Section 1: Historical Context
This section attempts to elucidate the development of digital improvisation as I haveencountered it by considering it a convergence of live electronic music and freeimprovisation. Thom Holmes echoes this point of view by noting the afﬁnity between thepioneers of live electronic music and jazz musicians, suggesting “they often workedtogether, played to the same audiences and crossed over as musicians from one idiom toanother.” [Holmes 2008: 381] Live electronic music in this case may well be idiomatic(although the avant-grade characterised many early experiments), whereas freeimprovisation does not subscribe to an idiom. In this case of our ensemble, we have morespeciﬁcally been governed by the suitability of articulations in the context of a performancerather than incontestable freedom.
In his discussion of live electronic music, Nick Collins provides an account of thedevelopments in technology which made such performance possible, also examining anumber of early performers. Collins cites the invention of instruments such as theTelharmonium (1987) and Theremin (circa 1920) as formative developments while placingan emphasis on John Cage’s early electronic experiments in 1939. Collins notes that theseearly experiments later led to an embrace of ‘electronic accidents’ around the 1960s. Atthis time, composers such as Pauline Oliveros and Terry Riley began to explore magnetictape as a means for electronic performance which formed the basis for Oliveros’subsequent exploration of ‘Deep Listening’.
By the late 1970s, developments of computerhardware allowed their use in a live setting, a practice which has been central to the musicmaking of my ensemble. [Collins 2007]
Digital Improvisation: A Reﬂective Essay
31 Oliveros' practice of ‘deep listening’ becomes particularly pertinent in section 2 during a discussion of theprocesses which inform music making.