Instrumentality as Distributed, Interpersonal, and Self-Agential: Aesthetic Implications of an Instrumental Assemblage and Its Fortuitous Voice

Deniz Peters

Abstract Philip Alperson, in ‘The Instrumentality of Music’, extends the com- monsense concept of musical instrument to an understanding encompassing the instrument’s musical, cultural and conceptual situation. This understanding shifts the focus from a work-based aesthetic to one in which “listeners appreciate the human achievement with specific regard to accomplishment in the context of the demands of the particular instrument involved”. With this advanced understanding of instruments and the instrumentality of music in place, I shall discuss a moment of genuine instrumental discovery (as opposed to deliberate design). During an improvisatory extension of the piano’s sound board as part of a trio exploration with Bennett Hogg and Sabine Vogel using fishing wire, suspended bansuri flutes, contact microphones, and, vitally, transducers placed inside violins and on the piano’s sound board, an unintended feedback loop formed, resulting in an additional voice, curiously turning the trio into a quartet. While the found voice’s dynamics and character could be nuanced by varying the dampening of singular piano strings, as well as via the sustain pedal, it could, overall, only be summoned up and influenced in an indirect manner, via an ensemble effort. In analysing the situation of the discovery and in discussing its aesthetic implications, I offer a contribution to Alperson’s notion of instrumentality in two respects: performers may together form a single voice, that is, their instrumentality might join; and an installation may, under certain conditions, acquire its own instrumental agency and identity, extending the cultural situation to include the natural environment, and the algorithmic.

D. Peters (H)

Institut 14 Musikasthetik, University of the Arts, Graz, Austria e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

T. Bovermann et al. (eds.), Musical Instruments in the 21st Century, DOI 10.1007/978-981-10-2951-6_6

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