The Utility of Resistance in Environments for Live Performance with Electronics as Part of a Compositional Strategy

James Telford

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The portfolio of compositions and accompanying commentary presented here deal with three key themes: resistance, liveness, and studioness. In the introduction, resistance is split into two forms: aesthetic and practical. Aesthetic resistance is established as a productively disruptive relationship with a perceived set of musical conventions, building on theoretical work by Kohn (1997), Hegarty (2008) and Thompson (2017). Practical resistance is identified in the relationship between performers and their performance environments, inspired by Noise performance practice and Ferguson’s (2013) writing on the subject, where performers perceive unpredictability and instability in their performance environments as resistant to their authorial control. Following Phelan (2005) and Auslander (2012), liveness is found in real-time public renderings of music where performers look to take advantage of the unique affordances of their live performance situation. Studioness is identified in situations where performers make use of the unique affordances of the studio to make work where the studio’s presence is clearly evident.
The portfolio of compositions (comprising two projects: ‘Spectra’ and ‘Slow Loris’) seeks to investigate the relationship between live performance and studio practice in Experimental Electronica. It employs the idea of resistance to help cultivate a condition of liveness within this context. This live practice is then examined in the studio, asking how the resistant qualities of the live material might be expressed in the studio practice? Can these artefacts of resistance be translated into something with an idiomatic studioness? The possibilities of this approach are the focus of both music and commentary. The commentary also deals with resistance in historical and contemporary theorisations of improvisation and live performance with electronics, and expressions of liveness and studioness in Noise and Experimental Electronica, reflecting upon the effectiveness of the author’s compositional methodology and the ongoing relationship between his live practice and studio work.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Parkinson, Tom, Supervisor
  • Lock, Brian, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Nov 2021
Publication statusUnpublished - 2021


  • Liveness
  • Studioness
  • Experimental Electronica
  • Noise
  • Electronic Music
  • Max/MSP
  • Resistance
  • Improvisation
  • live music
  • Ableton Live

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