“The natural context provides a score which the players are unconsciously interpreting in their playing. Not a score that is explicitly articulated in the music and hence of no further interest to the listener as is generally the case in traditional music, but one that coexists inseparably with the music, standing side by side with it and sustaining it.” (Towards an Ethic of Improvisation, Cornelius Cardew, from “Treatise Handbook,” 1971, Edition Peters)

This Blog was set up to document our process developing new work at Q-O2, Brussels.

During the residency in Q-O2 the couple will develop a number collaborative musical systems / compositions for percussion and synthesizer. As we are both improvisers, we feel that the music is naturally strongly derived from its “natural context”- our current environment. We attempt to examine that connection by using photography from the environment as scores / musical arrangements that guide as well as describe the music we will create.

The musical arrangements are often based on simple gestures or simple sets of rules, specific and different for each arrangement. The rules are clear enough to set the direction and dictate the play out of each piece, while remaining necessarily simple, to support the gentle dynamics of the free improvisation process.

About the use of photography:
We work to develop the necessary rule sets and scores based on imagery from the part of Brussels around us. We seek out and document architectural / ornamental patterns or any repeating structure typical to this part of the city. The images will be arranged into graphic scores by assigning meanings, behaviors and instructions to the image details (such as shape, brightness, color, movement, line direction etc…). Graphical structures are converted into musical phrases or behaviors, which in turn are used as guidelines for the improvisation process and become music.

On the composition process: (rough description)
The challenge here is both finding interesting imagery to use as well as defining the delicate balance between improvisation and composition- two seemingly opposing approaches that seem to easily take away from each other. Because improvisation is so dependent on the natural reaction of the musician (which defines the timbre and sonic texture as much as the instrument that is being played), every decision a composer makes decreases the power of the musician to control that timbre and thus, in a way, damaging their process. On the other hand, the more freedom the musician has, the less space the composer has to express their intentions. The delicate balance that needs to be found is in understanding how to instruct and guide while still allowing the improviser the freedom of intuitive choice they need to generate the music.

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