Birchall, David (2022) Improvised Itinerations: Performed Recordings In Urban Interstice Sites. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This portfolio consist of two pieces of recorded musical work Pomona Itinerations (2021) and 7/M60/7/11 (2021) and a written commentary. The research presents an innovative model of using improvisation as a compositional device for creating new work in a specific set of urban outdoor settings. Defining this type of place as interstitial, I discuss how the interstice offers a site rich with new creative possibilities for the improviser. This draws on the imagined possibilities of this type of site as described in Smithson (1996), Foucault’s (1984), Sola-Morales Rubio (1995), Debord (2006) and Wood (2007) who all suggest that these places can create complex sites which have the potential to allow for us to operate creatively outside our usual norms. I suggest there are parallels between this and the experiences of free improvisers in performance.

I propose that the performed recorded works made during the research can themselves function as interstitial recorded objects. They are part improvisation, part soundwalk, part ethnography, and part documentation of changes taking place in the site. Making multiple recording visits to the same site and routes gave rise to what I call an itinerative improvised practise. This gave a deep knowledge of the small changes in each place which drew on Ingold’s (2013) view of improvisation as an itinerative process. Further considering the work in relation to Brighenti (2016) and Foucault’s (1984) idea of the heterotopia as a continually shifting site, we see how issues around the politics of access and use of the sites are contested both by human and environmental factors over the repeated visits. These changes are themselves embedded in the recordings; in the sounds and form present in the material and viewed over time, they give us a creative way into hearing the processes at work in each site.

The recorded pieces Pomona Itinerations (2021) and 7/M60/7/11 (2021) show the process of performing recordings through acts of improvised itineration at two contrasting interstice sites and demonstrate some of the rich potential this approach offers the improviser in making material for performed outdoor compositions.

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