Electric Cowboy Cacophony: A Project for Cross-Genre Free Improvisation

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If Derek Bailey originally saw his music as "non-idiomatic", i.e. not in any recognisable style (for him a strength), he later admitted that free improvisation had itself become an idiom. Electric Cowboy Cacophony is a quartet of musicians from different countries and with distinct musical backgrounds, ranging from rock to avant-garde classical, bluegrass to computer music. In the second half of 2008 they met to record and publicly perform free improvisations that explore difference and similarity, re-injecting some of the foreign elements that many free improvisation practitioners work so hard to avoid.

Above all the group's trans-national/trans-cultural/trans-aesthetic character defines their sound world, but is the result cohesive and convincing eclecticism, or a jarring mish-mash of unconnected stylistic oddities? Alongside audio examples from their recent dual release on DVD-Audio and CD, the success and failure of Electric Cowboy Cacophony's working methods and musical results are presented: from the point of view of practical techniques for music-making, technological innovation and interaction, and, of course, aesthetic/stylistic coherence.


Keywords: Improvisation, Eclecticism, Music, Computer Music, Live Electronics, Guitar, Piano, Banjo, Saxophone, Synthesiser, DVD-Audio, Surround Sound
Stream: Performing Arts Practices: Theatre, Dance, Music
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: , , Electric Cowboy Cacophony


Dr. Michael Edwards

Reader in Music Technology, Music, School of Arts, Culture and Environment, University of Edinburgh
Edinburgh, UK

Born Cheshire, England, 1968. Studied oboe then composition at Bristol University with Adrian Beaumont (1986-91); privately with Gwyn Pritchard; and computer music with John Chowning at CCRMA, Stanford University (1991-96). Consultant software engineer in Silicon Valley (1996-97); Guest Professor at the Universit├Ąt Mozarteum Salzburg (1997-2002); currently Reader at the University of Edinburgh.

Compositional interests lie in the development of algorithmic composition structures for instrumental music and the integration of these within similarly generated computer-processed sound structures and live electronics. Also active as an improvisor on laptop, saxophones, and MIDI wind controller.

Ref: A09P0244