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Responding to Sounds of the Environment: Developing Strategies for Improvised Musical Performance

posted on 20.06.2017, 03:54 by Sam McAuliffeSam McAuliffe
This research project concerns the development of an improvisatory music practice informed by sounds of the environment. The primary outcome of this project is a compilation of audio recordings of five works created while undertaking the research. This exegesis elucidates my interest in developing performance frameworks for improvising musicians by studying sounds of the environment, outlines the development of performance strategies in response to field recordings from select locations, and provides a commentary on the final works.

Following a reflective, practice-led research methodology a study of select field recordings of acoustic locations was undertaken to develop improvised musical works. Selected locations were those I traversed during my routine activities while living in Melbourne, Australia. The refinement of the musical process involved reviewing literature by theorists and musicians such as Luigi Russolo, Pierre Schaeffer, Salomé Voegelin, and Paul Hegarty, and the musical output of practitioners such as Luc Ferrari, Brian Eno, and Jim Denley. Engaging with the work of significant predecessors whose work has also been inspired by sounds of the environment informed my practice and contextualised my contribution to the field.

Inspired by Jon Rose’s essay The Music of Place: Reclaiming a practice, the performance practice established during this research integrated my interest in free improvisation within the notion of place – the sounds of my everyday environment. I have demonstrated how these sounds can inform an improvisatory performance practice – an approach that is malleable and could be adopted by other practitioners from differing musical backgrounds. In addition, this project offers broad insights into a contemporary improvisatory practice for both specialised and non-specialised listeners and readers.


Principal supervisor

Thomas Reiner

Additional supervisor 1

Paul Williamson

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Theatre, Performance and Music


Master of Arts

Degree Type



Faculty of Arts