Improvising polyrhythmic space: exploring a continuum of musico-spatial creative practice

Ham, J 2018, Improvising polyrhythmic space: exploring a continuum of musico-spatial creative practice, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Architecture and Design, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

Title Improvising polyrhythmic space: exploring a continuum of musico-spatial creative practice
Author(s) Ham, J
Year 2018
Abstract My practice as both musician (drums and percussion) and spatial designer (architect) provides a unique perspective from which to explore cross-domain design research. Through a sustained critical enquiry, I explore a continuum of practice that reveals rich territories for investigation within and across the musical domain, the spatial domain and a nascent ‘musico-spatial’ domain.

The research follows two main trajectories: an exploration of the ‘infinite art’ (Berliner, 2009) of improvisation and, working synergistically with this, an exploration of cross-domain representation (XDR). I have based initial research investigations on the development of a methodology of performance of large numbers of drum-based improvisations across representative musical contexts. Curation of these hundreds of musical artefacts reveals the complex polyrhythmic ‘referent’ (Pressing, 1987) patterns and phrases that define my ‘polyrhythmic idiolect’ (Garner, 2017).

Alongside improvisation as methodology, I explored XDR through the development of a flexible parametric framework for a three-dimensional spatial drum notation (3D-SDN) that represents the dynamic note events-in-time of polyrhythmic drumming through a notational representation based on the spatiality of the drum kit and informed by the principles of architectural representation. The ‘affordances’ (Norman, 2002) of the 3D-SDN enhance understandings of polyrhythmic drumming, thus mediating a theoretical musico-perspectival hinge between the music and the understanding of music through notation.

From this foundation, I conduct design research investigations into the XDR of curated drum improvisations as spatial prototypes. Through this series of parametric workflows, I reveal a capacity to generate complex and intricate spatial representations of improvised drumming as polyrhythmic space. These spatialisations act to inform a cross-domain creative practice, but also provide further affordances for the understanding of the complexities and nuances of polyrhythmic drumming. These affordances of the 3D-SDN and spatial prototypes are tested on my own drumming improvisation and in a pilot study using a cohort of drummers of varying styles and expertise.

As a musico-spatial cross-domain practitioner, I explore modalities of drum-based musical improvisation through a series of experimental Digital DrumScape musical pieces and discover the concept of augmented musical improvisation. Moving beyond the ‘known world’ of drumming (Bruford, 2015), I develop new spatial design processes through ‘spatial improvisation’ where the digital drum kit is employed as a generative design tool for the actuation of dynamic note eventsin- time and space. Adapting improvisation as methodology for design research, I reveal a capacity for the real-time design of polyrhythmic space through spatial-thinking-in-action as thinking in space while playing in time where time becomes a critical determinant of spatial design output.

I bring these two trajectories of design research together as musico-spatial improvisation in and of polyrhythmic space through a virtual drumming environment (VDE). This integration of live drumming performance, virtual instrumentation and virtual reality forms the foundation for a new augmented musico-spatial improvisational practice. This dynamic musicospatial environment forms a counterpoint to static cross-domain representations and, together, these provide a repertoire of workflows to inform cross-domain design research through analytical, creative and speculative practice.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Architecture and Design
Subjects Architectural Design
Music Performance
Keyword(s) cross-domain design research
drum notation
spatial design
creative practice continuum:
virtual drumming environment:
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Created: Tue, 14 May 2019, 13:37:15 EST by Keely Chapman
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