Interactions in improvised music: people at play

Abstract

Interactions in improvised music: people at play This project began as an open exploration of musical interactions in a trio in which I have played bass for many years. We gave three concerts for the project and I explored our interactions by talking with the pianist/bandleader and drummer after each concert. They described a broad range of interactions and explored a number of different conceptions of what entails a musical interaction. The musicians were keen to talk about the factors that motivate them to perform together, mainly the desire to play. Play, for them, is its own reward. They aim to collaborate in the moment of performance to create something fresh, rather than display their instrumental technique or present music that has been preconceived. An appreciation of this motivation is needed to understand their interactions in concert. Audience members were also interviewed after every performance. They each experienced the concerts differently, in a way that reflects their preoccupations and interests as much as it reflects the concert event. The research thus provides a view of individuals and their differences that contrasts with the body of music research focused on common experiences within particular musical cultures and the acquisition of the skills required to participate in those cultures. This practice-led research project was allowed to develop and find focus gradually in cycles of performances, interviews and analysis of interview transcripts, concurrent with an ongoing exploration of texts about doing research. Various interactions – during the performances and interviews, between the researcher and the interview transcripts and between the researcher and research texts – contributed to the project’s development. These interactions can be thought of as play between foreknowledge and the unknown. Accordingly, play as described by the musicians and as defined in hermeneutics, was actively pursued as a way of developing an appropriate methodology for the project

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