Negotiating sonic space for group electronics

Williams, Sean and Green, Owen (2018). Negotiating sonic space for group electronics. In: Doğantan-Dack, Mine and Dack, John eds. Music and Sonic Art: Theories and Practices. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 200–217.



A collaboratively devised performance of Morton Subotnik's Sidewinder takes a recording as the jumping off point from which to develop a collective instrument with a fixed sonic outcome in mind. Work on Christian Wolff's For 1, 2, or 3 People features negotiations between text and technology in pursuit of fluent, timely exchange between players. Sean Williams' Electronic Skank, on the other hand, takes the techne of Jamaican dub practice as a basis for organising bodies, technologies and sounds.

Each of these projects addressed practical and aesthetic problematics of collective electronic musicking in a distinct way. We explore these through the optic of the performance ecosystem (Waters, 2007): specifically the idea that, in practice, distinctions between performers, instruments and environments are dynamic and contingent. By unpacking the notion of "environment" somewhat, we trace particular valances that arose in these projects between the bodily and technically immediate, and various planes of social, temporal and technical environmental influence (Born, 2010).

In this way, we aim to contextualise a discussion of concrete practical responses to musical issues into a wider frame that affords reflection on the social, cultural and historical specificity of the environment in which these issues were encountered. Our hope is that this embellishment of Waters' framework provides a possible approach for reflective practice-as-research that can accommodate musical-technical particularity and historically situated critical awareness.

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