Dahm, Robert (2012) Framing Intention: Perceptual Agency in the Compositional Process of Recent Pieces. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

In this thesis I explore the role of perceptual agency in the compositional process of four recent pieces. Perceptual agency is examined through the mechanism of the “frame” – a way of constricting or shaping the total field of
possibility in ways that inform the perceptual ordering of the contents of that frame, altering their intentionality. This is seen to operate on multiple levels. Firstly with respect to the act of composition itself, which proceeds through a
series of incremental stages, the aggregate result of prior stages informing the field of possibilities for – providing the frame through which to approach – each subsequent stage. In this way, the act of composition becomes a
perceptual one in which arrays of possible intentionalities are gradually excavated. Secondly with respect to the choice of instrumental materials themselves, invariably chosen for their primarily modulatory capacity; that is, their ability to frame and be framed by their own context. The score, then, is an archaeological trace of the sedimentation of these layered processes, presenting (while not defining) a wide array of potential patterns of framing requiring processing and synthesis. The nature of the score engages the performer’s own perceptual agency through the learning process, analogous to the compositional process itself, as it is necessarily comprised of subsequent layers of framing.

The thesis commences with a general exploration of perceptual agency, frames and intentionality against a backdrop of phenomenological and
ecological writing. Having essayed the conceptual territory surrounding these core terms, there follows a detailed discussion of the compositional processes and priorities employed in the pieces contained with this thesis, focusing on the three pieces composed in 2011, and the manner in which the multi-layered
approach to composition continually reframes and responds to its own results. Particular emphasis is placed on the treatment of the temporal
domain, as this represents the most significant compositional and theoretical departure from common notational practice. The final part of the thesis examines the ways in which perceptual agency is engaged on the part of the performer, and concludes with a brief consideration of possible future avenues of exploration.

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