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Instrumental mechanism and physicality as compositional resources

By Timothy McCormack


This thesis discusses my engagement with and investigation into the aesthetic and expressive possibilities of instrumental mechanism and performerinstrument physicality, while proposing an aesthetic frame inside of which purely physical events or objects can be contextualized. The relationship between the performer and their instrument is discussed at length and reimagined as being highly mediative in nature; the body and the instrument existing as autonomous operators comprising a larger machine within which they mutually exert an influence over the other. The exact points of contact between the body and the instrument are examined as if through a microscope\ud – extremely small, precise spaces inside of which catastrophically violent physical phenomena take place. The activity within these spaces is understood as being responsible for the quality and texture of a sound, and is the point in\ud the process of generating sound where physical, corporeal, palpable friction is transmuted into a more ephemeral aural phenomenon. The remainder of the thesis relates the information to purely musical matters, and discusses how approaching the compositional act through mechanism and physicality has led to a reversal in the hierarchy between form and content. Form and other parameters such as rhythm and meter are now issued from the organization of raw materials, rather than being de facto constructs that were generated apart from and before things like sound and physicality were considered. In the conclusion, I propose that, as a direct consequence of my research into mechanism and physicality, the roles of and the relationships between the score, performer and listener have fundamentally altered such that their confrontation with each other is the terminal, necessary factor in the piece’s becoming of itself. Throughout the essay, I contextualize the ideas through their manifestation in my pieces The Restoration of Objects, Apparatus and One Flat Thing, reproduced

Topics: M1
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.hud.ac.uk:9290

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