Col·loquis Etnomusicologia

Improvising Technology: Virtuosity, machines, and interagency

A càrrec de Jeff Kaiser

Data: 22/05/2018 11:00h.

Organitza: Grup d’Etnomusicologia de l’ICA

Lloc: Sala Fontserè de l’Institut d’Estudis Catalans, carrer del Carme 47, Barcelona.

The paper I will present is part of a larger ethnographic examination of contemporary musicians who improvise with new, repurposed and reinvented electronic technologies, including guitarist Nels Cline, turntablist Maria Chavez, trumpeter and composer Wadada Leo Smith and Robert Henke, one of the original authors of the immensely popular software package Ableton Live, among others. In the larger work, I examine changing notions of agency, instruments and virtuosity in electro-acoustic improvised music, and how the interviewees construct what is valuable and desirable in this emergent practice. In addition to documenting how these creative individuals configure technologies for their own purposes, I also highlight how technologies can configure musicians and musical communities by affording specific ways of creating aesthetic and social value. Musical cultures and communities across time and place are frequently differentiated by geography, by the instruments used, by notions of style or repertoire, and by musical function and venues, among other things. In electroacoustic improvised music (EIM), many of these differentiating elements are blurred, as the music is transnational in emergence and practice, instruments are frequently idiosyncratic, and improvisation arguably de-centers repertoire (“arguably” because non-idiomatic and other forms of improvisation can be viewed as a style, or even possibly as a repertoire of musical gestures). Because of this blurring, the EIM community offers a unique window into how musicians conceptualize their practice and relationship with music technology. For more information, please visit his personal website at

Jeff Kaiser is a music technologist and scholar. As Assistant Professor of Music Technology at the University of Central Missouri’s Center for Music Technology, Kaiser embraces the idea of being an artist/scholar. As a scholar, he is particularly interested in changing notions of agency, instruments, and virtuosity, and how technologies can also configure musicians and musical communities by affording specific ways of creating sonic and social value. He gains inspiration and ideas from the intersections of experimental composition and improvisation and the timbral and formal affordances provided by combining traditional instruments with emerging technologies. The roots of his musical practice are firmly in the experimental traditions within jazz, improvised and Western art music pract ices. He regularly performs throughout the United States, Europe, Mexico, and has recently performed in China. His work is featured on Clean Feed Records, Leo Records, NineWinds, Cuneiform Records and his own label, pfMENTUM, among others.

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