Performing Newness and Nowness: Repertoire and improvisation in the Western Australian New Music Archive

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017 | Rosemary Overell | No Comments

Adam Trainer


Cat Hope

Edith Cowan University



(citation: Trainer, Adam and Cat Hope. 2017. ‘Performing Newness and Nowness: Repertoire and Improvisation in the Western Australian New Music Archive’. Performance of the Real Working Papers 1 (1): 13-30)



New music is an area of creative practice informed both by Western art music tradition and the avant-garde’s fluid notions of progress and structural transgression. This paper examines how improvisatory practices in new music repertoire impact the value and interpretation of collection materials contained in the Western Australian New Music Archive, a digital repository for Western Australian new music heritage items. The nature of improvised music practice affects the way that notions of immediacy, relevance and essentiality are performed and articulated in new music works. As a digital collection, the archive mediates these already mediated recordings of tangible performances significantly through its delivery. However, written and improvised approaches to music creation are also tethered to different performative modes that inform the perceived nature of a particular work. From highly conceptual pieces that utilise cutting edge technology and experimental notions of structure and form to push the boundaries of compositional possibility to the spontaneous performativity of improvised sound, new music presents itself as relevant through a set of codified performative structures. As a set of performances contained within a particular collection that is related to a specific community, the Western Australian New Music Archive also presents a mediated version of that community, presented and constructed with the assistance of that community. This paper seeks to highlight the ways in which improvisation and composed repertoire work with, around and against each other in various works contained in the archive. These works point to a range of approaches to new music creation that help to shape both a body that includes a range of works – the archive itself – as well as the musical practice of the composers and performers who have created them.

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