Research

Current Research

My current research interests are: orally-transmitted experimental music; the transformation of musical source material through the processes of transcription and translation; queer identity and early 20th century music; and impossible roller coaster simulations.

Impossible Virtual Roller Coasters

Before I became interested in music creation, my first love was designing roller coasters. At an early age, I began using a 3D roller coaster design program called No Limits (sometimes used by professional companies for creating mockups of their designs). Growing up in Winnipeg, I designed roller coasters before ever having ridden one in real life.

Fifteen years later, I am exploring a rich potential for merging these two interests in my life. I am interested in the idea of an ‘impossible’ roller coaster. How can the design features of a roller coaster experience become abstracted? What might it mean for a lift hill or a ‘drop’ to go on forever, for a track to be a tangled knot of sculptural potential, for a roller coaster to float in endless space? And finally, how can this impossible roller coaster ‘language’ relate to music?

Publications (forthcoming) 

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Tempo New Music Journal (Dec. 2019)

In this new article I will chart the development of a micro-community of likeminded practitioners—performers and composers—participating in orally-transmitted experimental compositional practices. In addition, I will sketch out some of the common concerns and characteristics of this extraordinary music.

Publications

Palace64: Impossible Roller Coasters as Scores for the Performance of Experimental Music

Proceedings of the International Conference on New Tools for Music Notation and Representation (TENOR’19), Melbourne, 2019 (July 2019)

In Palace64, a major new multidisciplinary project combining video and chamber ensemble, I examine the ways in which the domains of music composition and virtual roller coaster design might influence one another. First, I briefly discuss existing artistic projects relating to roller coaster design. Second, I present my own early artistic explorations combining music and virtual roller coasters. Finally, I discuss Palace64. In this project, I create a new medium of score that combines oral transmissions describing imaginary impossible roller coasters with videos created using innovative 3D roller coaster design software (NoLimits 2). Using strategies pioneered by Éliane Radigue and Jennifer Walshe for interpreting imagined images and paths as musical material, I develop ways in which performers can “read” these impossible roller coasters—remembered and virtual—as scores. Ultimately through this project my goal is to create and demonstrate a hybrid artwork that exists not only as a score to facilitate the performance of experimental music, but also as a conceptual theme park ride that traverses the boundaries of possibility and impossibility in a region that marries the digital with an embodied human experience of risk and pleasure. This paper is intended as an accompaniment to the performance of Palace64 by Decibel New Music Ensemble.

Occam Notions: Collaboration and the Performer’s Perspective in Éliane Radigue’s Occam Ocean

Tempo New Music Journal

After nearly 40 years of creating recorded electronic music, for the last 10 years Éliane Radigue has created music exclusively in collaboration with performers, using solely oral and aural transmission. Focusing on the details of this ‘scoreless’ working method, this article considers the performer’s perspective on Radigue’s Occam Ocean (2011–), a series of 22 infinitely combinable solos and over 20 chamber pieces. Through interviews with the performers and Radigue, a composite understanding of their collaboration is reached, focusing on the emergent ideas of virtuosity, memory, images, scores, hospitality and non-hierarchy. A typical transmission and collaboration is described, and a new lens for viewing this method is proposed, the living score. The article concludes with a brief discussion of how Radigue and her collaborators’ non-hierarchical model of collaboration may offer an alternative compositional framework.

Memory Piece: Memory as a Compositional Process

Leonardo Music Journal

The author describes the use of memory as a compositional process in his recent orally and digitally transmitted compositions.

Correspondance on Tuning – Mira Benjamin and Luke Nickel

CeReNem Journal

Mira Benjamin and Luke Nickel share thoughts on portraiture, space, and metaphors about tuning.

PhD Thesis

In August 2017 I formally completed my PhD at Bath Spa University. My abstract can be found below:

This commentary reflects on a portfolio containing five of my recent orally-transmitted experimental music compositions created between fall 2013 and fall 2016. These living scores investigate transmission, community, orality and forgetting, which are the major themes of my original work. This commentary relates particularly to two main research questions: 1) what happens to the traditional practices and relationships surrounding composers and performers if the material aspect of the musical score is removed; and 2) what musical materials and processes are particularly suited to an orally-transmitted compositional method?

After a brief introduction in Chapter 1, Chapter 2 provides context to the portfolio, exploring the terms experimental music and living scores. The term living scores has been used by a variety of artists in contexts ranging from dance collaborations to digital media. A new definition of living scores is proposed based on a synthesis of these existing uses to mean contexts in which all compositional instructions are transmitted, rather than fixed. Living scores are essentially participatory – they foreground collaboration and encourage the formation of micro-communities. Because they eschew written notation, living scores allow the act of forgetting to become a vital part of the creative process. Composers such as Éliane Radigue, Meredith Monk and Yoko Ono are discussed in this new context.

Chapters 3 and 4 discuss my work within the paradigm of living scores. In Chapter 3, after a typical transmission of my work is outlined, aspects of oral and digital transmission are detailed, including the media, length, density and frequency of transmissions. Many of these aspects are discussed in relation to the act of forgetting, which through this creative work can be seen as a productive feature of artistic creation. In Chapter 4, the musical material of the portfolio is discussed, with an emphasis on the use and transformation of borrowed musical source material. A solution for the integration of the collaborative process into performances of these works is proposed: partial transmissions overlapping with performances.
A brief conclusion outlines the possibility for future research that explores other modes of transmission, further musical explorations and repeated use of this compositional method.

The full thesis can be found here.