The adventure of the refrain : composing with improvised music

O’Dwyer, Timothy Joseph (2012) The adventure of the refrain : composing with improvised music. PhD by Creative Works, Queensland University of Technology.


This practice-based inquiry investigates the process of composing notated scores using improvised solos by saxophonists John Butcher and Anthony Braxton. To compose with these improvised sources, I developed a new method of analysis and through this method I developed new compositional techniques in applying these materials into a score. This method of analysis and composition utilizes the conceptual language of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari found in A Thousand Plateaus. The conceptual language of Deleuze and Guattari, in particular the terms assemblage, refrain and deterritorialization are discussed in depth to give a context for the philosophical origins and also to explain how the language is used in reference to improvised music and the compositional process. The project seeks to elucidate the conceptual language through the creative practice and in turn for the creative practice to clarify the use of the conceptual terminology.

The outcomes of the research resulted in four notated works being composed. Firstly, Gravity, for soloist and ensemble based on the improvisational language of John Butcher and secondly a series of 3 studies titled Transbraxton Studies for solo instruments based on the improvisational-compositional language of Anthony Braxton.

The implications of this research include the application of the analysis method to a number of musical contexts including: to be used in the process of composing with improvised music; in the study of style and authorship in solo improvisation; as a way of analyzing group improvisation; in the analysis of textural music including electronic music; and in the analysis of music from different cultures—particularly cultures where improvisation and per formative aspects to the music are significant to the overall meaning of the work. The compositional technique that was developed has further applications in terms of an expressive method of composing with non-metered improvised materials and one that merges well with the transcription method developed of notating pitch and sounds to a timeline. It is hoped that this research can open further lines of enquiry into the application of the conceptual ideas of Deleuze and Guattari to the analysis of more forms of music.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 63329
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD by Creative Works)
Supervisor: Howlett, Mike
Keywords: improvisation, composition, assemblage, refrain, deterritorialization
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 14 Oct 2013 04:41
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2015 06:59

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