Brooks, Julian (2016) Being sound: FLOSS, flow and event in the composition and ensemble performance of free open computer music. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This commentary describes my recent approach to writing compositions for the ensemble performance of computer music. Drawing on experimental music and improvisation, I contend that such music is best considered in terms of people’s situated and relational interplay. The compositional and performative question that permeates this thesis is ‘what can we do, in this time and space, with these tools available to us?’.

As themes of equality and egalitarian access underpin this work throughout, I highlight my engagement with Free Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) ideology and community, reflecting on how this achieves my aims. I describe my writing of text score compositions, making use of the term bounded improvisation, whose purposeful requirements for indeterminate realisation extends most current computer-based performance practice. Though no single strand of this research is perhaps unusual by itself, such an assemblage as that outlined above (incorporating composition, computer coding and ensemble performance practice) is, when allied to an understanding of electronic and computer music praxis, currently an underdeveloped approach. Such an approach I have thus chosen to term free open computer music.

I incorporate two further pre-existing conceptual formulations to present a framework for constructing, reflecting on, and developing my work in this field. Firstly flow or 'immersed experience' is useful to explicate difficult to capture aspects of instrumental engagement and ensemble performance. Secondly, this portfolio of scores aims to produce well-constructed situations, facilitating spaces of flow which contain within their environments the opportunity for an event to take place.

I present the outcomes of my practice as place-forming tactics that catalyse something to do, but not what to do, in performative spaces such as those described above. Such intentions define my aims for composition. These theoretical concerns, together with an allied consideration of the underpinning themes highlighted above, is a useful framework for refection and evaluation of this work.

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