Frames and freedom

Knausgaard on periods of boundlessness | imperfectionism no.1 "To be human is to categorise, subdivide, identify and define, to limit and to frame", writes Karl Ove Knausgård in his novel Autumn, captioned as a letter to his unborn daughter. The first movement in a quartet of the seasons, Autumn is a collection of short essays on the every day. It's… Continue reading Frames and freedom

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A limit of hearing

Winner of Berwick Composition Prize. Not unlike its sister piece Everything has two endings, A limit of hearing is about real and imagined sounds. The piece takes its title from a poem by Jane Hirshfield which describes that there is more to things than at first seems. Once we realise that the experience of sound… Continue reading A limit of hearing

Shy but connected

This piece explores the sentiment of ‘shy but connected’, inspired by a phenomenon that occurs among trees of the same species by which they create channel-like spacing between themselves and their neighbours in order to avoid brushing up against each other. The striking visual beauty of ‘canopy shyness’, known also as ‘crown shyness’, is quite… Continue reading Shy but connected

Everything has two endings

Can a musical line have two endings? What about a painted or spoken line? A sister work to A limit of hearing, this piece explores the idea that everything is an ending of something, and the beginning of something else. “Everything has two endings-a horse, a piece of string, a phone call.Before a life, air.And… Continue reading Everything has two endings

Warn me before you improvise.

Warn me before you improvise. Die Einzelteile der Liebe is a collection of scenes from the outside of a Berlin apartment block. In this liminal space, the movie uncovers fragments of the realities of modern parenthood, the opposition of ideas and irrationalities of love. One scene captures a moment between Sophie and Georg (divorced) and their… Continue reading Warn me before you improvise.

Necessity in art

In The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allan Poe, an artist paints his bride. His perfectionism pulls the strings, costing him many weeks to get the mouth and the ‘tint upon the eye’ just right. Barely casting his eyes from his work, the artist forgets to cherish his wife in the flesh. She sits silently in… Continue reading Necessity in art

The blue lens

“Laugh clown - for your love is broken! Laugh about the pain that poisons your heart.” Halfway into Ron Howard’s Pavarotti documentary, these are the words that suddenly plagued me, jumping from the screen without prior warning. They are taken from Vesti la giubba, a renowned aria in Leoncavallo’s opera Pagliacci. There are a handful… Continue reading The blue lens

#3 The marrow is performance

The marrow of the aesthetics of imperfection is that it is an aesthetics for performance. Riddled with risk, a lot can go wrong in the performative moment. Music is primarily a performing art. I say ‘primarily’ because our mode of accessing music is drastically different from a hundred years ago. Some say recording technology has presented… Continue reading #3 The marrow is performance

The continuum

  “There is no categorical distinction between improvisation and performance [of compositions]; rather, there is a continuum of practices" - Nicholas Cook. Composition and improvisation exist on a fluid line. Their performative aspects stand in a continuously overlapping sequence, making them interdependent. On the one end stands composition, its epitome being pre-realised, pre-structured electronic music. On… Continue reading The continuum

#2 No imperfections here.

It is not generally known that in the past, musical improvisation and composition were one and the same thing. Today they are, in one sense, fiercely opposing concepts. In the 19thcentury, improvisation quietly started to disappear from its position in the performance aesthetic. People stopped tolerating deviations from the musical score such as extemporization of… Continue reading #2 No imperfections here.

Revisiting the Aesthetics of Imperfection.

Musicians, academics, dancers, gardeners and architects gathered together last year in Newcastle to throw a party for 'aesthetic imperfection' in celebration of spontaneity, process and mistakes. In accordance to the theme, attendees came clothed in the coloured tatters and rags of disclosures about their art. Claire, visual artist, confessed she does not really make art,… Continue reading Revisiting the Aesthetics of Imperfection.

We are all clowns. (2)

"We are all clowns" is a reminder of the irrational sensation I previously described. This message in blue might indicate a peak moment of crisis, societal collapse, a waking up. Waking up to our mechanical and ritualistic life dance to realise that , oh, we really are clowns, and we have the freedom to exist as our… Continue reading We are all clowns. (2)

We are all clowns? (1)

“Through my whole life I didn’t really know if I existed. But I do. And people are starting to notice”. - The Joker It will happen during the most ordinary activity or moment of the day that I feel like everything suddenly has a vaguely comic side. Almost as if I'm in an opera and… Continue reading We are all clowns? (1)

The sound of water

Walking is banal, everyday, inevitable. Walking is a necessary transportational utility for most people. It follows that few leave the house without headphones, myself included. I do not mean the kind of planned crusade or organised expedition into the woods. I like to think most people can enjoy that sort of thing. I mean the obvious… Continue reading The sound of water

Artist of limits.

(This article is inspired by a talk given at the Philosophy of Improvisation: Aesthetics of Imperfection Workshops) To be the master of perfect is inconceivable to Joe McPhee - he can only ever learn how to be a bigger mess. The Joe McPhee Trio concert on Thursday the 4th of October marked a reunion between Joe… Continue reading Artist of limits.

The Instrumental Impulse.

(This article is inspired by a talk given at the Philosophy of Improvisation: Aesthetics of Imperfection Workshops) Improvising pianist, Adam Fiarhall, likes the rival   aesthetics of imperfection and perfection and is, in fact, at peace with crudeness. Perhaps where a problem with perfection versus imperfection arises resides in our tendency  to separate practice from performance. This is… Continue reading The Instrumental Impulse.

The Present Imperfect.

(This article is inspired by a talk given at the Philosophy of Improvisation: Aesthetics of Imperfection Workshops)  Improvisation is like instant coffee! There is no romanticising - improvisation does not pretend to be anything it is not. Improvisation is incomplete; it is not given much thought, if any. What if this is precisely what makes improvised music impressive?… Continue reading The Present Imperfect.

Imperfect Interactions when Improvising with others.

(This article is inspired by a talk given at the Philosophy of Improvisation: Aesthetics of Imperfection Workshops) If musical composition is a means of achieving perfection and musical improvisation takes value in imperfection, what we are dealing with, aesthetically, is not an issue of taxonomy. The difference is in the spontaneity. Graeme Wilson, free improvisation researcher and performer,… Continue reading Imperfect Interactions when Improvising with others.

That’s Not Freedom, That’s Taking License.

(This article is inspired by a talk given at the Philosophy of Improvisation: Aesthetics of Imperfection Workshops) Feldman's compositions don't impose themselves on you, and they refuse to shout about their meaning or importance – even their length. They also resist your attempts to predict what might happen next. His music is full of repetition, and… Continue reading That’s Not Freedom, That’s Taking License.

Perfection and Authenticity.

(This article is inspired by a talk given at the Philosophy of Improvisation: Aesthetics of Imperfection Workshops) Recording is known to be a laborious, time-consuming process. Many takes and crumpled sheets of manuscript paper later, the desired sound might be vaguely achieved, and we haven't even started talking about quantising the beat or splicing yet. Rock… Continue reading Perfection and Authenticity.

The Aesthetics of Possibilities.

(This article is inspired by a talk given at the Philosophy of Improvisation: Aesthetics of Imperfection Workshops) What is the perfect performance? Does such a thing even exist? Perhaps perfection is a transient moment. Upon looking back at a video or recording, for example, is it still perfect? Most importantly, can we draw something positive from… Continue reading The Aesthetics of Possibilities.

Architecture of Imperfection: Unfinished Sketches and the Sublime.

(This article is inspired by a talk given at the Philosophy of Improvisation: Aesthetics of Imperfection Workshops) The sketch gives a creative and artistic link to the practice of architecture. Despite computational design, algorithms and software that have extended the abilities of the architect, the hand-drawn sketch is still important today. If the sketch is the… Continue reading Architecture of Imperfection: Unfinished Sketches and the Sublime.

Ethics and Embodiment in Dance improvisation.

(This article is inspired by a talk given at the Philosophy of Improvisation: Aesthetics of Imperfection Workshops) truth and reality in art do not arise until you no longer understand what you are doing and are capable of but nevertheless sense a power that grows in proportion to your resistance - Henri Matisse  It is not uncommon for… Continue reading Ethics and Embodiment in Dance improvisation.