Improvising Culture: Discursive Interculturality as a Critical Tool, Aesthetic, and Methodology for Intercultural Music
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This research considers musicians from different cultural backgrounds, improvising together, and ‘improvising’ new musical contexts. It springs from my practice as a composer and improvising guitarist, exploring the borders between South Indian Carnatic music and jazz. The process of collaborating with musicians from different traditions raises questions about the ways that musicians draw on their acquired knowledge in the production of intercultural music: How do musicians from different cultures interpret each others’ musical gestures and negotiate a cohesive performance? At play throughout the dissertation are the conflicting notions of individual expression, and culturally derived archetypal models of expression. The relationship between musicians and cultures is explored through an ethnographic methodology. The dissertation begins with a critical review of the literature on intercultural hybridity that reveals the way that power inequalities have historically characterised many of the exchanges between the West and its Others. In the course of analysing the products of interculture, the discussion also examines the inherent problem of hybridity’s reception, given the different cultural frames of reference of different audiences. From the analysis of hybridity, improvisation emerges as a key locus for examining the way in which musicians are heard to negotiate self and culture in intercultural hybridity. A new understanding of improvisation is proposed based on an examination of the literature from diverse disciplines including cognitive psychology, complex adaptive systems, embodiment and ethnographic accounts of improvisers. Improvisation is situated as a dynamic process of developing preferences based on cultural acquisition, which enables us to understand the different approaches developed by improvisers and broader cultural differences between musical systems. The relationship between improvisation and culture necessitates a rethinking of the way that we listen to and analyse the products of interculture.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Item Access Status
South Indian Carnatic music and jazz
Cultural differences in music