Emotional Improvisation: Arts Based Research into Interpersonal, Interactive and Intermedial Musical Meaning Making

Project Abstract, Deniz Peters (PI)

Musical improvisation accommodates emotional expression par excellence: in all times and cultures, improvising performers engage with the creation of meaning in the moment – an act in which exploratory movements meet with habitual ones. Improvisers tend to arrive at clear instances of expression after and by way of lengthy detours, erring, and indistinct and discontinuous passage work, to eventually disintegrate back into the commonplace and inarticulate. Such expressive plateaux, and the flow that marks them, are often the exquisite artistic goal of an improvisation. They are by no means confined to solitary or private occurence, as, in an ensemble situation, they form acts of reached communality. Emotional improvisation may be seen not to fare quite as well in state-of-the-art avant-garde intermedial and/or interactive settings, that is, across media, and across the analogue-digital divide. The aesthetic terrain of these two rapidly growing areas of contemporary artistic practice, different from other aesthetics, may not appear readily permissive of emotional expression; yet it does arise in such settings, if perhaps more rarely and obscurely so than in traditional ones.

The purpose of this arts based research project (running for two years in 2014 and 2016) is to unravel and enhance ways in which emotional expression occurs in the above experimental settings. The project’s artistic research method is performative: it operates from the first- and second- person perspectives to identify and instantiate emotional expression in improvisatory performance. Improvisers engage with each other in acts of (up to fully unrehearsed) emotional co-improvisation – acts to be analysed practically and methodically (including the method of performed identification) regarding the processes and conditions through which interpersonally and collectively found expression emerges. Expressive acts shall be differentiated as to the level of collectivity, structural prearrangement, spontaneity, intermediality, and interaction with digital media therein. We expect to cover new ground by approaching the topic of improvisation by using the method of improvisation. The project features an international group of musicians and dancers, ranging from excellent upcoming to internationally high profile, with Klangforum Wien as principal co-investigator (2016), a 6-month research collaboration with Dr. Bennett Hogg of ICMUS, Newcastle University (2014), plus a number of artistic research residencies. Aim is to meet a rising need to research and advance existing poietic means and problems, and social assemblages of co-expressive improvised intermedial and interactive performance. Results (audiovisual documentation, autoethnographic work and critical reflection) shall be published in artistic research journals and in the form of an edited collection.