A site has a vast gradation of mouvement, from the extreme slow to the extreme fast, from the the infinite small to the infinite large. Transience is always present.
Memory and future.



– dificulty in defining the term site-specificity: maybe a simple historical description:

Ever since the 60s, the term “project” has been a key concept for Art in Public space (Kunst im offtenlichen Raum, Kor) or Public Art. Factors such as the formal integration of architectural context initiated by Minimal Art and Land Art, “site-specificity”, which provides an expanded perspective on the instituional, historical and social context of a site, and a change in the role attributed to the public have brought about the present situation where a clear-cut definition of public domain and public space is no longer given”
“The Return of comissioned art” by claudia Butnerr and Genoveva Ruckert / HOENRAUSH: Art in the City


“Anselm Kiefer said that no empty place is really empty: everywhere is filled up, “almost claustrophobically” with all the traces of the past. The past is always there in the present. Artists working site-responsively are working with these traces or “ghosts” as raw material, aware that whatever we put into a place will be mingled with whatever was there before.”

“Choosing spaces for site-response has been, for Luna Nera, a combination of research and serendipity. One of the most problematic aspects of using non-art spaces to create art is that the spaces themselves are difficult to get and often lack even a basic infrastructure.”

“Increasingly, historical research has begun to play some role in Luna Nera’s methodology of preparation.

Using the language of art to examine history – rather than the language of history – has its set of own problems but can also be liberating for both historical practice (taking it at least temporarily out of the academy) and art practice. Taking on history so directly causes the artist to examine certain questions and imposes certain requirements which other methodologies of art-making do not: ”
Gillian McIver

: PRIMARY AND SECONDARY AUDIENCES IN THE PERFORMANCE SPACE: good distinction and very operative to describe differente situations and sites.

“Some sites are consciously designed to be unobtrusive. The black box theatre and the white cube gallery are two types of spaces that are designed to focus their occupant’s attention onto something other than the space itself. In the black box theatre focus is directed onto the stage and in the gallery upon the artworks. Both posit an idea of neutrality surrounding the work. Black suits contemporary western theatres as it permits highly controlled stage lighting and allows the audience to relax in relative anonymity. The shift in the visual arts since minimalism towards installation, particularly to work that consciously integrates itself into the architecture and social space of the gallery, has not been so pronounced in theatrical performance. With notable exceptions, the norm remains the projection of fictional space upon the actual space of the theatre, probably due to the continued dominance of narrative. The black box theatre is in this sense a location that is typically used in a way that suppresses its actual space.”

“I consider sites as inherently populated and the social rules of those who frequent a site as an integral part of the character of a site. I therefore find it valuable to make a cold analysis of potential performance sites, their inhabitants and behaviour patterns, so that these factors may be consciously played off one another. This is not to pass a value judgement on any particular space or set of conventions but rather to view these things as givens, source material that may be exploited or rejected. Conventional spaces like theatres can be quite beneficial for performances where one wishes to subvert and surprise. It is easier to catch an audience off guard in spaces and events where strong expectations and codes exist. I regard theatres as sites like any other, in most respects, the main distinction being that there is a history and complex set of codes specifically relating to fiction and representation that need to be considered too. I like to work with theatres in terms of site, as they can be easily left behind in the rush towards site-specific performance. “

“Contemporary interest in the site of performance is welcome but if it is to have a positive legacy then it is best that the issues it throws up, be understood as just as pertinent to large-scale theatres as to those working on the margins. It does us well not to fetishise site-specific performance, hence my ambivalence towards the term’s current usage. For me, sensitivity is a term more apt for the far greater challenge of how to enliven our moribund cultural spaces.”

Bill Aitchison


especificidades deste projecto na sua relação com os CONCEITOS históricos ou revisões contemporâneas: site-specific, site-responsive, site-sensitive
assenta na “exploração do horizonte acustico”

INTRODUCTION: solo free improvisation and site-specificity /

_the politics of free improvisation (european definition – post free jazz): informality, anarchy, democracy… distribution of power. Music as the setting up of territories.
_The individual musician as the unity for the free improvised community is a Modern construction: based on the individual, the atom for modernity. At the same time the mechanics of free improvisation opened the way for libertarian, anarchic, communitarian procedures inside this practice but at the same time paved the way for a infinite atomization of the individual practitioner/musician. The non-hierarchic structure along with the nomadic character influenced a musical practice that set the way for a continuos territorial conflict and not a communal thinking (in the sense of a culture of community based in long interactions of space and time). Even the way Derek Bailey define it as non-idiomatic was from the beginning not a space of freedom but rather as setting the boundaries for the new genre to come. Defining it as not being based in any musical idiom gave meaning to a new set of boundaries where a increasingly growing community of musicians is active. If there was a libertarian political agenda in free improvised music practice it came out as a clearly defined musical territory that stages very clearly the territorial dimension of human sociality disguising it as a democratic practice.

Free improvised music is played and staged in a transnational new territory. Nation-state territorializations and the consequent nationalist dimension of culture are constantly dismissed from this practice. The focus is actually in a sonification of the universal: music as noise. (far out…???) Free improvisation adopted a musical language that ripped apart any possibility of identification of Musical Vocabulary with certain Geography (place, community, time)… This territorial musical approach (or just a natural historical consequence of limited mobility) was substituted by a new territory built on networks of international mobility but aiming for a transnational territory. In this sense free improvisation is the utopia of modernity in the paradoxical sense that individual free will (in musical performative decisions) dismembered an experience of community in music making, and both temporary/occasional/ad-hoc musical encounters and a language in direct lineage with the historical modern quest for sound in itself (and derived from an analysis of its internal morphology) created this musical genre which musicking aspects have far more to do with a consistent play of territory, being it conflicting or peacefull. I believe that the core of free improvised music practices is in the way Territorialization is expressed in music making.

This is expressed in multiple ways: musical vocabulary, concert dramaturgy, instrumental fetishism, recording procedures, labelling, critical discourse. Its territory and the strategies for territorialization are many

_articulate the notion of Territory/place?? with the nomad solo music playing.
_reflect on the way site-specificity thinking influenced music making.
_the impact of the concept of soundscape (Geophony, Biophony, Anthrophony: Bernie Krause)
_the differences and approximations of music and noise sonic worlds.

_Free Improvised Solo concert///: Musicking the solo improvisation will inform a site-specific thinking, and therefore create the conditions for materializing the research into/in concert-installations setups.
_The solo improvisor is “sovereign” in the concert´s acoustic arena.
_This will set the context to talk about an “ecology” for solo free improvisation.

_site specific sound art /// Hybrid Instrument-Installations
_lê quah nin

Solo cello free improvisation: tom cora // cellists in free improvisation

_the instrument, the space and memory
_the instrument as a territory / mapping the instrument / Mark Dresser / Pression: Helmut Lachnmann /
_playing the specificity of the instrument and of the performer-instrument relation.

Aural architecture and the relations between architecture and sound????

_Choose specific projects that enunciate this relation and which where fundamental or supported the research.

_David Tudor´s Rainforest
_Bernard Leitner (placas)
_Mark Dresser (the influence of mapping the double-bass)

Site-specificity in Robert Smithson. A paisagem e o pitoresco.

Tradicionalmente os valores visuais da paisagem têm sido dados, predominantemente pelas pessoas envolvidas com as artes. No entanto, a arte, a ecologia, a indústria e como elas existem hoje em dia são, na maior parte, captadas a partir das realidades físicas da paisagem ou sites específicos. Como vemos, o passado do mundo está condicionado pela pintura e escrita. Hoje em dia, nossas percepções e condição social estão determinadas aos filmes, fotografia e televisão. O ecologista tende a ver a paisagem em termos históricos e a maioria dos industriais, não vê nada. O artista deve sair do isolamento de galerias e museus e proporcionar uma consciência concreta para o presente como ele realmente existe, e não simplesmente apresentar abstrações ou utopias… devíamos começar a desenvolver uma educação artística baseada em relações aos sites específicos. Como vemos as coisas e lugares não é uma preocupação secundária, mas primária. (SMITHSON apud VIVACQUA, 2012, p. 20).
um site-specificity, conforme formulado por Rosalind Krauss,
Thinking the landscape is important to introduce the notion of horizon. Walking towards this horizon is the motivation of moving into the landscape. (sublime e pitoresco??)Seen from the a distance (like in a Friedrich painting) landscape evoques the need of contemplation: a sublime experience facing the infinite. At the same time there is an attraction to experience the landscape, move inside, walk through and in it, experiencing it in particles, in moments, address its particularities while walking, drifting like a drunken nomad

Discussion of a relevant group of works which have established relations and Intersections of Free improvisation and Site-specificity in Solo performances and performance based installations.


INTRODUCTION: free improvisation and site-specificity:

In 1976 Edward Relph publishes “Place and Placeness” laying the conceptual armory to deal with the erosion of an ideia that he thought was key to human lives: place. Relph writes: “(…) regardless of the historical time or the geographical, technological, and social situation, people will always need place because having and identifying with place is an integral to what to what and who we are as human beings.” (casey 1993, Malpas 1999).
(needs development: check preface for the new edition 2008)
place and placeness
PG 7 . my purpose… place is a phenomenon…
a particular experiente of a place appears from the my idiossincrasias and subjective perspective. therefore a literary documentation on the atractions, affections and encounters is of key interest to map a psychogeography of this journey.
this is a phenomenological methodology concerned with the existencial_lived space
approaches to a structural and analytical perspective on the architectural dimensional of place is also importante… maybe this is dynamic and not always aplicable in the same way.
a poetic approach to space means that a specific situation rises from the momentary inhabiting of the locality…
perceptual space
there are several levels of awareness and astraction of space. PG 10
..both remembered and currently significante places are. essentially concentrations of meaning and intention within the broader structure of perceptual space. PG 11
exisyential space PG 12

“The fate of place” by Edward Casey
ver: bibliografia do preface E CASEY

My practice as an artist has been highly influenced by this preconception_notion and it has informed my artistic approach to each new site where I´m exhibiting or performing. In this manner I have a strong sense that words like place, space and territory influence directly my artistic interventions, both as a musician, an installation artist or in their intersections. Therefore I have been concentrating my practice and research in two domains where I can recognize a structured critical and creative approach to Relph´s notion: site-specificity and free improvisation.

(This background and context portrait lays both on personal readings of bibliography, artists_musicians statements and my personal experience_current practice as a musician-improvisor and sound artist* during this research)
*including concerts and installations


A brief historical set of relations: site, space, place, community in site-specific art and Free improvisation.

Every musical event is tight to a context and to its conditions (social, political, acoustic, topological…). Every place has a soundscape (e.g. a sonic abstraction of an interchangable perceptual conections from all senses…?), and music events also play an important role shaping it. Every sculptural and architectural manifestation is also dependent on the conditions of a determined place. Both musical, sculptural and architectural events can reinforce these “liaisons” or address them, or in the other end confront, destroy or be indifferent to them. But nevertheless they are always intrinsically connected to a context and will affect and be affected by it. All artistic manifestations exist within a context (e.g. relation of social, political, afective, topological conditions..). This can be rephrased as: all efective artistic manifestations are experienced and nominated as such because they crack the apparent stable and expected qualities of a determined context. (what is art??) Developing ways of being site and context sensitive is crucial for my practice as an artist.
Ensuring a disciplined reflection on these matters and developing a sensitive approach to it is at the core of my interests and concerns as an artist and a citizen. I here lay down my perspective that art and politics are inherently connected and bound to each other (??reference) and that a an artistic practice that is sensitive to its impact in the context where it is being experienced is core to make this assumption explicit and operative.


Site-specificity, although committed to the Art realm is a term that appears almost in the same period as Free Improvisation (late 60´s) and its commitment to specificity of the context, place or moment has similar preoccupations to free improvisation, engendering an artistic practice, usually interdisciplinary or multimedia, and “self-reflexive” in the sense that it commits itself to poetise its own ways of production and “being art” (Kwon 1997). ???
Site-Specific is a term used to describe works that are created in a direct relation to a particular location. Since the late 60´s this concept has been coined in different ways (specially within Art theory and criticism…references missing…) and its limits have been stretched. From the early minimalist topological/architectural approach, to the Institutional critique (where the system of socioeconomic relations, within which art and its institutional programming find their possibilities of being become the focus of this activity), to today´s site oriented practices (where we can find a more intense engagement with the outside world and everyday life, favouring “public” sites outside the traditional confines of art*) we´ve witnessed artists questioning site in multiple ways. *“Which is to say that site is now structured (inter) textually rather than spatially, and its model is not a map but an itinerary, a fragmentary sequence of events and actions through spaces, that is, a nomadic narrative whose path is articulated by the passage of the artist.” (Miwo Kwon 1997)
The three paradigms of site-specificity that where illustrated here (phenomenological, social/institutional, and discursive) although presented somewhat chronologically, are not stages in a linear trajectory of historical development. Rather, they overlap with one another and operate simultaneously in various cultural practices today (Miwo Kwon, 1997). Consequently the term ‘site-specific’ has been extended with a range of alternative idioms such as ‘context-specific’, ‘site-oriented’, ‘site-responsive’ and ‘socially engaged’ (Claire Doherty) as if the operative definition of Site has been transformed from a physical location (grounded, fixed, actual) to a discursive vector (ungrounded, fluid, virtual) (Miwo Kwon). The concept of Site-Specificity and its shifts or inflections have been paralleled by transformation of the concept of Place.

PLACE // In examining place in depth, (Edward) Relph focuses on people’s identity of and with place. By the identity of a place, he refers to its “persistent sameness and unity, which allows that [place] to be differentiated from others” (Relph 1976, p. 45). Relph describes this persistent identity in terms of three components: (1) the place’s physical setting; (2) its activities, situations, and events; and (3) the individual and group meanings created through people’s experiences and intentions in regard to that place.”
Always putting forward the idea of “Place” has fundamental to define us as individuals with an identity inside a community, we have seen a major transformation in this assumption with the advent of mobility (be it desired or forced: emigration) and a superimposition of economic and cultural characters through the development of technologies that gave us a Local vs Global impact of our actions. In a premonitory regard to the transformations that where starting to occur in this matter, Edward Relph in his essay “Place and Placelessness” (1976) states that “regardless of the historical time or the geographical, technological, and social situation, people will always need place because having and identifying with place are integral to what and who we are as human beings.”
Saskia Sassen pg 345 “Key thinkers on space…”(
Nomadism is a particular form of the human experience of territory.
“En s’interrogeant sur les phénomènes sociaux caractérisant cette fin de siècle, Michel Maffesoli montre comment le nomadisme peut être considéré comme une des figures emblématiques de notre époque. (…)
Son ouvrage nous amène à réfléchir sur l’époque moderne, caractérisée par le glissement du ‘nomadisme vers la sédentarité’ : le passage des communautés aux communes, puis de celles-ci aux entités administratives plus grandes, pour arriver à l’État-nation, va de paire avec la naissance d’un pouvoir d’autant plus abstrait qu’il est plus éloigné. Le manque de flexibilité et l’assignation des individus à une fonction (professionnelle, affective ou idéologique) qui ont dominé à l’époque moderne peuvent être le symptôme d’un enfermement mortifère.”
Michel MAFFESOLI / Du nomadisme. Vagabondages initiatiques. / Le Livre de Poche, Paris, 1997.

Artists dealing with site-specificity have been dealing with this issues in varied ways (…). Sound has been a key media to explore this concept. Sound makes time visible. The exploration of its “imateriality”, specially when replaying a recorded sound, has lead to artistic events that reflect its own existence in place.

rainforest – nption of ecology . Simon waters
max neuhaus

The relation of music (integrating a wide sonic realm) and place has a long history and can be approached in different ways, both scientific and artistic.
-space as a musical/sound parameter,
-programmatic landscape music
-site-oriented musical performances
In the space as parameter-oriented music we may include works that use spatialization of instruments or musicians as another sound parameter, besides frequency, dynamic, timbre and duration (Stockhausen), usually as a way of clarifying other formal aspects of the musical composition (counterpoint, harmonies, timbral construction, etc…). Works like these extend the compositional parameters “by understanding the relationships between acoustic parameters and spatial perception.” (Salter and Blesser, 2007)
The relation of music and place was also explored in programmatic music that used landscape or soundscape from where to withdraw the character of the musical compositions. Hector Berlioz, Richard Wagner, Claude Debussy, Luigi Russoulo, Olivier Messiaen, George Antheil, Charles Ives, Brian Eno, Steve Reich, were some of the composers that explored this matter creating an immense catalogue of musical forms and sounds that suggested or imitated the natural and mechanical sounds that populated their surroundings (Murray Shaffer, 1979). In the last 40 years a new discipline aroused in the borders of spatial oriented arts (sculpture, installation) and music. Sound Art became a “discipline” that proposes new articulations of site with sound. Since the conceptualization of the Soundscape, the interest in Aural Architecture and its impact in the definition of place, along with Acoustic Ecology, the advent of Noise, the recorded sound and the electronic sound synthesis, new relations between sound and place where achieved, through an artistic point of view not necessarily Musical. In this case and in the margins of the Musical concerto we have a set of works that include the acoustic character of the place, its aural identity (Shaffer, Blesser and Salter…), in their project. The relation of Sound Art with specific venues has been explored in sound installation art (from the late 60s till now), where some historic examples include artists like Max Neuhaus, Alvin Lucier, Janett Cardiff & Georges B. Miller, to Bruce Nauman or Gordon Monahan, who have questioned the notion of “Place” through the use and manipulation of sound in various ways, attempting to put forth an anti-idealist, anticommercial site-specific art, most of the times very close to Performance Art.
Besides the sound-installation works we can also track some examples of site oriented music. One example dates back from the XVIII century such as Handel´s Water Music, and others from the early XXth century till now, like Erik Saties “musique d´ameublement” or “Vexations”, later influencing Cage and Ambient/Minimalist music, or Xenakis who integrated music with architecture designing music for pre-existing spaces, and designing spaces to be integrated with specific music compositions and performances (Philips Pavillion) or Stockhausen who, apart from a vast work on sound spatialization both in Instrumental (Gruppen) or Electronic music, composed the “Helicopter String quartet” where he put up a musical performance that took into account its relation to the specificity of a nonplace surrealistic vision.
Ethnomusicology helped us build a perspective on local/traditional manifestations of music that shaped identities and gave rise to a global identification of local traditional music with its particular instrumentation, musical vocabulary and associated rituals.
These differentiations are only operative to identify trends in the relation of place and music. It is obvious that we can trace works by a lot of composers, musicians and sound artists that include or move in between all of them. Nonetheless they are useful to my proposal as they clarify a group of investigation themes that can help me build a methodology to think site-specificity in musical improvisation.

All musical improvisation, idiomatic or non-idiomatic (Derek Bailey, 1992) as always brought together both players and the audience in the celebration of the moment and place it´s happening in and, to a certain point, elaborating on their relation.
“Improvisation is thinking the moment and acting with it, as a form of intelligence where one is finding or creating relationships between apparently unrelated orders of events (George Lewis, 2011).
Musical improvisation is a a practice based on the assumption of a not determined or not completely determined musical encounter. Be it idiomatic or not, free or with predefined structural constraints, improvisation happens when there is not a certainty on the majority of the musical/sound events, and when these events are given sense in the fluidity of the musicians discourse. This unpredictability and indeterminacy is confronted with attention, effort of adaptation, awareness both by improvisers and audience. When seen as a political practice, it proposes an “arena” holding a ritual for communal “construction”, where aspects of human encounter can be found, experienced and thought upon.
“When improvising participants are committed to giving sense to themselves and others, and although committed to the sonic realm their practice is addressing larger questions of identity and social organization, as well as creating politically inflected, critically imbued aesthetic spaces (George Lewis, Columbia Lecture, 2011).
In all historical periods we can trace, in different forms, the importance of improvisation and its status in relation to written music. In the XXth century a major development was achieved in western improvisation through its importance in the newly born Jazz idiom. In contemporary classical music we started having echoes of improvisation after 1950 when several composers started giving more freedom to interpreters (in undetermined or less determined scores). The first half of the century is actually marked by an almost total absence of improvisation whereas we can say that after 1950 improvisation achieved once again its relevance as a very important practice among all kinds of music and musicians. (ex: Stockhausen, Cage, Feldman, etc…) Musical Improvisation due to its “here and now” character assumes that the moment and place of its execution are very important features and envelopes for the improvisation, many times helping or conditioning the improviser “sculpting” the sonic events in its timbre and duration relating it to aural character of the spaces, and other times socially and culturally contextualising the vocabulary being used.
“For a musical work created and performed in situ to be truly consistent with its venue (which is to say, specific to that venue) the creator must bring a significant sensitivity to those factors which, because of their interaction with any musical presence, act precisely to define that location in sonic terms. Essentially, these are: sonic content (natural, human or mechanical noises) and resonance. These aspects are by no means static, so the preparation of a “site-specific” sonic work necessarily involves recognising the processes of change, which are continually occurring at that site. (Robert) Smithson spoke of a “geological scale” to describe the extremely slow rate of change in the environments where he produced his work, and in this sense the trajectory of his Spiral Jetty is an eloquent example of interaction between a “site-specific” work and its location. However, the sonic aspects of a location generally exhibit a much faster rate of change. The sound content changes continually, and often in a cyclical way, while the resonance can also vary, sometimes surprisingly. ” (Wade Mathews, 2002)
Improvisation is a practice relevant to many types of music and some of them relate to the traditional musical heritage of a community, place or even a nation. Derek Bailey refers to this kind of improvisation, which follows a previously determined musical vocabulary (harmony and rhythm) with specific instrumentation, as Idiomatic:
“I have used the terms “idiomatic” and “non-idiomatic” to describe the two main forms of improvisation. Idiomatic improvisation, much the most widely used, is mainly the concerned with the expression of an idiom – such as Jazz, flamenco or baroque – and takes its identity and motivation from that idiom. Nonidiomatic improvisation has other concerns and is most usually found in so called “free” improvisation and, while it can be highly stylised, is not usually tied to representing an idiomatic identity.”
Derek bailey 1992
When referring to non-idiomatic improvisation we can propose that one´s owned and acquired musical language can be regarded as a “place” that can be authentically, or critically, revealed through improvisation. Both individual and group improvisation may create a sense of place either unself-consciously or deliberately. Musical improvisation is a cultural practice that due to its nomadic and essentially inquiring and communicative nature can be very operative in the translation of the assumption, made by Miwo Kwon, in relation to today´s site-oriented practices (One Place after Another, 1997) when she states that:
“(…) this means addressing the differences of adjacencies and distances between one thing, one person, one place, one thought, one fragment next to another, rather than invoking equivalencies via one thing after another. Only those cultural practices that have this relational sensibility can turn local encounters into long-term commitments and transform passing intimacies into indelible, unretractable social marks so that the sequence of sites that we inhabit in our life’s traversal does not become genericized into an undifferentiated serialization, one place after another.”


Improvisation is bound to the presence of the performers in the here and now of the happening and in the performance´s inherent dialogical process, with themselves and ultimately with the audience. Improvisation is also a contract on unpredictability. I would say that all improvisatory musical or sonic practices are pre-shaped in these “contracts” (tacit or not). They are what shapes their character, giving it a dramaturgic and cenographic form inasmuch a musical form (or informality). This contract defines, in part ,the musicking aspects of this musical practice.
The level of unpredictability is frequently negotiated depending on several aspects: musicians abilities, musical idioma or aesthetic objectives and these “contracts” have multiple forms (scores, instrumental set-ups, orally shared rules). They are what shape the perspective on the real time development of the musical forms and performative actions. What is foreseeable and what is not, and what are the strategies and outcome of these situations.
The improviser is always seen as a very creative individual.


One of them is what is most commonly called Free Improvisation. A contract in which there are no apriori established rules or directions to where and how the musical discourse should develop. There is just the assumption that whoever is taking part in the “musical meeting” should develop its discourse in the playing process, engendering a inescapable “dialogue” with its partners, with no pre-determined roles or hierarchies (Prevost 1995). Therefore there is a “controlled anarchy” being put into place, and the focus is on the “event” itself, on the “encounter” taking place and shaping itself on those shared moments. It proposes music as an event and not a product (e.g. object). And it has a huge focus on self-expression. (???) The result of these encounters is the sharing or conflict (Watson 2004) of our “own” selves as musicians, expressing our own particularities, idiosyncrasies, compositional and performative abilities, to put up a common musical event.
This is the most “radical” and informal of the improvisation contracts in the latitude of unpredictability it proposes, both for players and audiences, and the implications that this contract has in the politics of the musical performative and formal aspects, is considerable. Since its first “appearances” with an historical definition (around the 1960´s) it has been maintained as a practice far away from the mainstream musical areas but it has spread around the globe.

see chapter 2 “TERRITORIAL LISTENING: HEARING AND LISTENING” when free improvisation is referred: I´m specially interested in debating that the latter implies a type of awareness that will include performative procedures from free improvisation (*contextualised in the first chapter) specially in:
1. the listening discipline,
2. the approach to sonic content “control” (i.e. composition) and
3. the specificities of one´s own musical vocabulary and syntax.

“(In Free improvisation) situations that lead to unexpected results are welcome rather than avoided or managed. Free improvisation can be seen as an activity of navigation instead of production as each momentt introduces new possibilities and the artist navigates through these trajectories. The sounds of free improvisation can be understood less as musical objects but as “an environment of gestures”, artifacts that trace the after-image of a process, but which also preserve the suggestion of unactualized possibilities.”
Yang, Justin “Free improvisation and the Uncertainty Principle”, in Soundweaving:writings on improvisation / edited by F. Shroeder and Michéal O hAodha. pg.92

“- But what is free improvisation? – Free improvisation is improvised music without any rules… beyond the taste or inclination of the musicians involved. In many cases the musicians make an active effort to avoid references to recognizable musical genres. The term “free improvisation” is paradoxical. It can be both as a technique to avoid rigid genres and as a recognizable genre in itself. In any case, none of its exponents can be said to be famous amongst the general public. “
Part of the text used by Diego Chamy at the the performance “This is Axel Dörner” by Axel Dörner & Diego Chamy – performance at alberto ukebana, Berlin
“In both Europe and the United States, improvisation, and free jazz in particular, was widely viewed as symbolic of a dynamic new approach to social order that would employ spontaneity both to unlock the potential of individuals, and to combat oppression by hegemonic and racist political and cultural systems (see Bourges, 1968; Carles & Comolli, [1971] 2000; Globokar, 1972, 29 – 30; Willener, 1970)”.

Lewis, George E. “Improvisation and the Orchestra: A Composer Reflects.” Contemporary Music Review 25, no. 5 (2006): 429.


Free improvisation has very different practitioners and aesthetical approaches (drone, reductionism,…) but as a “genre” it has its own historical lineage, and this reflects in the different strategies for free improvisation used by its contemporary practitioners.
Saying it has “no rules” can be both right or very misleading. Lets trace some of its fundamental background contexts.
Free jazz –
“FREE JAZZ – THR FREEDOM PRINCIPLE” jazz after 1958 – john litweiler
Post punk noise
Psychedelic rock
Post war European music – serialism …. Spectralism
Electronic music – synthesis and noise – generative music – spatialization
Soundscape studies – acoustic ecology
All of these backgrounds somehow opened ways for what at the moment and place of the appearance of Free Improvisation as non-idiomatic (derek bailey), could be defined as ways of avoiding “musical genres”, opening way to the “sound in itself approach”. (This has aesthetic and political consequences…) Specially it cleared the path for a transnational musical context where local musical traditions, local/nationalistic musical traces, could be somehow obliterated in favor of a free improvisation “Lingua Franca”, mostly attuned with atonality (e.g melodic, harmonic, rhythmic), spectralism, instrumental concretism, noise, new and experimental acoustic and electroacoustic instruments, integration of “space” as a musical parameter, electronic synthesis and recordings sampling.
Other examples… of an older generation…
“Robin Hayward: in the years preceding the development of the microtonal Tuba, I had been focusing almost exclusively on noise production while playing the tuba. Pitches were not banned but when they occurred I treated them in the same way as I treated noise: the focus was on the intrinsic quality of the sound itself and not on the relationships between sounds.(…)”
“Pitches treated as Noise” – Interview with Arie Altena published in Travelling Time in February 2012

This is an aesthetic and political agenda that is aligned with “vanguardist” way of thinking and therefore a final modernist attempt to obliterate disciplinary frontiers, hierarchical organization of musical performances, with a consequent structural informality and an atomization of the musical experience and practice: Individual nomad improvisers that move around playing with each other in different places (sometimes around the globe) that share a common “musical language” or, at least, agree and share the basic common ground of free improvisation, with a frequent disregard of the “musical specificities” of the places they play in. Although this might be a way of defining the “non site-specificity” of this musical practice it is also true that there a lot of examples of musicians who reflect through their musical free improvising practice notions of place and site or context specificity (e.g. Wade Mathews, Jean Luc Guionnet, etc…). The difference is that these musicians have a sonic_musical approach to place that doesn´t see “folk or trad” music as the primary sonic reflection of place. These contemporary musicians understand place in a much more fluid and dynamic way and therefore apply methodologies and strategies much more adaptive to the continuos confrontation of their nomad practice with the places and other musicians they encounter along the way.
These practices can be defined in two distinct approaches, although in some cases they cohexist:
Topographical approach to improvisation where the architecture, its acoustic properties, and the soundscape are enhanced by the qualities of the musical discourse.
Happening only in group performances: The particularities of the musicans musical vocabulary and how their confront influence the overall aesthetics of the musical performance, and what strategies are applied in these meetings. In this case the notion of “place” is much more dependent on the transient community created by that encounter and less on the spatial character of the venue.
In some cases these two approaches collide and superimpose creating very rich and fleeting situations.


Free improvisation contexts usually deal with very brief span of time to prepare the concerts. Usually musicians, who are already “authorized and innitiated in this “world”, just meet to play. This is one way to free improvise and its fundamentals lie on a total predisposition for “almost” total unpredicability of the musical outcome. In my perspective this is also a very particular approach to a “sense of place”, or more accurately to a “sense of being in place”: both audience and performers are involved in the here and now of the sonic appearance. They are all witnessing the ensembles musical object “forming” in the same exact place and moment. Although we shouldn´t forget that this is a corollary of the individual practices and trajectories of each of the musicians. Sometimes there is a fealing that they don´t connect: this feeling of being in place is extremelly subjective but dominates the appreciations of both audience and musicians. But from my experience it is crucial for the understanding and interpretation of the shared experience of a free improvisation concert.
Other free improvisation musicians prefer, or also practice, a more continuous and long-term ensemble practice. They maintain regular rehearsals and regular concert dates where they explore their individual particularities and idiossincrasis in the group. Sometimes they act almost as a solo musician by having ad-hoc gigs with invited musicians (e.g. RED TRIO+Nate Wooley, MOTION TRIO+Peter Evans, CACTO+Shiori Usui, PINKDRAFT+Angelica Salvi, etc..). These are situations where free improvisation is involved in the creation of a sonic mark for each ensemble. The regular practice of the group implies a very strong fluidity in the group performance, which doesn´t imply a pre composed set (e.g. music) but more of a “pre-determined” environment of gestures (justin Yang 2012) that are characteristic of the group´s music. Therefore when an outside musician is invited, he_she is invited to momentarily inhabit that “soundscape” (e.g. environment). The expectations of these meetings if not purely “political” and “aiming legitimacy”, is usually based on a conviction that a strong ahestetical encounter night take place during the concert. That the same sense of “being in place” might rise.???
These categories most of the times superimpose: an individual musicain thends to have is long term group(s) and at the same time maintain a nomad group practice.

Duets are very common free improvisation formations since they are the first to put in motion the possibility of “conversation”. This is a concept that pressuposes that two players develop some kind of musical dialogue: call and response in its most common mode. (develop to methods of confrotation..)

2. This is a “genre” with a clear political agenda: Music that places the individual in the center of all musicking and therefore establishing the notion that composer and interpreter are the same and happening in “real time”.

Free improvisation has always been akin to be practiced in one-time ensembles and places, therefore a lot of its practitioners are constantly travelling and playing “their music” in different situations. The nomadism of its practitioners is almost a perfect state of musicking: the constant flow, the “errance reanime la vie personnelle et comunitaire” (frederico casalegno sobre Du Nomadism… Michel Mafesoli.(…)puts them in constant touch with the “other” and therefore with themselves, always escaping definitions, always in formation: travellers.
“Cette vie errante, jubilatoire à plus d’un titre, est celle d’une nouvelle Quête du Graal, dont l’ambiance passionnelle sert de matrice à la vie politique. À l’encontre d’une conception progressiste d’un monde en perpétuelle évolution, elle fait l’expérience du tragique et de la tension permanente, celle de l’être toujours en devenir, ce «vrai voyageur» dont nous parle le poète, qui «sans savoir pourquoi dit toujours: allons».
“Nouveau millénaire, Défis libertaires”
Michel Maffesoli 1997 Du nomadisme – vagabondages initiatiques.
Coll. «Biblio-Essais», L.G.F. Paris: Livre de Poche. Note de lecture par Georges Bertin

“ In Twombly, and Free improvisation, the moment of creation is an act of navigation, what anthony Braxton calls “the mystery of navigation through form” (Braxton 2001). Improvisers are engaged in a process of creation and discovery, moving through virtual entities, and the products, the sounds or marks, are byproducts of this process.”
Yang, Justin “Free improvisation and the Uncertainty Principle”, in Soundweaving:writings on improvisation / edited by F. Shroeder and Michéal O hAodha. pg.92
“In free improvisation the performance is a context, a vehicle for navigation. An experience of free improvisation is an experience of a mouvement through discovery, from both the experiencer and the artist´s perspective.
This nomad characters contrast with the existence of very strong and local communities, localised specially in urban centres, with their own particular venues and practitioners, usually coming from different musical backgrounds but using this contexts to elaborate on their “individual and unique musical voice”. (???quote missing)
….also develop commentary on the group music making in free improv context (historical: John Stevens search and reflect and other orchestral_large ensemble strategies). What are the differences from traditional jazz gruops and hierarchical divisions from solo and rythm sections, and how this reflects a broader impact on musical form and structure…
Richard Scott on SME 67 recording says: “While in many respects the album mantains the feeling, influence and memory of modern jazz, it also represents an act of desintegration: form, harmony, rhythm, the instrumental divisoun of labour, phrasing and interaction are all heard on their way to becoming something other, expressing new principles quite distinct from the dialogism and contrapuntalism of jazz.”
Victor shonfeld on 68 SME PERFORMANCE: “(they were) concerned with eliminating not just dominant individual contributions but individual parts as such. Each man plays responses to the other´s work rather than his own and seems careful to avoid either imposing his own pattern on the music or using other´s playing as a background for self-contained, self-expressing statement (shonfield 1968)
“Soundweaving”, shroeder… pag 97 The molecular imagination….”
*1 – Theory of the Dérive
1.One of the basic situationist practices is the dérive,(1) a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiences. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll.
2.In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. Chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think: from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones.
3. But the dérive includes both this letting-go and its necessary contradiction: the domination of psychogeographical variations by the knowledge and calculation of their possibilities. In this latter regard, ecological science, despite the narrow social space to which it limits itself, provides psychogeography with abundant data.


Free improvisation and site-specificicity seem to have a shared utopian thinking. ??

_Two concepts with different disciplinary backgrounds that share an ethics of the local.
_Two adaptive creative strategies that aim for a dynamic inquiry of the context in which the event is put into place.

Free improvisation is a term sufficiently open to encapsulate all kinds of metaphors of freedom, excess and informality, fluidity to conceptualize it. It´s probably one of the musical practices more filled with an utopian igualitarian discourse concerning the creative process and its politics. (??? needs further development on the principle of “equality” and power relations inside this context..)
ver: “Dicionário das Utopias”
The notion of Utopia characterizes and influences much of the free improvisation practice in what what it can integrate the anarchist thinking and practice (explore and investigate its multiple forms and possible conections).
Develop the notion and Utopia and that of Horizon… both impossibilities! Maybe interesting to connect conceptually the two.


(A) site-specific free improvisations and (B) site-specific sound installation??: example_projects

RAINFOREST – David Tudor

Sounds electronically derived from the resonant characteristics of physical materials.

First version (1968), a sound-score for Merce Cunningham’s dance work of the same name, established a means of sound transformations without the use of electronic modulation: the source sounds, when transmitted through the physical materials, will be modified by the resonant nodes of those materials.

Fourth version (1973): A collaborative environmental work, spatially mixing the live sounds of suspended sculptures and found objects, with their transformed reflections in an audio system.

“In the first version, I made objects which I could travel with. The object were so small, however, that they didn’t have any sounding presence in the space, so I then amplified the outputs with the use of contact microphones. Then for the second version, I wanted to have a different kind of input… because for the first I had used oscillators that made animal and bird-like sounds. In the second version I wanted to use a vocal input to the system, the natural resonance of the object and its subsequent amplification. Its a kind of mechanical filter.

The third version had to deal with the ability to have any input go to any transducer. I made that system for a simultaneous performance with John Cage (Mureau). It was one of those pieces that changes all the time so I needed to have a sort of continuous thing, so I used tape sources, but having the ability to mix them or separate them into different output channels.

So the next step was “Rainforest IV”… the object was to make the sculptures sound in the space themselves. Part of that process is that you are actually creating a an environment. The contact mikes on the objects pickup the resonant frequencies which one hears when very close to the object, and then are amplified through a loudspeaker as an enhancement.” (this transcription is partially edited from the original)

– David Tudor, form interview by John Fullemann 10/12/85

“My piece, “Rainforest IV”, was developed from ideas I had as early as 1965. The basic notion, which is a technical one, was the idea that the loudspeaker should have a voice which was unique and not just an instrument of reproduction, but as an instrument unto itself. an offer came, which didn’t get realized, but I was asked to make a proposal for a park in Washington. The ideas was to have a sounding outdoor sculpture, so my mind began turning around. I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be wonderful if each sculpture sounded completely different from the other and the whole could be run by one machine which could be like a commutator.’

I eventually acquired some devices called audio transducers. They were first developed for the US Navy because they needed a device which could sound above and under the water simultaneously. I went to see the manufacturer of these devices and they gave me several samples. They later produced a commercial version. I had them in 1968 when MC asked me for a dance score and I decided that I would try to do the sounding sculpture on a very small scale. I took these transducers and attached them to very small objects and then programmed them with signals from sound generators. The sound they produced was then picked up by phono cartridges and then sent to a large speaker system. Several different versions of this piece were produced.

In 1973 I made “Rainforest IV” where the objects that the sounds are sent through are very large so that they have their own presence in space. I mean, they actually sound locally in the space where they are hanging as well as being supplemented by a loudspeaker system. The idea is that if you send sound through materials, the resonant nodes of the materials are released and those can be picked up by contact microphones or phono cartridges and those have a different kind of sound than the object does when you listen to it very close where it’s hanging. It becomes like a reflection and it makes, I thought, quite a harmonious and beautiful atmosphere, because wherever you move in the room, you have reminiscences of something you have heard at some other point in the space. It’s (can be) a large group piece actually, any number of people can participate in it. It’s important that each person makes their own sculpture, decides how to program it, and performs it themselves. Very little instruction is necessary for the piece. I’ve found it to be almost self-teaching because you discover how to program the devices by seeing what they like to accept. Its been a very rewarding type of activity for me. It’s been done by as large a group as 14 people. So that was how our Rainforest was done.”

-David Tudor, from An Interview with David Tudor by Teddy Hultberg in Dusseldorf, May 17-18, 1988.


Markus Keiser (cello)

Ellen Fulman

Fred Lonberg-holm

Jean Luc guionnet

Wade Mathews

Taku Sugimoto (guitar+sounds of rain in space) –
the list given by Martin Parker

Bennett Hogg – When violins were trees…

Agostino di Scipio – Audible Ecosystemics no.1 (Impulse Response Study)

peter brotzman: playing in the woods

Akio Suzuki: …becoming part of the landscape… as a plant growing in that place…

Japanese sound artist Akio Suzuki – during a visit to London – exploring the acoustic of the Walthamstowe Marshes railway bridge. One of 3 small films made by Helen Petts.

WIRE review of Resonant Spaces : John Butcher
from the album: Resonant Spaces (2008)
In 2006, UK promoters Arika invited John Butcher to tour a number of out of the way spaces in Scotland. The venues, selected for their extreme acoustic properties, included a mausoleum, a wartime fuel storage tank and a cave. This resulting album grows out of the saxophonist’s interest in escaping the acoustic confines of conventional venues – work with resonant spaces is documented on the earlier The Geometry of Sentiment and Cavern with Nightlife. Butcher plays tenor and soprano saxophones, sometimes adding feedback and amplification. Such site-specific performances are unrepeatable, of course, but the CD shows that you didn’t have to be there to get what he’s doing.
Also on the tour was Japanese sound artist Akio Suzuki and, at times, something akin to Suzuki’s meditative attentiveness to spatialised sound is apparent on the album. But the exciting thing about the release is how Butcher attacks the spaces: each of the improvisations is highly attuned to the acoustic characteristics of the venue, with Butcher improvising dialogues with the ghostly sonic contours of the playing environment. Many of the tracks allow gaps between sounds for the venue’s resonances to be heard, though “Calls from a Rusty Cage” suddenly leaps into whirling circular breathing with a flamboyant glissando (which, weirdly enough in this fairly extreme context, recalls the opening to Rhapsody in Blue). The feedback effects are particularly impressive, but everything from the skeletal rattle of saxophone keys to upper register whistles and stentorian foghorn blast is explored.
Importantly, Butcher’s improvisations never sound as if the saxophonist is wearing a labcoat. The developing musical thought is always kept in view. What we hear is the performer interacting with unusual spaces, transforming our awareness of them as he does so. So you really didn’t have to be there, you can buy this instead – it’s a triumph.

Ken Vandermark Louisville studio sessions: solo site specific improvisations… needs tracking

martin kuchen + mats gustafsson –

MARK DRESSER technics on bass

Paul Horn – Clarinet / INSIDE taj Mahal (1968)

MUSICS nº20 (MUSICS A British Magazine of Improvised Music and Art 1975-79)
December 1978 – MUSIC/CONTEXT festival reviews.

Derek Bailey & Dave Holland ‘Improvisations For Cello And Guitar’ (January 1971)

: two microterritories… develop this idea????

television cello_ naum jun paike_ charlotte morman…
transducers and object recollection
David Tudor Rainforest

Auscultação do corpo do instrumento
Alvin Lucier: silver streetcar for the Orchestra
Cage: 0´00´´
John Butcher: Invisible ear 2003
Mark Dresser: “UNVEIL” clean feed: amplification system and composition
John Eckardt: Xylobiont

Lachanmenn: pression_solo cello and other instruments
Scelsi: Ko-Tha: Three dances of Shiva (1967) (Guitar treated as a percussion instrument
Martine Altenburger: cello / Le Quan Ninh: percussion

Felicie Bazelaire HITS

cello / bow sensors


In jazz, bassists Oscar Pettiford and Harry Babasin were among the first to use the cello as a solo instrument; both tuned their instrument in fourths, an octave above the double bass. Fred Katz (who was not a bassist) was one of the first notable jazz cellists to use the instrument’s standard tuning and arco technique. Contemporary jazz cellists include Abdul Wadud, Diedre Murray, Ron Carter, Dave Holland, David Darling, Lucio Amanti, Akua Dixon, Ernst Reijseger, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Tom Cora, Vincent Courtois, John O’Keefe, Stephan Braun, Jean-Charles Capon, Erik Friedlander, Enrico Guerzoni and James Hinkley of jazz combo Billet-Deux.


Solo album: Gumption in Limbo
(track 2: burning hoop)
track 5: big cell _ background pedal



Choice of Flombergh holm:
A tip of the hat has to go immediately to past heroes of improvised celli include Fred Katz (Spotify: Fred Lonberg-Holm Trio – A Valentine For Fred Katz), Abdul Wadud (Spotify: Abdul Wadud – Live In New York), Charlotte Moorman, Calo Scott, Sam Jones and, of course, Tom Cora (Spotify: John Carter (Tom Cora m.fl.) – The US Concerts).
Some of the living breathing cellists I pay attention to include: Diedre Murray, Hank Roberts (Spotify: Jim Black, Marc Ducret, Hank Roberts – Green), Helena Espvall (Spotify: Helena Espvall – Nimis & Arx), Martin Schütz (Spotify: Martin Schütz – Shy Csárdás), Tristan Honsiger (Spotify: Cor Fuhler, Michael Moore, Tristan Honsinger – Air Street), Thomas Ulrich, Tomika Reed, Peggy Lee, and many many others. I am sure I have forgotten more than a few (and at least one of them will be pissed) but I think you get the idea.

Luciano Berio’s Sequenza XIV, for solo cello

Kaija Saariaho – Spins and Spells
Karolina Öhman, Cello
Extended Techniques for Strings: Kaija Saariaho and Anssi Karttunen Workshop

Nikos Veliotis: Cello Powder [the complete works for cello] is a 2008-2009 project in two parts:
Part 1 – recording: The sonic range of the cello was divided into 100 quarter tones. Every quarter tone was recorded for one hour. During this hour volume and timbre changed [from soft to very loud plus pure tone to noise and back]. The sonic result e.g. 100 one hour drones was mixed into one audio file called “the complete works for cello” and pressed onto a 100 cds.
Part 2 – performance: The cello used in the recording was destroyed [turned into powder] in front of a live audience while “the complete works for cello” was played back through speakers. The powder was used to fill jars of approximately 250ml labeled, numbered and sealed. The performance took place during the 2009 INSTAL festival in Glasgow on March 21st.


In the sequence of this lineage of artistic works/projects/practices I propose a particular perspective on the subject matter, which involves addressing the notion of Territory in my performative-installation practice.