hayward’s Tuba), or disrepair (Ross Bolletor’s ruined pianos). For example, there are a number of sounds in my vocabulary on both the Harp and the Guzheng that rely on the strings being ‘at breaking point’ as well as actually breaking. I tried to forget I had a saxophone and, in a playing situation, not think “what can the sax do here” but think “what musical input do I want to make - what sound, structure, density etc.” It meant really exploring the tiny details of the instrument and learning to control areas right on the edge of instability. - John Butcher (London)81

The use of extended techniques and preparations is a way of achieving new, fresh and exciting sounds. Initially pioneering, the results of extended techniques and preparations become standardised over time. - Michael Sheridan (Sydney)82


(Wollongong) Email interview 15/11/ 2007


Liza Lim & Ensemble Mosaic Konzert, Ballhaus Naunynn, 24.10.07


‘For John Butcher’ by Tim O’Dwyer, performed by the Elision Ensemble


Email interview 19/11/ 2007


Email interview 14/11/ 2007


The following is a list of some techniques that I employ regularly when performing with the harp. The list demonstrates that non-traditional techniques do not necessarily require the introduction of ancillary objects. •

Bowing the strings with violin bows and mallets

Playing rapidly with the nails of one hand with the nails of the other placed at close range to create buzzing

Slow muting of the bass strings to create harmonics with the knuckles or fingers

Flicking the strings

Punching/ “Karate chop” the strings to create resonance without singular attack (plucking)

Scratching/tapping on the underside of the sound board though the holes

Muting and Harmonics (can also be considered a traditional technique)

Semi-pressure on the pedal to create buzz on the tuning disks

Tapping or rubbing the soundboard


Chapter 3 Improvisation and Necessitating sounds When asked why he is involved in Improvisation Dutch pianist and instrument builder Cor Fuhler made the following observation: I would reverse this question, why isn't everybody involved in improvisation? It is the most natural way to make music. One learns to talk first and then read, not the other way around. I think we associate "the written" with something "true", and the oral tradition as something random and less valuable. Which is very wrong I think.83

I was introduced to Improvisation, or should I say the rich history and current international community of Improvisers when I was 18 years old, six years into my Harp education. Over the last eight years I have engaged with improvisation as my central artistic focus, and have learnt that Improvisers are engaged in the ongoing exploration of any (or all) of the following: a personal language/vocabulary, new/deeper/immediate forms of communication, spiritual endeavour, intellectual stimulation, potential, novelty, challenge, uncharted sounds, freedom, anti-hierarchical social forms and more. Derek Bailey’s book [Improvisation] is a no-nonsense account of improvisation as an artform and life pursuit that still resonates with improvisers over a decade after it was written. When I discuss improvisation here – the idiom to which I refer is Bailey’s definition of ‘Free Improvisation.’ In the mid 1970s Derek Bailey observed that that the term ‘improvised music’ was used reluctantly by many practitioners as it had become almost a term of abuse – it had a widely accepted reputation as a practice ‘without preparation or consideration…frivolous…inconsequential, lacking in design and method,…a musical conjuring trick, a doubtful expedient or even a vulgar habit’. Bailey suggested that there is ‘no musical activity which requires greater skill and devotion, preparation, training and commitment’, and that the widely accepted view of the term ‘improvisation’ completely misrepresents the depth and complexity of an Improvisers’ practice. Bailey wrote his book with the intention of presenting the views of ‘those who know and use [improvisation],’ and to retain the term ‘improvisation’ for two reasons: ‘firstly because I don’t know of any other which could effectively replace it, and secondly because I hope that we, the other contributors and myself, might be able to redefine it.’84 I align myself, and the music that I make with the rich tradition of improvisation. I do not consider the bad press the field has suffered as having limited my opportunities to engage in music. I find the 83

www.adlimb.com interview - accessed October 2007


Introduction ‘Improvisation: It’s nature and practice’ (1980)


ongoing circular debate between “composers” and “improvisers” to be boring and obstructive. Naturally, those engaged in conventional methods of composition are going to hold a more respected position in the ‘sanctioned’ music world as it is a process more susceptible to academic and bureaucratic acceptance and scrutiny before during and after its performance. I agree with Bailey that the lack of recognition and status suffered by improvised music and those that practice it is astonishing: Improvisation enjoys the curious distinction of being both the most widely practised of all musical activities and the least acknowledged and understood. While it is today present in almost every area of music, there is an almost total absence of information about it. Perhaps this is inevitable, even appropriate. Improvisation is always changing and adjusting, never fixed, too elusive for analysis and precise description; essentially non-academic. And, more than that, any attempt to describe improvisation must be, in some respects, a misrepresentation, for these is something central to the spirit of voluntary improvisation which is opposed to the aims and contradicts the idea of documentation.

As a result of the ‘almost total absence of comment concerning improvisation’ and the ‘hopeless misconceptions usually expressed’ in the criticism he had observed over the years, Bailey concludes that there is an important part of improvisation not easily indicated or conveyed by its results to those not involved in ‘doing it’ and therefore is difficult to appreciate or comprehend. He observes that among Improvising musicians there is endless speculation about its nature, and suggests that the most meaningful way to discuss and consider Improvisation is through a practical and personal point of view, noting that there is ‘no general or widely held theory of Improvisation.’ If one of the statements I made …about why people use these techniques in improvised music context rings true - that players come across their sounds and approaches through a process of improvisation - then whatever they do forms the set of techniques used in that music, on that occasion, for that duration, etc. so the notion of extension of technique, based on the idea of comparison with a norm, does not so readily arise. - Peter Blamey 85

Something common to most improvised music is that different constituents do not have obvious hierarchical values. Anything which can be considered as


Response to email interview 15.11.07


decoration, for instance, is not in some way subservient to that which it decorates. The most powerful expression of the identity of a piece might be in the smallest details - Derek Bailey86

The less familiar areas I pushed into with the saxophone came about through trying to find what was needed to work with the people whose music I was interested in. It was influenced by the ‘sound’ of many things and, certainly, contemporary composition and electronic music gave me some ideas - but a lot of the material I found I could work with came out of a performing context, not through abstract ‘research’. It needs to come via the playing (cf. studying books of multiphonic fingering) for the ‘sound’ and the ‘language’ to make sense together - John Butcher87

Playing in ‘ad-hoc collaborations’ has been an essential motivator for me to extend the vocabulary of my instrument. Through placing myself in new/unique musical collaborations I found that I’m much more likely to come up with new solutions in the music making process and therefore new sounds and techniques, for example Improvising with a reel-to-reel tape player requires a different approach to playing with a saxophonist. Paradoxically, as a person engaged in free-improvisation I am interested in self-imposed limits and boundaries within open fields of sound, not to confine the imagination, but to challenge it to find minute worlds within worlds. I find that I am more creative when I have set myself certain restrictions. I am drawn to improvising with musicians who challenge me to extract ever more extended sounds; working with electronics players has thus far yielded more interesting results for me than with other acoustic musicians. My interest in blurring the line between acoustic-electronic-sounding-sounds and actual electronic sounds has manifested itself intensively in my duo project with Chris Abrahams, ‘Germ’, a thorough exploration of shared territory between the outdated Japanese synthesiser (DX7) and the ancient Chinese Guzheng. This project also had a profound effect on how I collaborate/improvise on the Harp with musicians working with a range of electronics. The Berlin based edition of my group ‘Hammeriver’ consists of seven improvisers from varying cultures and areas of musical education. It is with this ensemble that I chose to experiment with the Harp as group leader in a Jazz related context. Jazz is not unfamiliar territory for the instrument, but one that often relegates the Harp to a decorative or melodic role. The submitted piece E is an experiment in leading from within, in that


Derek Bailey, Improvisation (p 5 Indian Music,)


John Butcher, personal correspondence 19.11.07


the Harp is providing the backbone of the piece, not the soaring, decorative melody. This piece is also a key example of my acoustic-electronic vocabulary on the harp. The composition embraces the relationship between the Harp and the electronic samples, and the weight shifting between them. Had I not spent hours listening to the resonant spaces within the instrument, and collaborating with electronics musicians in the past, I would not have been equipped to respond with the instrument in this context so effectively. Whether it requires the use of preparations or techniques that are not sanctioned by the western classical tradition, most improvisers are developing a personal language on their instrument and one that embraces a large range of communicative resources, be that timbral or expressive. Canadian double bassist Joe Williamson noted that it was interaction with electronic music that necessitated extending the palette on his instrument.88 Peter Blamey suggests that Improvisers employ all the parameters of music making (i.e. pitch, rhythm, harmony, melody, timbre, dynamics, etc.) to make musical statements and that by confining oneself to a single parameter or traditional view of an instrument one reaches a limit; “I think most improvisors commit to this kind of music because it is a potentially limitless activity.”89 Chris Forsyth suggests that it is simple necessity, a scientific approach to sound and an outgrowth of Western musical history and practice that brings musicians to extending a vocabulary on their instruments through improvisation.90 Even though many of the improvisors noted that the term ‘extended technique’ was problematic, most had no problem answering the question: “How do you ‘extend’ your instrument?” Finding all of the different sounds an instrument can make is an ongoing process. Expanding the palette and fluency of an ever-growing array of sounds and approaches on an instrument gives the player the flexibility to move in many sonic directions during the course of an improvisation. The extensions should be discovered, applied and assimilated over a lifetime for the player to be as versatile as possible. Regarding my approach to percussion, I have recently been exploring friction and vibrating elements and the resultant long tones that this approach produces on drum heads and other materials. - Michael Zerang (Chicago)91


Many people use these noise elements to augment the typical tonal methods of putting sounds together. If you only have

the 12 diatonic notes to work with you run out of room fast. Plus it sounds good. It allows one to interact with "electronic" music on equal terms. - Joe Williamson (Canada/UK) improvising double-bassist. Email interview 26/11/ 2007 89

Email interview 16/11/ 2007


Email interview 15/11/ 2007


Email interview 14/11/ 2007


I'm not sure the computer can be 'extended' as it presents itself as an unlimited resource and this is something I am finding very challenging about the instrument… - Lawrence English (Brisbane)92


Email interview 14/11/ 2007


Chapter 4 Mimicry Familiar sounds from unfamiliar sources fascinate me. I choose to listen out for new sounds, new combinations of frequencies and textures (regardless of source) at every opportunity – this also explains my interest in mimicking ‘unlikely’ sounds on strings (such as rain, machines, birds) as they are, by nature of the source material, bound to produce a unique result. It is this exploration of these sounds that has equipped me to engage in an improvised dialogue with a great variety of musicians and instruments in a wide variety of contexts. German pianist Magda Mayas explores new sounds on her instrument to more accurately mirror or project the sounds around her day-to-day life, and finds that these new sounds facilitate more common ground or ‘overlap’ with the sounds of other instruments; “suddenly the piano can sound distorted, produce almost electronic sounds or the cello sounds like a toilet flushing.”93 I began classical study of the harp at the age of thirteen, with a conservative and suitably merciless classical harpist. I saw an instrument that required immense physicality to be played, and I heard an instrument trapped. Although I had a healthy appreciation of classical music, I felt that it was not my music to make; it’s intentions having little correlation with me being a teenager in Sydney in the early 21st Century – what was my music? What sounds reflected my life? What place did a harpist have in a working class urban Aussie Family? Two musicians in particular have influenced me through their commitment to a music that reflects the Australian vernacular, environment, history, and culture; both Jim Denley and Jon Rose have been inspirational in their attempts to re-write Australia’s history of ‘selective hearing’ – particularly our inability to recognise our own unique music as Australians. Long before I met these advocates, I was questioning the incongruity of the Harp in an Australian context – how could an instrument so at home in a European orchestra pit relate to Australia? As shown in the accompanying video, I choose to perform my solo Harp improvisation in a domestic Australian setting, exploring and experiencing this incongruity firsthand. Is it more appropriate for someone living in Australia in the 21st century to pretend to be living in Vienna in the 18th century (or in the 1920s for serial composers), or to pretend to be living in Harlem in the 1940s? To ask the question is to acknowledge how silly it is. – Gary Butler94

In his MA thesis, Robin Fox points out that the obsessive mimicry of European musical styles in Australia actually hampered the development of a uniquely Australian musical voice. This is largely due to a post-colonial mindset that was desperate to produce or mimic the tropes of a civilised 93

Email interview 21/11/ 2007


Email interview 15/11/ 2007


society. In many ways any subsequent attempt to create an ‘Australian music’ has been met with cultural cringe. My earliest interest in ‘sound’ and recording can be traced to an 11-month trip exploring the coastal regions of Australia when I was 8 years old. My mother encouraged me to listen to everything around us, particularly to birdsong but also the wind, the ocean, the ‘silence’, and what I knew as the ‘echo’ of a space.95 Apart from Aboriginal shows for tourists there was little exposure to genuine indigenous ceremony, art and music. It was in one of the regional Information centres in Victoria that I first learned of the Lyrebird96 and its unique powers of mimicry. I also learned that mimicry played a large part in the storytelling, hunting and ritual of the indigenous peoples of Australia. …the art of quotation and mimicry has been around since the beginnings of music itself. Mimicry is a transforming technique, it doesn’t just lead to tribute bands, without it we wouldn’t even have the western canon. - Jon Rose


Mimicry has been central to the extension of my vocabulary, and to my relationship with the instrument, not only as a means to communicate with electronic instruments but also in response to my surroundings. I was engaging in the mimicry of machinery before I was aware of it – listening back to my solo Harp and Guzheng recordings from 2003 I can hear not only machinery 98 but the simulation of circular breathing on strings,99 rain and thunder storms,100 birdsong,101 and a conversation between the textural and percussive language of the instrument with that of it’s sanctioned melodic voice.102


I remember in particular the incredible shift in my balance and awareness of the change in the sound vibrations when I

would enter into the chasms and gorges of the Hamersley Ranges and the immense caves of the Bungle Bungles of North Western Australia. 96

Please note that I have been well aware of this natural phenomenon and the impression it has had on my sound

explorations, but only recently realised the coincidence of the bird’s name “Lyre” (from the shape of its Plumage) and the Harp. 97

Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address, Australian Music Centre 2007.


‘dribble not yet dried’ Track 1 Gut CD.


‘pools soaking down’ Track 2 Gut CD.


‘Not to the surface, slip, down’ Track 4 Gut CD.


‘Missing a Lip’ Track 7 Gut CD – draws inspiration more from the call of the Bell Bird than it does any cascading

contemporary classical harp composition. 102

‘Catch Soak Become’ Track 5 Gut CD.


Mimicking Machines: Field Recordings The most deliberate aspect of my research into mimicry has been collecting field recordings of the now obsolete human-powered farm machinery at the Coolamon ‘Up To Date Store.’ I recorded ten different farming machines in motion as part of my artist residency at Charles Sturt University Wagga Wagga, and then transcribed the different samples for string instruments. My initial aim was to draw parallels between the Harp’s hidden mechanical insides and farm machinery in an attempt to break down the image of the Harp as an upper-class instrument incapable of responding to an environment such as an outback town, or farming community. During the recording and subsequent mimicry of these sounds I found that this was not as ridiculous a partnership as it first sounded. The texture and detail of these machines in motion did not sound unfamiliar to the vocabulary I had already arrived at with the instrument, in my celebration of grit and a repetitive digging into restricted sonic areas to reveal detail.


Chapter 5 Exploring the Physical Structure and Resonant Spaces of the Harp How much does the physical structure of an instrument dictate how one makes sound with it? Can a musician extend the language of their instrument through deconstruction and reduction by exploring each of the instruments’ characteristics and honing in on specific areas such as the instrument’s resonant spaces or mechanics? Deconstruction of the instrument and it’s various elemental sounds and spaces reveals new sounds and new approaches to recording and performance. Sydney based artist Brendan Walls considers that he has exhausted the possibilities of extended technique and preparation on the guitar (his first instrument) to the point where he now feels he must “make things from scratch to realise [his] ideas”103, he is now notorious for playing a different instrumentation/set up every time he performs. Blue Mountains based improviser Matthew Earle’s music is celebrated for it’s simplicity and process of reduction through embracing the subtleties of ‘cracked’ technology. He plays a guitar but considers that “it only appears as a guitar, you couldn't play 'stairway to heaven' on it”104 he also plays a sampler that can no longer play samples. Warren Burt extends the language on his instrument, the laptop, by “considering any sound it can make as legitimate.” He sees almost every use of his electronics and software design as an “extended” instrument, creating the ‘instrument’ (analog/patching) anew for each performance.105 In an email interview106 I asked Harpist Rhodri Davies about the relationship between the alternate positioning of the Harp and how it affects his exploration of sound. He notes that the ‘detail and richness of what I hear sitting next to the harp is different to what somebody sitting five feet away hears.’ He has been playing the harp in traditional upright positioning for twelve years, experimenting with the table top and suspended harp for the last few years I first tried [alternate positioning of the Harp] for practical reasons because I wanted to place E-Bows on the strings, leaving my hands free to do other things with the harp. This placing of the harp on a table makes it strikingly similar to a prepared piano. It offers a way of distancing myself from my instrument. I hear the harp differently from a distance. It instantly demands a new approach to playing the instrument.107


Email interview response 15/11/ 2007


Email interview response 16/11/ 2007


Email interview response 15/11/ 2007


Oct-Nov 2007


Email interview 15/11/ 2007


Exploring resonance, decay and sustain, Davies has also created a piece for the harp and e-bows where 40 of the possible 47 strings are plucked (by four people) and the resulting clusters are recorded from inside the soundboard. This experiment inspired me to search for the ultimate resonant spaces on (and inside) the harp, more often than not seating myself at the opposite end of the instrument, with the soundboard holes facing towards the audience. The directional resonance is at its maximum in this situation, and I am afforded greater flexibility, visibility and access to the longer strings and darker tones.

Amplification and Electronic Extension “The most singular division in music is that which has occurred in our time: electronics. Electronic music may be defined as anything issuing from a loudspeaker and classical music re-defined as music not issuing from a loudspeaker.” – David Ahern108

Recently I discovered the possibility of amplifying the same sound with different pick-ups. Because every pick up sounds different you get several interpretations of the same source. I use this method on the last track of the 3 inch solo CD (Berlin strings) called end of a motor noticed by five pick ups. - Andrea Neumann (Berlin)109

Why do musicians working with acoustic instruments integrate electronics into their performance and in what contexts do electronics musicians/improvisers take on acoustic instruments to expand their sound pallets? Are acoustic instruments considered more limited than electronic instruments? What does amplification allow that un-amplified does not when it comes to expanding the vocabulary of an instrument? In the first stage of my research, my aim was to include an inbuilt microphone system for the harp that highlighted the mechanical sounds of the complex inner pedal system. I soon found that the harp has been engineered not to make any mechanical sounds within the soundboard of the harp, these have long been muted by the use of felt along each of the pedals, as well as a separated lever system. I was disappointed when discovering this, as I had noted in my journal: ‘the in-built miking system for my harp will allow me to boost the sound of the mechanics of the instrument and to process the resonance of the harp sound on the soundboard. The primary sound source will be the


Telatopa leaflet (1971) – with thanks to Jim Denley


Email interview 14/11/ 2007


mechanics – the clicks and clunks of the pedals – each pedal will also act as the interface for triggering these effects.’ I recorded a number of sessions at BJB studios in Sydney with experienced sound engineer and studio owner, Chris Townend. We recorded the harp with contact mics on the internal mechanics, on the neck of the harp, several along the soundboard, on the pedals themselves and on the strings. These recordings helped me to hear the harp from different resonant perspectives. I soon found that contact microphones on the pedals produced a unique result – metallic resonance. Never had I heard the harp sound as sharp as when the microphone is attached to the mechanics. The resulting multiphonic tone lasts much longer than when resonating through the wooden soundboard. This was achieved by maximising both the gain and compression when recording the softest possible attack of the mallet on the steel bass strings.110 I have performed solo with these recordings only once. The PA at the performance was capable of delivering clear low frequencies and I improvised along with a composition of the pre-recorded material I had developed mimicking farm machinery sounds. The experience was not ideal as I performed behind the PA with no foldback, therefore unable to hear the resulting mix of the live and pre-recorded material. Audience feedback was positive, but the experience of improvising along with a pre-recorded composition did not appeal to me philosophically, prompting me to research the possibilities that were available through live sampling with MaxMSP. My interest in extending the instrument electronically only went as far as highlighting unfamiliar sounds that were presented by the unique structure of the instrument. On the Guzheng, I had already spent the previous year working on mimicking electronics as I found the line between the acoustic, electronic-sounding-acoustic-sound, and electronically effected sound interesting; attempting to bridge the oft-gaping hole between sound source and ‘processed’ result. I invited my Melbourne based substitute supervisor, Dr. Robin Fox, to assist me in developing and testing a new patch for the Harp.111 This process required a more extreme use of the effects – testing their limits. The resulting recording is a veritable electric-harp-soup. The sounds were bombastic and animated – a far cry from the ‘subtle effects’ I had aimed to achieve. My plan was to refine the use of the patch when I had purchased the appropriate equipment.112


These recordings are largely used in the submitted Spinal Fluid studies


Sydney Friday 25th – Monday 28th August 2006. The TeaBox interface and all Sensors on loan from UTS, thanks to

Alex Davies who also assisted in the patch testing and refining. 112

I was unable to delve as deeply as I would have liked into the live sampling and MaxMSP research initially proposed.

Aside from the financial impracticalities of adopting this new technology, I have realised that it is much more relevant to


Figure 7: Cooper Harp Patch by Robin Fox

Figure 8 and Figure 9: Pedal Harp with sensors

Sensor Type


Activated by



Attached to the upward facing left side of the sound board. Attached to the upper string bolts near the head. Attached to the existing foot pedals.

Activated by the fingers.

Function: speed of sample rate (100 points from 0-1)

Activated by leaning the head inwards. Activated by the toes/feet

Felt ridiculous to activate.


Attached to the foot pedal

Activated by the toes/feet






Function: 1x select sample, 1x activates sampling, 1x volume of sample Notes: the pressure sensors on the pedals were a completely natural extension of ‘traditional’ harp playing. The ‘sampling’ sensor could be replaced by a switch sensor – i.e. no need for pressure when the variables are ‘start’ and ‘stop’. Activates sample collection

NB: Hardware unstable.

this research that I attempt to extend the Harp’s vocabulary as much as possible without employing electronic effects.


Problems: •

Experiments were conducted without headphones using the living room stereo for playback, therefore re-sampling affected sample in preview.

The level of pressure needed to activate pressure sensor was distracting

By applying the pressure sensors to the pedals we affectively changed their function as opposed to adding to it – for example, if I want to change the register of the ‘C’ pedal then I must also activate a sample. Either I must select a pedal that I decide not to change the register of during a performance, or I need to reconsider an alternative. One suggestion was to place the pressure sensors on the small feet of the Harp. This, in some ways negates the idea of using the sensors in a manner that embraces the existing structure (as the feet are decorative and in an unnatural position to place my feet whilst playing.)

I was impressed by the range of sounds the effects could achieve, and particularly surprised by the actions on the harp that caused the most interesting source material. I noted at the time that the range was intimidating and seemingly limitless (but ultra sensitive) and required great control.

The Studio for Electro-Instrumental Music (STEIM) is the only independent live electronic music centre in the world that is exclusively dedicated to the performing arts. I spent a total of 16 days at STEIM over 2 years. The inauguration residency was to ascertain whether their live sampling program LiSa was more intuitive and better suited to my research than MaxMSP (it wasn’t), and also to make use of the recording studio to work with visiting Improvisers from Beiruit. In November 2007 I spent two weeks installing speakers and ‘exciters’ into the body of the Harp and recorded hours of material through a network of contact microphones. I ran a series of experiments, feeding a range of frequencies into the highly resonant sound chamber. The In-built speaker system and network of contact microphones embraced the unique resonance of the Harp and highlighted the mechanical innards of the instrument.

Figure 10 Range of STEIM Sensors used – pressure, tilt, light and speed. Figure 11 STEIM recording with Mazen Kerbaj (trumpet) and Sharif Sehnaoui (guitar)


Feeding tones At STEIM I recorded with a Harp that was two full sizes larger than the model I have been working with for the past six years. Its capacity for resonance was notably greater, as the soundboard is much wider.


Stage 1: Mapping the sweet spots This was done using a series of contact microphones and overhead mics placed in and around the instrument. The ‘Spinal Fluid’ composition is the result of over 100 different recordings made by placing the conctact mics at different points along the soundboard, on the pedals, on the bridge and neck of the instrument. For these experiments the harp was positioned atop a table for greater access to the base of the harp.


Technical illustration by Clare Cooper


Stage 2: Feeding tones After finding the optimum position for the microphones, I then proceeded to experiment with my voice and a number of different speakers – from 3” to 5” car radio speakers to 8” sub-exciters placed in and around the resonant soundboard. I experimented with tones fed from the tone generator with varying volume, pitch and waveforms, various recordings resulting from Stage 1 of the process, as well as a number of recent electronic pieces that work with a heavy base and noise range.114 The greatest tone-induced resonance was produced with a combination of the sub-exciters on the inside base of the soundboard and a single 5” radio speaker in the 2 soundboard hole facing in toward the stringboard covering the higher range tones. -> Soundboard Tone generator

Contact mikes Record resonance

Document Contact mic + rec mic

Ext. track int harp (crouton)

Record resonance

Contact mic + rec mic

Ext. track high (Vainio)

Record resonance

Contact mic + rec mic

Ext. track farm machine

Record resonance

Contact mic + rec mic

Ext. track bass (Ambarchi)

Record resonance

Contact mic + rec mic

Ext. track overtones (Butcher)

Record resonance

Contact mic + rec mic


Content IN

Rec. mic


Record resonance

Contact mic + rec mic


See ‘Guide to Submitted Recordings’


Chapter 6 A Guide to Submitted Works

Live Performance: Solo Harp in Sydney, January 17 2008 (DVD 21:20) Regarding the chosen venue for the live performance (Spoken introduction): The chosen venue for the performance component of this research is my family home in suburban Sydney. It is a place of unmatched personal significance. A place where I formed ideas about sound in the first 20 years of my life and where I listened to much of the music that has inspired and provoked me to consider how music and sound relates to my life as a young Australian woman in the 21st Century. The Harp in a suburban Australian context seems incongruous, and it is this incongruity that I attempted to address in my piece today – using improvisation and the extended vocabulary I have developed on the instrument to demonstrate that the Harp can respond to, interact and communicate in a context far from an orchestra pit or church setting.

The live performance component of this research is an improvisation. The only predetermined aspects were that the body of the instrument would be facing the audience115 so as to maximise the effects of the instruments’ acoustic resonance, in particular it’s lower register. I also positioned several chairs around the instrument to encourage mobility, and selected preparations based on listening to the room/space in the days previous to the performance. I addressed the incongruity of the Harp in a suburban Australian context through responding to and interacting with the sounds of the family living room space and of the street. The experience of improvising with atmospheric or environmental sounds (in this case: the wind, dogs barking and traffic noise) was valuable in challenging the extended vocabulary on the instrument in that they are free of an artistic, conceptual or philosophical agenda. The piece utilises mimicry, with particular regards to the rise and fall of the wind and traffic as well as attempting to reflect the environment by inverting the soundscape. The filming of the performance (by my colleague Ali Russell) is deliberately cropped, never revealing the instrument in its entirety and therefore mirroring the sonic exploration of specific areas within the instrument.


Those in attendance: Philip Samartzis, Madelyne Cornish, Thomas Meadowcroft, Kirsten Reese, Rod and Annette

Cooper (my parents), Tony Buck and Ali Russell.


Second Stabbing (Ohnedaruth) (10:53) Played by Hammeriver: Clare Cooper, concert harp Chris Abrahams, piano Tobias Delius, tenor saxophone and clarinet Werner Dafeldecker, double bass Clayton Thomas, double bass Christof Kurzmann, electronics Tony Buck, percussion (Recorded at Saal3, Nalepastr. Alte Funkhaus, Berlin - November 16 2007 by Thorsten Weigelt)

I composed Second Stabbing for the group Hammeriver in October 2008. The piece illustrates my application of an extended vocabulary over a range of contexts – played out here as leader in a Jazz ensemble. The composition is driven by a pulse provided by the Harp, and demonstrates the percussive and subterranean areas of the vocabulary of the instrument. The relationship between the harp and electronics is pivotal in this piece, and for the most part moves between bass and percussion roles.

Spinal Fluid Studies 1-3 These studies are composed of a combination of recordings edited in ProTools. The core tracks in each study were recorded from inside the harp, thus illustrating the exploration of the physical structure and resonant spaces in and of the instrument. Spinal Fluid Study #1 (4:43) The primary recordings used here are the STEIM and BJB experiments. The piece moves throughout the Harp, from the microphones placed at the base of the instrument, through the main body of the soundboard, briefly moving to the microphones outside the instrument and then returning to the contact mics on the mechanics in the final section. BJB Studios Surry Hills, Australia July 2006 - Recorded by Chris Townend. STEIM Amsterdam, the Netherlands November 2007 - Recorded by Clare Cooper A tone generator was used to feed medium to high pitch frequencies into the body of the Harp through standard car radio speakers and the following recordings were played into the bass ‘exciter speakers’ placed on the inner base frame of the Harp: Oren Ambarchi – Suspension #T33.18 2001 (1. Wednesday, 2. Vogler, 5. Suspension, 6. as far as the eye can see). Peter Rehberg & Marcus Schmickler - R/S Snow Mud Rain Erstwhile 2007 (Tracks: 1, 2, 3, 4) Mika Vainio - Onko Touch # TO:34 1997 (1. Kelvin, 2. Jos [If?])


Spinal Fluid Study #2 (5:37) The primary recordings used here are the STEIM experiments with the tone generator being fed into the Harp through speakers facing into the soundboard. Once again, I have adjusted the levels from mic to mic (inside and outside the Harp) to draw attention to the way in which the resonant chamber responds to the sine tones and the bowed and plucked Spinal Fluid Study #3 (5:04) Field recordings of a variety of man-powered farm machines (Recorded in Coolamon NSW during my Charles Sturt University residency, 2005) were fed into the soundboard of the Harp, and improvised with.


Conclusion All of the areas of exploration and research discussed in the preceding paper have contributed to the development of a unique language on the Harp that not only responds to a range of contexts, but also challenges the instrument’s stereotype. The sonic results of this research are embodied in the works submitted for assessment. Throughout this formal research I have performed in excess of sixty concerts, engaged in residencies and presented talks on my progress, continually engaging in a variety of contexts that challenge and develop the vocabulary further. Having identified the stereotype of the harp and traced its existence to an ongoing and limited public exposure and a sanctioned approach to making music with the instrument, I have used this stereotypical view as a launching pad for creative exploration. Conversations with other Harpists and Improvisers revealed that they too feel the audience expectation fuelled by these stereotypes and that this feeling affects their explorations and performances. They too are inspired to pursue new approaches and to extend their personal vocabulary on their instrument. Through improvisation, sounds and approaches were necessitated so as to better communicate with both acoustic and electronic musicians from a variety of musical backgrounds. Extensive explorations of the physical structure of the instrument, it’s resonant spaces, has informed me as to how the physical properties determine the technical adjustments and electronic areas one can employ to extend the vocabulary of the instrument. Engagement in mimicry was a fundamental tool in responding to my environment and cultural understanding of space and place, particularly with regards to the Harp and farm machinery, but also mimicry of electronics. There is no ultimate conclusion to be drawn from research of this nature. The explorations are ongoing and each new performance situation/context gives rise to further questions and challenges. The research undertaken during the course of this MA has been both stimulating and inspirational taking my work into previously unimagined areas. The research will fuel further investigation into the Harp and its various sonic possibilities.


Bibliography and References

Bibliography Bailey, D. (1992). Improvisation. London. The British Library National Sound Archive. Byrne, B. (2005). Digital Sound: Technology, Infidelity and Potential. Sydney. UTS Cage, J. (1966). Silence; Lectures and Writings. Cambridge. The MIT Press Denley, J. (2008). Networks, Playfulness and Collectivity – Improv in Australia 1972 – 2007. Restless Ears: Australian audio explorations. Sydney. UNSW Press Fox, R. (2004) Aspects of Experimental Music in Melbourne 1975-79, MA Thesis, Monash University. Fox, R. (2006) Contingency & Space as Structural Parameters in a Folio of Electroacoustic Compositions. Melbourne. Monash University Kahn, D. (2001). Noise Water Meat – A History of Sound in the Arts. London. The MIT Press Khan, H. I. (1991). The Mysticism Of Sound and Music. Boston. Shambhala Publications. Lock, G. (1988). Forces In Motion – The Music and Thoughts of Anthony Braxton. New York. Decapo Press. Nyman, M. (1999). Experimental Music - Cage And Beyond. London. Cambridge University Press. Ra, S. (2005). The Immeasurable Equation. Wartaweil 37. Waitawhile/Hartmut Geerken. Roederer, J.G. (1995). The Physics and Psychophysics of Music – An Introduction. New York. Springer-Verlag. Rose, J. (2007). Listening to history: some proposals for reclaiming the practice of music. Sydney. Peggy Glanville-Hicks address at the AMC November 2007. Transcript provided by Rose, J.


Toop, D. (2004). Haunted Weather. London. Serpent’s Tail. Trio Sowari. (2007). 27 Questions for a Start. (Bertrand Denzler, Phil Durrant, Burkhard Beins): Paris, London, Berlin 2007.

Internet Resources Shields, S. The Pedal Harp: An Engineering Triumph http://members.cox.net/suzannels/harp/harparticle.htm - accessed November 2005

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extended_technique - accessed September 2007 http://www.electricharp.com/ - accessed October 2005 http://www.thorharp.com - accessed July 2006 http://www.harp.com - accessed July 2006

Sebestik, M. (1992) Documentary Film featuring John Cage http://youtube.com/watch?v=q2tNeoMKyq8 - (excerpt) accessed March 2006 Stockhausen, K. (1972) Lecture V: Four Criteria of Electronic Music (KONTAKTE) and Questions and Answers on Four Criteria of Electronic Music given at the Oxford Union on May 6th 1972. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIPVc2Jvd0w&feature=related - accessed September 2007

John Butcher Interviews http://www.altremusiche.it/sx/testi/interv/butcher_eng.htm - accessed March 2006 http://www.johnbutcher.org.uk/test.html - accessed December 2006

Burkhard Beins Interviews http://burkhardbeins.de/theory/signal_to_noise.html - accessed May 2007 http://burkhardbeins.de/theory/addlimb.html - accessed May 2007


List of Interviews conducted via Email (2007-2008) Beins, Burkhard (resonators) responding from Berlin 20.11.07 Blamey, Peter (mixing board) responding from Sydney 16.11.07 Burt, Warren (computer) responding from Wollongong 15.11.07 Butcher, John (saxophone) responding from London 19.11.07 Butler, Gary (guitar) responding from Wollongong 15.11.07 Chadbourne, Eugene (banjo) responding from North Carolina 15.11.07 Ciciliani, Marko (no input mixer) responding from Amsterdam 20.11.07 Cooper, Rod (instrument builder) responding from Melbourne 15.11.07 Crispell, Marilyn (piano) responding from Woodstock 15.11.07 Davies, Rhodri (harp) responding from London 15.11.07 Derrick, Reuben (reeds) responding from Christchurch 17.11.07 Earle, Matt (electronics, guitar) responding from Blue Mountains 16.11.07 English, Lawrence (computer) responding from Brisbane 20.11.07 Fagaschinski, Kai (clarinet) responding from Berlin 15.11.07 Forsyth, Chris (guitar) responding from New York 15.11.07 Goldie, Tim (percussion and electronics) responding from London 15.11.07 Jacquemynn, Peter (double bass) responding from Brussels 22.12.07 Jordanova, Victoria (Harp, electronics) responding from San Francisco 30.08.07 Kesten, Christian (voice) responding from Berlin 17.02.08


LeBaron, Anne (harp) responding from Pittsburgh 27.12.08 Mann, Chris (voice, text) responding from New York 14.11.07 Mayas, Magda (piano) responding from Berlin 22.1.07 Pride, Mike (drums) responding from New York 15.11.07 Priest, Gail (computer, voice) responding from Sydney 20.11.07 Sheridan, Michael (guitar) responding from Sydney 14.11.07 Spencer Yeh, C. (violin and voice) responding from Cincinatti, USA 14.11.07 Thomas, Clayton (double bass) responding from Berlin 3.12.08 Vida, André (saxophone) responding from Berlin 16.11.07 Vogel, Sabine (flute and electronics) responding from Potsdam 30.11.07 Walls, Brendan (invented instruments) responding from Sydney 15.11.07 Weston, Veryan (piano)responding from London 14.11.07 Williamson, Joeseph (double bass) responding from London 26.11.07 Wooley, Nate (trumpet) responding from New Jersey 14.11.07 Zerang, Michael (percussion) responding from Chicago 27.11.07


Performances/Collaborations/Residencies 2005-2007 2007 17-20/01/06 the NOW now festival, the Factory Theatre Sydney - Festival director

20/01/06 Hammeriver (Clare Cooper, pedal Harp and composition / Chris Abrahams, piano / Robbie Avenaim, drums / Clayton Thomas, double bass / Matt Earle, electronics and guests Tony Buck, drums / Jeff Henderson, baritone sax / Lloyd Honeybrook, baritone sax/ Karen Booth, alto sax / Monika Brooks, accordion / Jaime Fennelly, harmonium / Daniel Whiting, laptop / Cicada, video)

19/01/06 the Splinter Orchestra

26/03/07 NN series @ LBC Sydney - Clayton Thomas, double bass / Clare Cooper, Guzheng and harp

26/03/07 NN series, LBC Sydney - Peter Blamey, no input mixing desk / Dale Gorfinkel, vibraphone and engines / Clare Cooper, guzheng

21/04/07 Rosend, Sydney - Kim Myhr, guitar (Norway) / Clayton Thomas, double bass / Clare Cooper, guzheng

13/05/07 Dock 11, Berlin - with dancers Yuko Kaseki (Japan), Katrin Geller (Germany),

04/06/07 STRALAU 68, Berlin – with Robin Fox, live processing


19/06/07 Wendel, Berlin – with Andre Vida, saxophone

Recordings in Berlin - duo with Steve Heather, percussion - with Michael Zerang, percussion (USA) / Sabine Vogel, flutes and electronics (Germany), Magda Mayas, piano (Germany/Lebanon)/ Alex Nowitz, voice (Germany) and Clayton Thomas, bass

14/06/07 ‘Pappelalee 5 - with Axel Doerner, trumpet (Germany) / Tony Buck, drums / Clayton Thomas, double bass / Andrea Neumann, inside piano (Germany)

28/06/07 Wendel, Berlin - Morten J Olsen, drums (Norway) / Clayton Thomas, double bass / Dale Gorfinkel, vibes / Rosalind Hall, saxophone / Alex Babel, percussion (Switzerland)

30/06/07 Tesla, Berlin - duo with Nicholas Bussmann, electronics (Germany)

21/07/07 Electronic Church, Berlin – duo with Valerio Tricoli, reel to reel tape (Italy) 25/08/07 Dock11, Berlin - Dance and sound improvisation performance over two nights with Japanese dancers Yuko Kaseki, Kinya “Zulu” Tsuruyama, Keiko Ninomiya, Miki Sato. Clayton Thomas, double bass

04/09/07 Oi! Oi! Oi! Zentrale Randlage Berlin - Curator and performer ‘Ten Gentle Joys’ with Thomas Meadowcroft - organ; Jasmine Guffond – electric guitar

24/09/07 Labor Sonor, Berlin - Clare Cooper, Harp with Yuko Kaseki, butoh (Japan)


09/10/07 Mesto Zensk Festival Ljubljana, Slovenia - Solo Harp performance

13/10/07 Stralau 68 ‘Finnisage’, Berlin

- Burkhard Beins, resonators and percussion / Chris

Abrahams, piano / Clare Cooper, harp

28/10/07 Sololala - Ausland, Berlin - Solo Harp and Guzheng

31/10/07 Kule, Berlin - with Jim Denley, reeds (Australia) / Annette Krebs, guitar and electronics (Germany) / Axel Doerner, trumpet (Germany) and Clayton Thomas, double bass

12/11/07 Kule, Berlin - duo with Jean-Phillipe Gross, electronics (France)

16/11/07 Recording Hammeriver at Saal3, Nalepastr Funkhaus Berlin with Tobias Delius, Christof Kurzmann, Clayton Thomas, Werner Dafeldecker, Chris Abrahams and Tony Buck

19-30/11/07 STEIM Residency, (Amsterdam)

27/11/07 Worm, Rotterdam - with Sharif Sehnaoui, guitar, Christine Sehnaoui, saxophone and Clayton Thomas, double bass

28/11/07 OT301 Amsterdam - Quartet with Sharif Sehnaoui, Christine Sehnaoui, Clayton Thomas

28/11/07 OT301 Amsterdam - duo with Marko Ciciliani, no-input mixer

29/11/07 STEIM, Amsterdam - trio with Clayton Thomas and Jean-Philippe Gross


21/12/07 Doek Festival, Amsterdam - trio with Axel Doerner and Cor Fuhler

2006 Fortnightly: ‘if you like improvised music, we like you’ series @Newtown Theatre Sydney www.thenownow.net/series (organiser)

18-21/01/06 the NOW now festival , @Newtown RSL Sydney - Festival director

18/01/06 the NOW now festival, Sydney - Tony Buck, (Berlin) percussion / Clare Cooper, Guzheng / Sean Baxter (Melbourne), percussion

18/01/06 the NOW now festival, Sydney - the Splinter Orchestra

21/01/06 the NOW now festival, Sydney - Xavier Charles (France) clarinet / Clare Cooper, Guzheng / Chris Abrahams, DX7 / Louise Curham, hand painted film

MARCH: Record for Peeesseye new album at Big Jesus Burger

25/02/06 @ Yvonne Ruve - Clare Cooper, elec.bass + Peter Blamey, electric guitar

15/03/06 ABC TV ‘Set’ - the Splinter Orchestra http://www.abc.net.au/tv/set/

15/04/06 THE COOPER FAMILY @ Omeo - with Mike Cooper, guitar (UK) / Rod Cooper, ptch


APRIL/MAY: Solo recording

08/05/06 ‘we like you’ series Sydney - duo with Ivan Lysiak, electronics

22/05/06 ‘we like you’ series Sydney - Duo with Jon Rose, violin www.jonroseweb.com

07/06 Recording with Unkle Ho

08/06 ‘we like you’ series Sydney www.thenownow.net/series - solo harp and field recordings - trio with Ben Byrne, electronics Thembi Soddell, samples and Anthea Caddy, cello

10/09/07 West Head Project, Kuringai National Park and the Blue Mountains - Jim Denley, Clayton Thomas, Monika Brooks, Karen Booth, Adam Sussmann, Dale Gorfinkel and Peter Farrar

OCTOBER: European Tour

26/10/06 STEIM Amsterdam THE NETHERLANDS - MAZEN KERBAJ / Trumpet + friends Mazen Kerbaj : trumpet / Sharif Sehnaoui : acoustic guitar / Clare Cooper : guhzeng trio and tutti with Michel Waisvisz : crackle box / Takuro Mizuta Lippit (dj sniff) : turntables / Tarek Atoui : laptop

20/10/06 DNK, Amsterdam - duo with Marko Cicilliani, mixing desk (Croatia)


23/10/06 Grasland, Haarlem (live recording in incredible studio) - solo and duo with Xavier Charles, clarinet (France)

28/10/06 Densites Festival, Fresnes en Woevre - Picket: Cor Fuhler, piano and electronics (NL) Clare Cooper, guzheng

11/12/06 Hopetoun Hotel, Sydney - with Darren Hanlon, guitar and Clayton Thomas, bass

2005 Fortnightly: ‘if you like improvised music, we like you’ series @the Frequency Lab Sydney

17-20/01/05 the NOW now festival, @Newtown RSL Sydney - Festival director

07/05 Liquid Architecture Festival - duo with Inge Olmheim, sub bass electronics (Norway)

09/05 USA Tour CONCERTS PLAYED NYC / Brooklyn: Pee-Ess-Eye feat. Clare Cooper - High Zero Festival, Baltimore http://www.highzero.org/ Group 1: Phil Minton, voice (UK) / Audrey Chen, voice (Baltimore) / Scott Rosenberg, reeds (NY) Group II: Andy Haylek, bowed metal (Baltimore) / C.Spencer Yeh 'burning Star Core' (Cincinnatti) / Joseph Hammer (LA) Group III: Peter Jaquemyn, dbl bass (Belgium) / Carly Ptak, electronics / Mike Muniak, electronics (Baltimore) Princeton, New Jersey:


Catherine Pancake, dry ice + percussion / Scott Smallwood, steel drums, electronics RECORDINGS Margarida Garcia, elec dbl bass (portugal) / Barry Weisblaat, homemade electronics Brian Chase, drums (the yeah yeah yeahs) Stefan Tcherepnin, Serge Modular Synthesizer (Nephew of Serge!) Jaime Fennelly, harmonium Fritz Welch, drums and voice Chris Forsyth, guitar (runs label 'evolving ear') Nate Woolley, trumpet Mazen Kerbaj, trumpet (Beiruit) INFORMAL INTERVIEWS / Discussions CMJ music marathon Director and volunteers Chris Peck, electronics composer Tony Conrad Chris Mann Andrew Bemky, pianist Phil Minton, voice (UK) Audrey Chen, voice (Baltimore) C.Spencer Yeh 'burning Star Core' (Cincinnatti) Joseph Hammer, tape loops (LA) Carly Ptak, electronics Dr. Mike Muniak, electronics + cochlear research (Baltimore) Princeton Academics: Newton Armstrong + ... Margarida Garcia, elec dbl bass (portugal) Barry Weisblaat, homemade electronics Brian Chase, drums (the yeah yeah yeahs)


Jaime Fennelly, harmonium Fritz Welch, drums and voice Chris Forsyth, guitar (runs label 'evolving ear') Nate Woolley, trumpet Mazen Kerbaj, trumpet (Beiruit) CONCERTS / EXHIBITIONS /MUSEUMS ATTENDED Tony Conrad at TONIC Marilyn Crispell / Lotte Anchor at TONIC MOMA CMJ music marathon: Man Man / Albatross / The Makers / The Robot Ate Me / The Hold Steady Scorsese /Bob Dylan Doco Talk at Lincoln Centre Billy Bang /Andrew Bemky /Henry Grimes /Roy Campell Jnr Mike Pride / Kentaro Saito: Dynamite Club

WAGGA WAGGA RESIDENCY OCT 9-14, 2005 PUBLIC TALKS /UNIVERSITY PRESENTATIONS 3D modeling and Compositing in Photographic Art Mimicry and Improvisation Autobiographical Artist Talk focusing on 'Arts worker'/ curator role in Sydney CONCERTS solo concert at Wagga Wagga Art Gallery - Glass House RECORDINGS DVD of solo concert at Wagga Wagga Art Gallery - Glass House Field recordings of 'up to date store' farm machinery in Coolamoon INFORMAL INTERVIEWS / Discussion Dr Johannes Klabbers, CSU


Brendan Dahl, Curator Education and Pubil Programs Wagga Wagga Art Gallery Isobel Chow, student CSU http://www.csu.edu.au/about/wagga.html

TOWNSVILLE: SEE HEAR NOW FESTIVAL OCT 14-16, 2005 CONCERTS solo Guzheng and very old (falling apart) Folk Harp Duo Ian Brunskill, percussion Duo Matt Hill, electronics, laptop Improvisation with Karen Gibb & Thalia Klonis, text and painters Michele Devese, Jackie Jakovljevic, Gerlad Soworka with Dance/Video group 'Bonemap' from Cairns (Rebecca Youdell, Jess Jones and Russel Milledge) PRESENTATION + PANEL TALKS Performance techniques, improvisation, world music + western cross over with Dr David Salisbury and Dr Stephen Campbell (JCU) 'cross arts' discussion with Dance North, Stephan Greder, Dr Michael Whiticker, Bonemap

06/11/05 Science Fiction, Metro Theatre Sydney - the Splinter Orchestra

05/12/05 the NOW now program launch @Newtown RSL - Germ, with Chris Abrahams

05/12/05 the NOW now program launch @Newtown RSL - with the Scott Horscroft Ensemble

21/12/05 PELT Gallery - wave/particle: a composition by Jim Denley. In Wave/particle the viola events are filtered and gated transforming the waves of string sounds into tiny particles. Performed by Clare Cooper and Jim Denley


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