Fell, Simon (2017) A more attractive ‘way of getting things done’ freedom, collaboration and compositional paradox in British improvised and experimental music 1965-75. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This thesis examines the activity of the British musicians developing a practice of freely improvised music in the mid- to late-1960s, in conjunction with that of a group of British composers and performers contemporaneously exploring experimental possibilities within composed music; it investigates how these practices overlapped and interpenetrated for a period. The thesis identifies those characteristics of improvisation and experimentalism which favour a relationship between the two fields, but which ultimately underline the different expectations and objectives underlying each activity.

The historical material is explored through a combination of archive research and interviews with musicians who were actively involved in the developments under examination. In addition the author draws upon his extensive personal experience as an improvising musician and composer, and as a performing associate of several of the key improvising musicians of the period.

The first section of the thesis identifies the historical and social background, outlining the two key groups of participants working in the unmapped area between existing idiomatic improvisation and experimental composition practice, including brief studies of important figures who initiated or facilitated the exploration of shared activity during the period.

A second section seeks to introduce further precision into discussion of improvised music by seeking to clarify the definition of taxonomic terms currently in use, and to extend these by identifying key characteristics of the wide range of approaches to playing improvised music.

Section three explores the practical implications of the differing objectives of improvising musicians and composers. A series of archive case studies examining composing for improvising musicians during the 1960s and 1970s are discussed, along with an investigation of issues raised by the restoration of Derek Bailey’s Ping (prob. 1967/8) for contemporary performance by improvising musicians.

The final section identifies fundamental differences of aspiration and approach within improvisation and composition, and examines the consequent implications for joint practice. It establishes why such differences are inevitable, and the insights they provide into the nature of artistic practice.

Simon Fell FINAL THESIS.PDF - Accepted Version
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