AJIRN 2017- Abstracts


Session 1

Agency – Environment

 Sam McAuliffe

Improvising in the Open: Place and Agency

Unique to the improvised musical work is that composition and performance are ineluctably entwined. The entirety of the artwork unfolds within, and, as I will argue, is informed by, a single location in time-space. It is this relationship between place and improvisation, specifically, how the environment informs a performer’s cognitive decisions while performing, which I explore in this paper. Drawing from Martin Heidegger’s notions of “openness” and the “fourfold”, as well as research in the field of philosophical topography and embodied cognition, I argue that to understand the agency and experience of a performer we must consider their embodiment, or implacement, in the world.


Mace Francis

Trio: Musician; Composer; Site

Can the physical space around us be an active agent and integral member of a musical ensemble? Can the trio of musician, composer and site work together to create a work that can only exist with each member contributing equally?

Unorthodox performance sites offer the opportunity to collaborate musically with the environment in unique and creative ways. Rather than resist the acoustic, aural and physical characteristics of these potential performance spaces, they can become part of compositions and their performances, making them site-specific. Whilst this is common practice in sound art and similar practices, it is less so in formal composition and improvisation. Is it then possible to successfully collaborate with the acoustic and physical characteristics of a specific performance site in a compositional process? Is it possible that the performance site be just as integral to the interpretation of the piece as musicians are considered to be? Composing and performing music in this collaborative way proposes a very different creative process to what composers and musicians generally follow when creating music for traditional performance sites. It relies on the composer and the musicians to not only listening to each other, as they are conditioned to do, but also to the space and sounds around them allowing the agency of their performance environment to openly affect and impact on the performance.

This paper investigates historical examples of this three-way collaborative compositional process between musicians, the composer and the site as well as uses the author’s composition Stairwell to Fifteen (2014) as an example of this form of agency.


Jonathan Day

Genius Loci

I am fascinated by the relationship between improvised elements and more formal repeated aspects/structures within musical composition. As well as the “head and variations” in much jazz playing, this can be heard very extensively in traditional musical cultures from around the world. I do not at all view these musical practices as “early” or “primitive”, instead seeing them often in opposition to the differentiation in Western art music that rather more reflects the latter’s predication on class based hierarchies and a neo-industrial division of labour. Why is improvisation so pervasive and so effective? It allows what Maria Schluter Rodes calls “signposting the transcendent” (as I argued in my recent Jazz, Kant and Zen: Towards a Philosophy of Improvisation published by Brill) because of its insistence on transgression and its playing with the liminal (Corbett, 1995 and Barthes, 1987). It also embodies the “beyond”. Schopenhauer and others (Butler, Phelan) suggest that since persona is a construct in response to the vicissitudes of experience, we may escape that construct through music. We do not leave ourselves or cease to be – we are, as players or “deep” listeners, simply relieved of the imperative to perform our constructed persona for those moments, making improvisation a liberating extension beyond knee-jerk individuation into a numinous space.

What are the inspirations, the seed-germs from which this inspiring “newness” appears? One is clearly the powerful agency of environment/landscape/location. Carl Jung writes “in exceptional states of mind [such as when improvising] the most far-fetched mythological motifs and symbols can appear” (1960:112). I am particularly interested currently in “genius loci” the “spirit of place”. Jung argues for “the unavoidable influences exerted by the environment” and I am deeply intrigued by the agency of environment. In what particular ways does it inspire work? How noticeable – if at all – is it in such works, and does that matter so long as agency/inspiration was encountered? A great number of improvisers acknowledge this inspirational role in their work (Impressions, Coltrane, Sketches of Spain, Davis, Concordances, Charles Chaynes etc.). This relationship will be examined, alongside examples from my own site-specific experimental compositional practice released recently under the title Atlantic Drifter (Niimiika/Proper 2015).


Session 2

Jazz Scenes

Ben Phipps                                                      

Social Organisation and the Musical Practices of Jazz Bass players in Sydney, Australia

While the democratic and agentic social meanings of jazz in relation to U.S history have been widely understood, the everyday experience of performing jazz should not necessarily be characterised in the same way. Performing in jazz ensembles is a complicated experience: one in which musical roles are negotiated, restricted and/or liberated, sometimes in the course of performance as a form of improvisation and at other times in the rehearsal work that surrounds such events. As such the everyday experience of a musician’s career can have a significant effect on the social encoding of appropriate musical performance practices.

Drawing on ethnographic research this paper explores the social expectations, which affect the musical practices of bass players when working for a variety of employers in a role of both accompanist and soloist. It examines the side person role, its benefits, pitfalls and practical realities, suggesting that the relationship between the musical practices, ensemble hierarchies and social meanings of jazz is not always clear. The paper asserts that what governs the practice of bass players is instead a duality of economic imperative and creative desire.


John Fitzgerald and Adam Simmons

Collaboration Across Improvising Genres: Genre Crossing in an Australian Performing Musician Network

Ethnographic literature suggests that in improvised music scenes at least, collaborative music performance is not just an effect of social structure, it is constitutive of social, cultural and professional identity. Performances engage musicians and audiences in an ongoing process of community building through improvisational musical performance. These “performative presentational strategies” are found in the selection of artists and the programming of musical events. They are performative because the events have the potential to create the music communities of which they speak. Maps of collaborative communities also have the potential to not only make social and network relations visible but to construct new lived social realities. Any rendering or map-making needs to be cognisant of the performative dimensions to music performance and to map making itself.

Central to mapping collaborative music worlds is an awareness of the networks of musicians and their characteristics. There are two somewhat competing views of how bounded musicians are to networks and music formations. There is often an under-acknowledgement of musicians who cross genre between jazz and other improvised music worlds.

This mixed-method network and auto-ethnographic study examines the network characteristics and “genre crossing” of 100 performing musicians in Melbourne, Australia.  The musician network has five components (jazz, experimental, new music, roots and pop-mainstream).  There are differences in how the musicians define their own genre, the genre in which they perform and the clusters to which social network analysis classifies them.  Some genre (such as experimental) are discrete components, whereas other performance genre (roots and pop-mainstream) are populated by musicians from a wide range of musical identities. Key influencers in the network often worked across genre. The analysis has consequences for how we understand the performance habits of musicians and how we come to understand the nature of music “scenes”, “worlds” and genre more generally.


Dave Wilson

Making the Jazz Scene in Macedonia: Historiography, Labour, and the Unevenness of Knowing the  World through Sound

“I want to play bebop, straight-ahead jazz. But where would I find an audience for that in Macedonia? Who’s going to pay me for that?” These words, spoken to me by a leading young Macedonian jazz musician, are of a common riff among a small cadre of Macedonian musicians who received undergraduate degrees in jazz studies at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz, Austria. These musicians typically return to Macedonia after their studies with exceptional technical, stylistic, and improvisational skills on their respective instruments, a strong preference for bebop and post-bop, and a dearth of opportunities to make a living performing the music they have come to revere. This paper analyses the ways these particular jazz musicians agentively negotiate the labour available to them as they grapple with competing (but overlapping) definitions of jazz within Macedonia’s small scene. As they privilege specific modes of jazz music making, they position themselves with varying degrees of disdain towards their various labour contexts, which include backing up pop singers on programmes of the state television network, performing traditional music in wedding bands, and teaching at state universities, among others. I bring together Sherry Ortner’s (2006) concept of an “agency of projects” on the margins of power with Steven Feld’s (2012) notion of acoustemology as the “agency of knowing the world through sound” in situating these jazz musicians among broader, transnational networks of who and what constitutes “legitimate” jazz. Based on ongoing fieldwork conducted since 2011, this paper explores not only some of the economically precarious consequences of traditional jazz historiographies promoted in higher education, but also the hopeful ways that jazz musicians, as multiply situated social actors, musically make their worlds at the intersection of competing musical cosmopolitanisms, local legacies of labour, class-based subjectivities, and conceptions of urban superiority.


Session 3

Enabling Improvisation 

Jordan Murray

Rehearsal Strategies for the Enhancement of Agency in Spontaneously Improvised Music

Risjord (2014) argues for an “ecological attunement” in regards to jazz musicians’ behavior within various musical environments. In reference to the modern philosophical holism-individualism debate, he explains that both the micro-foundational approach (individualist) and practice-theoretic approach (holistic) are relevant in an investigation of jazz musicians’ behavior.

My argument in this paper aligns with that proposed by Risjord, that is, a view of agency as an interdependent phenomenon. I argue that realisation of an agent’s own actions is reliant on the immersion in the actions of other agents within a social context. This includes consideration of the impact of one’s actions upon performance objectives such as mutual coordination, shared goals and group aesthetics.

In this paper, I propose and discuss a series of conceptual rehearsal strategies that constitute a method for enhancing interdependent agency in emergent group improvisation. These strategies aim to foster communal ways of listening and organising musical elements in the performance of emergent group improvisation. Spontaneously improvising ensembles provide an interesting platform for observing the relationship between agency and structure and conceptualizing the processes inherent to this music.


Charles MacInnes

How do you Want me to Play That: Agency in the Improvising Contemporary Classical Art Music Ensemble?

This paper presents a compositional framework to address agency in a contemporary classical ensemble improvisation context. The framework aims to solve some of the difficulties associated with introducing improvised practices to musicians accustomed to the score as primary point of entry to a work. Beginning with the assumption that improvisation, regardless of the repertory, adheres to Jeff Pressing’s principle of being referent-guided, I identify which referents might best apply to the contemporary classical ensemble. To do this, I locate methods in scores and recordings of the 1950s and 60s experimentalists, including Earle Brown, Christian Wolff, John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Additionally, I investigate how the tools and materials of more recent improvisatory theory and practice—including free and hybrid forms—can be adapted and applied to reading musicians.

Based on my research working with professional and workshop ensembles, I have developed a framework that consists of a set of symbols to vary the playing techniques of written notes, including altering joins, sustain length and horizontal placement. These are augmented with written performance actions to steer the negotiation and interaction between the ensemble players, including how to adapt, fragment, re-incorporate and deviate from materials within a work. The paper aligns itself with a growing interest from composers and players to see improvisation become a more significant part of the contemporary classical ensemble. The framework seeks to balance the technical with the behavioral and encourage players to move beyond a stream of consciousness approach when improvising textures and solos. The score remains a necessary artefact, provided it serves as a mediator of agency in improvisation and supports the changing roles and expectations of both composer and performer.


Rod Davies

Towards a Practice-based Methodology for the Investigation of Agency within the Vocal Booth

The methods applied to researching the process in which music artists “cover” popular song is a useful departure point for practice-based research into the phenomenon occurring within the actual performance. The main considerations for adapting such models and methodologies are creating an environment conducive to reflective practice and a framework that enables the study to be consistently reproduced. The literature provides mixed methods to study the extent of variance in popular song performance, but I seek a methodology that investigates the quality, the “how” or the “way” that an artist varies (interprets) a piece of music. The recording studio or vocal booth, which plays a central role in the inception and dissemination of performances in popular music is a practical setting for these aims and facilitates detailed examination through recording technology. The vocal booth environment presents several agencies external to the performer, which when utilised affect a performance on both an aesthetic and cognitive level. The physical setting, sonic environment, length of task (e.g. drop-ins, full song performance) and the presence of musicians, studio personal and “others”, all bear affective impact on a particular performance. Reflective journaling (e.g. Johns, 2009), performance cues (e.g. Ginsborg, 2012) and inter-objective comparison (Tagg, 1982) integrate to form a novel methodology that articulates agency through observation of the performance process. This methodology is currently being tested within my own doctoral studies and results are still forthcoming. Such findings will add nuance to our understanding of a practice that is fundamental to performance of popular song, offering pedagogical insights and options for further research.


Session 4

Integrating Creative Process

 Andy Sugg

Agents of Change: The Saxophone after Trane

While it’s common knowledge that John Coltrane transformed jazz improvisation, we know a lot less about how this transformation played itself out in the generation that came after him; and how a few in this generation found in Trane’s music not only something to imitate but, through their own agency, something to stimulate innovation of their own. This presentation tells the story of that innovation in the music of two important sax players of this post-Trane generation: David Liebman and Jerry Bergonzi.  This presentation presents a detailed discussion of solos by Trane, Liebman and Bergonzi on a single repertoire standard. By comparing each solo we come to a clearer understanding of the sources of Trane’s chromaticism. We see how Liebman extends this aspect of Trane’s music to develop a personal and innovative sound of his own. In Bergonzi’s music we see Trane’s innovations take a different track, feeding back into bebop and contributing to the revitalization of that style. This presentation argues that in Liebman’s and Bergonzi’s responses to Trane’s music we hear two key directions in saxophone improvisation, and in jazz improvisation generally, since the 1970s; directions which remain central to the art of jazz improvisation today.


John Mackey

An Extended Application of the Pentatonic Scale in Jazz Improvisation – Proposal of a New Modal Concept

The intention of this research is to explore the harmonic and structural possibilities of the chromatic application of pentatonic scales over various chord sequences. A primary focus of the research entails how the proposal of this new modal concept differs from existing literature on the pentatonic scales and its use in jazz improvisation. The Major Penta-Talvian Modal Concept (MPTMC), anagrammatic in design, is structured in such a way that the improviser can apply pentatonic structures in a graduated fashion. The modal concept involves the superimposition of pentatonic scale structures over a chord to create interest.  One can define the MPTMC as a pentatonic system that is applied in a series of stages, exploring a structured and layered approach to superimposing the pentatonic scale over a given chord. The system is designed around four specific options, giving the improviser various options of chromatic applications. The improviser decides how far away from the parent key they wish to venture. A series of related research sub topics, listed below, will be investigated to provide a well-rounded look at the multitude of pentatonic applications that are available.

This research focuses on the development of improvisatory vocabulary utilizing the pentatonic scale in permutated structures to create blended line construction. I seek to prove the effectiveness/usefulness/practicality of the MPTMC, through the composition of multiple notated examples and explanations of varied combinations of pentatonic scales and scale fragments, and their relationship to chord sequences.

Other research questions will include: What mathematical and formulaic structure underpins the application of the Major Penta-Talvian Modal Concept? How does a soloist, superimposing scale-tone major pentatonic scales over a variety of chord sequences, create vocabulary using the MPTMC?


Tom O’Hallaran

Edit Bunker: a Case for Innovation in Jazz Through Agency of Digital/Moving Image

The incorporation of screens in our daily life is slowly impacting and reshaping our jazz listening experiences. Live feeds from jazz clubs are already trending as an agency of jazz consumption, and we are also exposed to a never-ending feed of live gig snippets and photos, promotional clips for upcoming gigs/latest releases and amateurs performing seminal jazz solos. Are new methods to engage with the digital image and jazz performance more relevant now than ever before? Are composers and performers of jazz now able to be agencies of intentional works that embrace this extra dimension of multi-media?

The possibilities of digital and moving image within many other contemporary art practices are well known (Rugg et. al., 2007, Sukla, 2001). This paper will consider the impact of utilizing images as an agent for innovation within jazz performance. It will begin by briefly positioning jazz within the multi-media and music performance paradigm, and also investigate any past and present “jazz” works that have embraced this as an integrated conceptual focus. A brief description and case study of the American group Edit Bunker will then be used to present current technologies, and from which to propose possible extensions of these for application within varied jazz settings.

The paper will argue that by exploring conventional presentations of modern jazz and additional meanings (through symbols; such as political protest, confronting images of love, loss or more abstract and conceptual representations of data through moving image) – we prime the creative and experimental spectrum of jazz with new possibilities for impact in the 21st century. Further, that this could contribute to wider notions and agency of jazz (including a more diverse range of participants) will be explored, and possible implications of this such as genre blurring, inter-textuality and multi-disciplinary outcomes and approaches.


Session 5

Agency in Performance

Robert Burke

Mapping Agency in an Improvisational Setting

Fundamentally, the notion of agency is based on the capacity to have an effect.  This paper argues that in an experimental improvised music environment, a musician exercises the capacity to affect various elements of a performance in a purposefully innovative way. It aims to develop a composite understanding of agency as a contributing factor to the dynamically unpredictable moment of creation.

This paper explores and maps some of the aspects of improvisation in which a musician exercises agency by considering a short segment of experimental music from a range of perspectives. These include illusive notions such as choice, indeterminacy, expertise, intention and the interactive dynamic of the known and unknown. As functions of the ephemeral moment of creation, the concepts may be porous and mutable. Ultimately, the paper concludes that the potential of “what is” and effect of “what was” contain the possibility of a myriad of reactions and that innovation in experimental music precipitates creativity.


Paul Williamson

How Can Re-Interpretative Decisions Contribute to Agency Within Jazz Performance?

A composition can influence jazz ensemble performance by the way it is notated, the musical materials used, its suitability for the individual practitioners, and the space it allows for interpretation, interaction, and flexibility within performance. The agency of the performer in developing reinterpretations of jazz standards was explored through partially notated arrangements and improvisations within the development and performance of two recordings by the Paul Williamson Quartet.

The aim of this study was to explicate the ways in which individual and collective agency is shaped by focusing on how the reinterpretations affected the performers’ choices and, conversely, the effect performers’ choices had on ensemble improvisation.

The arrangements and performances were guided by referents and refined by real-time performance decisions. This approach facilitated increased flexibility within the reinterpretations with specific melodic, harmonic and rhythmic referents acting as signifiers. These signifiers in turn provided an identifiable commonality between the otherwise antithetical frameworks of traditional and free jazz improvisation that co-exist on these recordings, facilitating a novel creative work.  This artistic research considered agency in relation to the intention, goals and subsequent choices made by the individuals and ensemble in jazz performance through practice-led and heuristic methodologies.


Session 6

Agency in Artistic Research Performance

 Fiona Burnett

Agency in Twenty First Century Improvisation: Freedom and Restraint the Duality within Artistic Practice of the Performer- Composer

Agency in Twenty First Century Improvisation investigates notions of duality, through the study of the creative process, inspiration and the individualization of the personal voice in improvisation. Key concepts of freedom and restraint are explored in a creative context that facilitate tension and release within the context of improvisation.

Through this investigation of improvisational process, key questions are explored that facilitate the examination of personal voice and identify the creative or generative agency of specific stylistic influences. Questions examined include: To what extend does creative freedom find expression within the process of improvising? What type of structures can be, or need to be developed and, or identified to facilitate the spontaneous nature of improvisation? How significant is the process of restraint upon the spontaneous improvisation and how is this measured and, or analyzed?  Does the process of improvisation change depending on preconceived outcomes such as duration, key centers and rhythmic or thematic devices?

The examination of relevant personal factors, and my current musical syntax are central to this investigation, where multiple agents can be identified in forming a unique set of aesthetic outcomes.  Equally significant is the recognition of the duality inherent in my experience of the creative process of improvisation and how these often contrasting elements of freedom and restraint coalesce to inform my personal voice in improvised music. Short musical examples will be performed throughout this presentation.


 Nicole Canham and Karlin Love

Improvising a Life After Research: Making Things Happen or Letting them Happen? 

While the field of practice-led research is rapidly growing, and models of improvisatory processes have proliferated, the uneven distribution of competencies that often occurs in practice-led research settings is less well-explored.  Theories of expertise illustrate stages through which competence develops, but what of situations where skills within a single individual differ greatly?  Practice-led research often highlights collisions between skills, beliefs, values, and varying levels of expertise, mirroring the kinds of tensions experienced in career learning in creative professions.  We came to our PhDs as professional musicians.  Research has enriched, challenged, and confused our practice.  Post-PhD, we are active in music and research, and experience the dissonance of differing levels of expertise in these areas of our work lives. As we dance between ‘charting the course’ and ‘riding the wave’ we have wondered how the cumulative learning that takes place in practice-led research settings may be better understood and harnessed as a tool for both investigation and for navigating professional life.

‪ In this paper, we report on early stages of an improvisation-based musical collaboration.  The first phase of our collaboration explores and compares our researched understandings of career learning and professional development with our work together as musicians. Improvisation offers an environment that has provided us with considerable agency as performers and producers.  It also provides an avenue for understanding learning beyond the music-making sphere.  In the work of comedian, Tina Fey, researchers MacDonald and Wilson, broader theories of expertise developed by Dreyfus and Benner, and Krumboltz’s happenstance learning theory, we observe similarities between approaches to improvisation in music and to improvisation in life.  Using our collaboration as a case study, we propose a framework for professional/career learning that mirrors our musical improvisations, and may provide a hopeful metaphor for other creative workers looking for artistic models of professional agency.


Session 7

Post Graduate

Danilo Rojas

Practice and Research of the Cueca to Jazz and Improvisation

Articulation and cultural identity of contemporary Bolivian music and phenomenological case study of my personal contribution as composer and performer.

The Cueca is dance, poetry and music which is a cultural expression of Latin America.  My post graduate study has been an investigation of the important elements of the Bolivian Cueca, it’s history, development and geographical journey alongside a creative element of practice-based research coming from an analysis of my first professional recordings of Cueca/Jazz Improvisation leading to new compositions.

An ethnographic and musical analysis of the Bolivian Cueca (structure, rhythm, harmony, melody and improvisation) will be provided from the first pioneers and influential composers and interpreters Simeon Roncal (pianist, 1870-1953) and José Lavadenz (mandolinist, 1883-1967) along with an auto-ethnografic reflection of my relationship with my cultural identity as a composer, performer and son of the Bolivian composer Gilberto Rojas (1916-1983). Phenomenological contextual analysis of my 2005 recording of “Chuquisaquenita” in the CD/DVD “Lunar” and findings from the practise based research which led me to understand what elements I had adopted from the pre-mentioned composers to then create and spontaneously engage jazz and improvisation techniques within the Cueca to take it towards a new genre.

The presentation will include a performance of new Cuecas I have composed as part of the creative element of practice research inspired by my personal vision as a Bolivian currently living in Melbourne Australia, in a multicultural context while considering the development process of the Australian jazz accent highlighting the cross cultural notions of agency we encounter as musicians within globalised jazz.


Dan Sheehan

The Improvisational Etude: A Model for Creative Practice

This paper investigates the adaption of the classical piano etude and proposes a model for the “improvisational etude” as a tool for creative practice in an improvised solo piano format. The etude is a well-established and highly diverse genre within the classical repertoire, having served pedagogical and skills development purposes since its emergence early in the nineteenth century. It is proposed, however, that the genre still offers further potential for application within contemporary improvised music, and particularly for individual practitioners as a reflective strategy for personal artistic growth. Drawing on recent performance work by Philadelphia-based pianist Matt Mitchell, as well as documented practices within the jazz tradition, this practice-based research demonstrates how the combination of didactic strategy, composition and improvisation can produce idiosyncratic outcomes in performance. With reference to an original folio of improvisational etude scores, as well as recorded performances, I consider the impact of the improvisational etude model on my practice, both in terms of particular skills gained and, more significantly, how this has led to a better understanding of process and outcome within my practice.


Greg Stott

Thinking Like a Drummer: A Work in Progress for Guitar Improvisation

As a student of jazz guitar one is likely, at some point in their development, to be told “try thinking like a drummer”. This general advice has been offered to me for any number of reasons but it has prompted me to explore the possibilities of guitar-specific adaption of drum-set pedagogical methods, and drummers’ approaches to vocabulary development and improvisation.

In this paper I present a work-in-progress summary of selected aspects of my practice-led research. I will focus on my guitar-based models of abstraction, as applied to the vocabulary of the rudimental snare drum tradition and the jazz drum-set tradition. I propose the models of Procedural Abstraction and Representational Abstraction as frameworks for conceiving of new vocabulary and improvisational approaches inspired by instruments other than your own. This avenue of inquiry was borne of a fascination with improvising drummers and many informal, post-gig discussions about how they develop vocabulary and prepare for improvisational possibilities. I have developed my personal abstraction processes to give procedural focus to aspects of my continuing idiolectic evolution.

In summary, Procedural Abstraction focuses on process-based considerations where the direct substitution of executable variables is foremost. In contrast, Representational Abstraction posits the technical execution and processes as secondary to the importance of the representational qualities of the abstraction result. Figurative verisimilitude is desirable in the translation of the material and the means of achieving the similarities in presentation are not always the result of directly translated processes.

Selected examples of my practice will be presented as a kind of personal pedagogy for development of this way of thinking about my practice. These examples will also be discussed in the context of the larger scale works being developed as part of the research process. This process of creative exploration gives agency and focus to my pursuit of an expanded vocabulary and musical identity as an improvising musician.


Session 8

Post Graduate

Alfredo Lopez

Jazzing: Intuition and Intellect

Jazz as a creative act is distinct, not so much in style but in its performance as a music and as a verb. Musical material contained within a score by the composer is used to generate a template and space for participating musicians to contribute ideas as individuals and as a collective in the form of improvisation and “arrangement”, and continues to be the unique element in jazz performance or jazzing. Rather than identifying stylistic considerations in terms of history and theory, I propose that we consider of equal importance the notion of “jazz as process” in regards to the music’s specific character. Interactions take place where participants are required to make decisions as to the amount of liberty taken between the composer’s direction, and the improvising musicians’ performance as arrangers of the compositional material.

Various illustrations, using analogies such as “composition as experiment”, “creative design”, “decomposition”, “intangibles of intention and interpretation in the score’s performance”, “jazz as experiment”, and “small jazz ensemble composition as a social experiment”, are conducive for investigating the invention, performance and reflection of small jazz ensemble composition. These examples at play in music-making help form the hypothesis of intuition and intellect as a strand in framing and contextualizing the examination of presentation in small jazz ensemble composition; beginning with the musical idea, writing of a work, to its rehearsal and completed performance, thus contributing to understandings of jazz process. Which leads me to ask: How do various illustrations, using analogies, demonstrate methods involved in the composition, development, absorption, interpretation and transferal of musical material from the score to the performance, thus contributing to artistic practice as a composer/player/leader of a small jazz ensemble, and assist in the comprehension of intuition and intellect as jazz process?


Nick Freer

Music Analysis, Ontological Paradigms and Semiological Principles of Conflation/Progression

The paper looks specifically at understanding and defining features of alternate ontological paradigms and their implications for music analysis as a research product. Consequently, alternate ontologies embodied within forms of analysis can be explicated.

Although not all philosophers (and fewer musicologists) define ontological paradigms exactly the same way, an attempt is made to do so in order to avoid philosophical ambiguity. By defining the characteristic traits of different ontological paradigms, such paradigms can be contradistinguished based on philosophical, epistemological and axiological grounds. Consequently, the implications of applying different ontological philosophies to the analysis of music can be explored while being conscious of the lenses through which each analysis is generated.

Within the presentation, different forms of music analysis (e.g. descriptive, reductionist) are presented in relation to specific harmonic object examples. Given the framework outlined above, the underlying ontologies embodied within these forms of music analysis can consequently be explicated, delineating the prism of ontological perspective implied by the different forms of analysis. Consequently the level of utility derived through different forms of music analysis and ontologies can be postulated.

Finally, a brief outline of the semiological principles of the ‘neutral’ and ‘poietic’ levels are defined and situated in terms of ontological paradigm. Nattiez’s notion of ‘good analysis’, achieved through the analytical progression from the neutral to the poietic level is revealed as a conflation of ontological perspectives. The implication of Nattiez’s conflation is then applied to the specific harmonic objects previously encountered.


Tim Willis

The Development of Manipulative Aural Skills in Improvising Musicians via Mental Practice during Performance Preparation

The research carried out for this project centers on developing the ability to improvise in the mind, while away from the instrument, via mental practice. For this project, the aforementioned ability and associated skills are termed ‘Manipulative Aural Skills’. The project seeks to ascertain how Manipulative Aural Skills are best developed, and whether developing them could be an effective vehicle for improving the author’s improvisational skills and performance preparation regime. A significant preoccupation of this project is investigating whether the streamlining of Manipulative Aural Skills might improve the ability to execute musical ideas that are heard in the mind while improvising during a performance.

The main method of research in this project is research-led practice: Information collected in the first half of the project is then be applied within my creative practices in the second part, in order to generate artistic outcomes. A qualitative semi-structured interview has been carried out, examining how seventeen high-level improvising musicians experienced and developed Manipulative Aural Skills. This enquiry has sought to observe approaches that the musicians had taken to lessen the effort associated with the generation of auditory imagery during mental improvisation. Data pointing to how this might be achieved has been applied in various approaches to performance preparation in the second part of the project. In the second part, practice-led research is the main research method being applied. Iteration and reflective analysis of the different processes have enabled the systematic refining of an approach to developing Manipulative Aural Skills.

This research project has yielded many insights in relation to how Manipulative Aural Skills may be developed and streamlined in professional improvising musicians. It has shown how their development and engagement can be beneficial to a musician’s creative practices, and an efficient tool for affecting artistic outcomes.


Session 9

 Agency – Environment

Leon de Bruin

Meta Cognition and Distributed Creativities in Improvised Music Making

Recent conceptualisations consider creativity distributed within individual, collective and social natures of learning and argue the role of social relations and the enculturation and development of learning and creativity within this experiential continuum. This paper disseminates research investigating the cognitive processes that develop creativities in musical improvisers. Reporting on a phenomenological collective case study, the study revealed engagement and development of creative thinking and shaping of improvisatory processes and expression across independent, co-operative and collaborative processes. The study reveals multiple creativities improvisers develop and hone in mastering skills, strategies and creative concepts. Exploring the lived-world experiences of five Australian improvisers, the paper asserts learning and creativity emergent from individual and shared experiences of planning and processing of creativities. The study provides implications for general education and improvisation education in particular, concerning effective metacognitive strategies and their impact on improvised musical cognition, the refinement of creative processes and the way collaborative activity shapes learning and creativity. The paper posits the importance of collaborative music making that develops creativities, as well as arguing for improvisation studies central and core to all music study before developing specialisms in performance in secondary and higher education.


Roger Dean

Agency and Leadership in Keyboard Duo Improvisation

As part of a series of investigations on improvisers in action, we have studied their agency as directed to the realisation of simple pre-specified musical referent structures (in both solo and duo keyboard performances), and as expressed in leadership (in duo performances). Not surprisingly, we find that professional improvisers can efficiently generate computationally-identifiable realisations of simple referent structures. We will discuss evidence concerning changes in their attention and arousal in the key periods in which they achieve the sectional structural transitions. In the case of duo performances, we are currently analyzing to what degree the perceptions of leadership differ between the two participants, either when one is requested to lead, or when the leadership task is shared; and in both referent-based and free improvisations. We also compare the performers’ perceptions of the resultant musical pieces, with the perceptions of uninvolved non-musicians. Statistical analysis and computational models provide further insight into possible mechanisms in play. The study will give clues as to the capacity of performers to control musical outcomes, and the degree to which those outcomes are perceived by independent listeners.


Bruce Johnson

Bringing Up The Bodies: Cognitive agency in jazz

In the performance of jazz, who are the driving agents? It is a truism that production and consumption of jazz in performance cannot be absolutely distinguished. Not only other musicians, but also audiences intervene in jazz performance through their responses. Yet the dominant model of agency in the jazz narrative still borrows from the “high art” tradition in privileging the mind of the “genius” as the master influence on the history of the music. Recent “master” histories of jazz continue to structure their accounts around a succession of musicians whose work is shaped by a singular (and predominantly male) intelligence.

This paper challenges the adequacy of this account of how jazz performance and history are driven, by drawing on reconfigured understandings of the mind in creative processes.  Recent developments in cognitive theory argue that the concept of the mind should extend beyond the contents of the brain-pain.  These models represent a reaction against the centuries-old distinction between mind and body and retrieve an understanding of cognition as a process that operates through extended systems embracing body, material objects and human groups.

This paper takes these arguments a step further. It argues that while such enquiries have largely framed cognition in visual terms, sonic modalities are far more appropriate to their articulation, and more specifically collective improvisational music practices. Apart from what the study of jazz might tell us about cultural history and the emergence of modernity, it is also a practice that provides an instructive entry point into the emerging theories of extended mind, and, in a field of cultural study increasingly dominated by mediations, it reaffirms the centrality of live performance in the practice and understanding of jazz.


Session 9

Questioning Agency

Andrys Onsman

To Express Yourself: Agency and Identity in Improvised Experimental Music

In this paper, I aim to present a cogent argument as to why in an improvised music performance, the capacity to express yourself is contingent upon distributed agency as much as it depends on creativity and expertise. Self-expression is a tangible representation of personal identity; that untidy cerebral imbroglio of dynamic, competing and contradictory factors that reacts to input with a range of responses ranging from the reflexive to the deliberate. First, I define agency in the context of improvised experimental music. Second, I exemplify distributed agency in collaborative music making. Finally, I posit some potential impacts of distributed agency on musical experimentation as a multi-disciplinary activity.


Sage Harlow

The Illusion of Free Will and Its Implication for Improvising (and Invocation)

This paper takes as a starting point the idea of the illusory nature of free will and explores what this means for the idea of agency in improvisation. Sam Harris’ book Free Will eloquently and succinctly presents the arguments from contemporary psychology, neuroscience as well as meditation practice to make a convincing case for a deterministic universe in which any notion of free will becomes absurd. I consider what this means for ideas of creativity and agency in improvisation as well as a consideration of how this realisation—in part from readings and in part from my own meditation practice—has influenced my own practice.

Having discussed the notion of free will and improvisation generally, I look at a series of works that I performed recently in which I shared my improvised ritual magick practice with a small audience. In these workings I had the experience of feeling ‘possessed’ by different entities (that I feel agnostic about the existence of) and felt like an observer of my own performances. I consider what it means for a performer to submit their agency to what feels like “another entity”.

I conclude by framing invocation experiences as, perhaps surprisingly, not that different from any other experience; all experiences arise, seemingly out of nowhere, stay in our consciousness for some time, and then pass away. While the particularities of these invocation experiences felt quite distinct from ‘normal’ reality, the “lack of agency” does not actually differ from any other experience. As such, they perhaps offer a way to explore a visceral understanding of the illusory nature of free will that might help free us from this illusion.


Vincent Giles

Determinism and Creative Freedom in Improvisation

Taking the non-existence of human free-will as a basic assumption, this paper proposes that, contrary to intuition, action as a result of deterministic physical processes, particularly as it relates to improvised music making, permits a greater degree of creative freedom than free-will allows. This suggests that the individual or collective agency in an improvisatory context does not exist. Instead, participants are reacting to physical systems in context much faster than would be consciously possible, as noted by Aunger (2002). The author draws upon research into neuroscience, physics, biology, and philosophy of mind, noting the logical and material bases for claiming that all human action is determined by physical systems and thus, that human free-will does not exist, as well as research into improvisation and cognitive systems, and the experience of practitioners of non-idiomatic improvisers. Barrett (2014) drawing on Bailey (1980) defines free improvisation (nonidiomatic, as opposed to many of the idioms of improvisation such as jazz, baroque, Carnatic, etc.) as ‘a method of musical creation in which the framework itself is brought into being at the time of performance, rather than existing in advance of it.’ This framework, in a deterministic view, is defined by the context and lived-experiences of each participant. Without some kind of pre-defined starting point, we must conclude that intention to begin/play arises as a result of physical and social context, and that the causal chain of creativity begins somewhere in the physical context, including the brains of participants but not in their conscious imagination. The choice to “act” in that context – otherwise called “free will”, as discussed by Daniel Dennett (2003; 2009; 2015) amongst others – is an illusion of consciousness and our brain’s interaction with the physical world via our body.


Session 11

Individual Agency – Australasian Context

Andrew Robson

Stompin’ the Austral Blues: McGann, Evans and Simmonds as Agents of Change

In my 2016 doctoral thesis I argue that from 1973 a new understanding of jazz expression began to proliferate in the global south. To describe this creative shift, I coined the term “Austral Jazz” as a way of dissolving nationalist boundaries and divisions, in recognition that creative interactions flow across such lines. A critical feature driving the evolution of “Austral Jazz” was a move away from diasporic notions of jazz expressions towards the music’s ability to ‘self-fashion’ what had already become local.

This paper develops the “Austral” narrative by arguing that by the early 1970s, the twelve bar blues, a quintessential jazz form, had become ‘local’ and was now a vehicle for the self-fashioning process. The blues based compositions of three Austral musicians are examined; saxophonists Bernie McGann, Sandy Evans and Mark Simmonds each of whom made considerable contributions to the development of “Austral Jazz”. While the creative practice of these three composer/performers is markedly divergent, all three musicians were members of the same local Austral scene and were active concurrently.

The paper argues that the composer/improviser is able to assert agency in two ways; directly, as a participant during live performance and indirectly, through the surrogate of the composition (later performances by others). More broadly, the paper examines the composer/performer’s engagement with and response to the blues form as a way of understanding the developing Austral engagement with jazz traditions (such as the blues) while simultaneously adapting them to express their own conceptions.

Through compositional and improvisational analysis, conclusions are drawn in relation to the creative practice of these artists and how creative agency can be manifest in the immediacy of real-time performance or delayed and stored within a musical composition. The paper assesses how the blues form became a vehicle for “self-fashioning” within the evolving “Austral Jazz” scene.


Aleisha Ward

Making Jazz Maori: Using Cultural Agency to Localise Jazz

From the earliest years of jazz in New Zealand Māori and Pākehā musicians have incorporated Māori, music, language, instruments, and aesthetics/culture (tikanga) have been into the performance of jazz. The first locally produced jazz recording (a film rather than an audio recording) in 1930 featured a popular Māori song, E Puritai Tama E (alternatively titled He Puru Taitama) that had been “jazzed”, rather than a recognised jazz song. The song was performed in front of the pā at the replica Māori village of Whakarewarewa in Rotorūa by Māori-Syrian musician Epi Shalfoon and his Melody Boys band. More recently, Te Reo (the Māori language) has been used as the language for jazz songs (for both original songs and translations of standards) and taonga puoro (traditional Māori instruments) have been used in jazz compositions and performance (especially in free improvisation contexts). In fact, the early twenty-first century saw an intensive period of New Zealand jazz musicians embracing Māori traditional instruments, language, and tikanga as a way of localising jazz in the New Zealand context.

In this paper, I will delve into the tino rangatiratanga (self-determination) of musicians utilising Māori tikanga and their reasons for doing so. Central to this is the consideration of the concept of whakamāori- to interpret, translate or otherwise naturalise an object into Māori culture. By examining the incorporation of Māori music, language, instruments, and tikanga into the creation of jazz by Māori and Pākehā musicians, I will explore the use of whakamāori as a means of localising jazz in the New Zealand (and specifically Māori) context across the twentieth and twenty-first century.


Christopher Coady

The Agency of Lived Experience in Jazz Historiography

One defining stylistic element of post-structuralist ethnographic studies of jazz practice is the acknowledgement that a researcher’s inherent subjectivity impacts the collection and interpretation of data. Such awareness often leads to an enquiry at least tangentially linked to the researcher’s lived experience. Approaches in this realm range from the honing of a personal/subjective lens through which vernacular data is interpreted – as Ingrid Monson does in the opening pages of Saying Something (1996) – to the utilization of the “self as subject” during the data generation phase of a project, as Paul Berliner does in Thinking in Jazz (1994).

Yet it is possible to see a more subtle form of subjectivity embedded in the very core of a supposedly more objective branch of jazz studies: jazz historiography. This critical bent is evident in the simple fact that jazz historians select particular subjects – typically movements, events or artists – and choose to tell particular stories about these subjects. Often, authors point to experiences of paradox or epiphany within their own lived experience as the inspiration for such investigations. Occasionally, such first-hand familiarity will then colour the presentation of evidence in support of a particular argument.

In this paper, I chart out the ways in which first-hand familiarity with various developments in jazz seems to have influenced the way in which several jazz historians have told stories about the music they study. Drawing parallels to what Guthrie Ramsey refers to as “professional” and “confessional” blackness, I then pose a series of questions about the type of knowledge generated when someone without first-hand “lived” knowledge about a jazz event endeavours to put forth an historical critique. Such an investigation helps show that all jazz historiography is informed in one-way or another by lived experience but that temporal proximity or distance to events can at times impact the quality – although not the value – of the data presented.

Session 12

Post Graduate

Michael Brady

Ensemble Roles in the Contemporary Jazz Guitar Trio

In this paper, I explore the trio work of Wolfgang Muthspiel, which can be considered innovative and distinctive in regards to the organisation of instrumental parts. With a view to performance, this paper considers how the roles of each instrumentalist in the trio are negotiated in this music. Currently there is a lack of literature regarding nature of ensemble roles in jazz guitar trio practice. Most current models of jazz ensemble practice rely on a clear distinction between soloist and rhythm section roles, primarily discussing formats of a quartet or larger. Due to the absence of guitarists and under-representation of trios in the recordings from which these models are derived, they present several limitations in understanding performance roles in the jazz guitar trio.  Within this paper, I examine Muthspiel’s 2014 trio release Driftwood – featuring drummer Brian Blade & bassist Larry Grenadier – as a case study of his trio work. In my analysis, I draw comparison with models of jazz ensemble practice presented by Berliner (1994), Monson (1996), and Hodson (2007). In examining the organisation of ensemble parts in these recordings, I contrast the individual musical contributions of each instrumentalist, with the agencies conveyed in the current literature, drawing out both the limitations and strengths of these models. From the analysis of the instrumental dispensation in these recordings – I demonstrate that the agencies of instrumental “voices” are distributed both more evenly and with greater variability than previously indicated. Where extant ensemble models can be observed, they occur as part of a varied “vocabulary” of approaches to the trio format. This range in vocabulary can be observed either within single pieces, or between pieces. Given this, it is proposed that rather than developing a normative model for ensemble practice, literature should move towards unpacking case-studies of specific groups of notes, understanding them for their specificity within a genre.


Jonathan Zion

Organic Interplay in a Jazz Trio context: Identifying Interactive, Communicative Language

This longitudinal Practice Research seeks to discover how the performance of a jazz trio presents as a dialogical “other” reflecting and contributing to the ensemble members’ evolving musical processes, the music produced and the motivation to continue in creative collaboration.  Drawing from my own unique experience as a participant in the music making process–a bass player in a jazz trio–this study commences from my subjective viewpoint and expands through performance practice, literature, formal musical analysis, and ethnography.

Interaction, consciousness and embodiment have a relational contribution to organic music making processes, specifically, engaging improvisation as a medium for reaching beyond our regular state of being.  This Practice Research focuses on embodied consciousness as central to reflexive and pre-reflexive performance experience/action.  It is, I propose, the intertwining of perception, thought and action from moment to moment, in the context of an ensemble’s shared performance history that underpins meaningful musical communicative expression.  This phenomenon is central to enabling what I call “organic interplay” in my ensemble, the Luke Howard Trio, and will be revealed using heuristic methods.


Daniel Gough

Agency and Autonomy in Tertiary Jazz Piano Students’ Practice Routines

According to dominant narratives, “jazz cannot be taught” in any conventional way (Whyton, 2006, p. 69). Rather, it is believed that jazz musicians learn as a result of their own agency, that is, they “discover” jazz skills and knowledge. Paul Berliner’s seminal study revealed that, “the jazz community’s traditional educational system places emphasis on learning rather than on teaching, shifting to students the responsibility for determining what they need to learn, how they will go about learning and from whom” (Berliner, Thinking in Jazz, p. 51). It appears then that a jazz musician’s identity is grounded in his or her daily practice, yet there is no established approach or pathway to reach this artistic goal, as each musician responds differently to advice and schemes offered by various successful practitioners. The guiding principles appear to be individuality, self-discovery, musical responsibility, agency and autonomy, metacognition, and the application of creativity. This paper draws on data collected from one of the eight participants in my current PhD study, which investigates the ways tertiary jazz piano students come to understand how to practice and perform jazz. The larger study investigates jazz pianists enrolled at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, as they learn over the course of one week to perform two standards, “In Your Own Sweet Way” and “Oleo”. The methodology involved “fly on the wall” video recordings of practice and performance sessions as well as interviews. Results emerging from the study indicate that all the participants rehearsed the set pieces according to four specific types of jazz practice (i.e. Form, Harmony, Improvisation, Listening) by which this study identifies as the Modes of Jazz Practice. Derived from the Modes of Jazz Practice, the study further identifies individualised Jazz Practicing Concepts which refer to intrinsic, creative and idiosyncratic practice approaches that were either self-discovered metacognitively or gleaned from method books, teachers and other musicians. Correspondingly, the study also identifies Practicing Strategies, which refer to extrinsic practicing variables related to general music practice such as memorisation, repetition, and (in relation to the piano) working hands separately.


Zoe Kilbourn


re//cite is a series of projects involving the mediation, manipulation, and creative destruction of recordings from a 2013 classical performance recital. Through live processing, collage, and improvised performance, the physical reminders of a negative musical experience will form the foundations of a new musical direction. re//cite will result in a pool of materials and strategies for live improvised performance, including a four-night performance series through Tone List’s Residence program (TBA), an EP release, and a series of graphic scores. re//cite is currently being developed with support from Propel Youth Arts and Tone List, and is due for completion in August. While re//cite will serve as an opportunity to further develop my public and collaborative performance work, on a personal level the project will explore strategies for overcoming the anxiety inculcated by classical performance standards. Through free improvisatory strategies that encourage radical naiveté and simplicity, the breaking down of traditional performance standards, and collaborative experimentation, I have already overcome a lot of the hang-ups that prevented me from playing music for almost three years. For this project, I will explore electronics and algorithmic software to rework the material I’ve distanced myself from, “mask” the cultivated voice of classical performance, and build on the performance foundations that have been stymying. I intend for this project to explore the ways art music can serve a therapeutic, intrapersonal purpose, where the institutional tendency is to focus on its abstract exploratory aspects. Improvisation, especially collaborative planning, practice, and performance, has been essential to my musical “recovery”, in ways that run directly counter to traditional art music approaches. Participation in AJIRN – especially given the conference’s focus on agency – would be an excellent opportunity to learn from others and share some of my experiences. Should I be considered for the conference, I would love to perform and/or present a short paper on the re//cite project.


Joshua Hatcher

Composing in Conversation

This paper is extracted from the 1st of 3 iterative phases from my Master of Music Research in Composition at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music (current). The project examines improvisers’ agency in performance by exploring design in compositions and gestures for jazz quartet, and in this case, a close-knit group of musicians. Graham Collier’s “The Jazz Composer” was the conceptual starting point for this research, discussing at length the limited ways in which most compositions use improvisation. The design of this study has been based on Derek Bailey’s methodology in assembling his landmark work “Thinking in Jazz: The Infinite Art of Improvisation”, incorporating rehearsals and performances with the participants (of which I am one), and participant interviews. Recordings of significant jazz compositions, practices and performances were used to identify idiosyncratic approaches to organising improvisation such as Wayne Shorter’s “Nefertitti” featuring melodic ghosting, Shorter’s composition “Barracudas” featuring a hemiola rhythm as melodic content over a short form with modal harmony, Miles Davis’ and Bill Evans’ use of indeterminate harmonic rhythm on “Flamenco Sketches”, Kneebody’s cuing system and the highly interactive approach of the Miles Davis Quintet’s live performances of standards during 1963-65. The study then proceeded by investigating how to integrate this new ensemble vocabulary into my existing compositional language by working with the participants to develop conceptual sketches into new idiosyncratic vehicles for improvisation that direct participants’ creativity toward particular musical elements. The players’ responses to a sketch were as important as the concept behind the sketch in determining what should be composed to arrive at the final iteration of a piece. As such this collaborative approach attempted to emulate the interaction present between musicians in a jazz performance. Several recurring themes were identified and when combined with my own reflections on evolution of the compositions and the group approach, using rehearsal and performance audio recordings, and the artistic products of the compositions themselves, possible avenues of investigation were identified for the 2nd phase as well as improvements to the process.



Michael Brady Having performed across a range of jazz & contemporary ensembles, Michael Brady has developed an eclectic range of experiences as a young guitarist in Sydney’s live music scene. Recently this has included performing with a range of university ensembles, touring with his band Jackie Brown Jr, and working with his Trio. As a guitarist, Michael has studied under Steve Brien and Ben Hauptmann In Sydney, and Carlos Jimenez in Montreal. Michael is currently in his 5th and final year of study at the University of New South Wales, completing his Bachelor of Music (Honours)/Bachelor of Education (Secondary).


Fiona Burnett M.Mus. [Perf.] B.Mus.[Perf.] Dip.Ed. Since making her performance debut aged 14 at the Sydney Domain in 1985, Fiona Burnett has become recognized as a soprano saxophone specialist, having performed in Australia, Asia, Europe, Canada and USA.  Performing club gigs in Hong Kong to street parties in Harlem and dance music artists in London. Fiona is an ABC recording artist having released nine CD recordings since 1996 and received Australia Council for the Arts, Arts Victoria and Playing Australia funding. Fiona was a member of the Music Board of the Australia Council from 2003-2006, a committee member for the Melbourne Women’s International Jazz Festival, 1999-2003, and taught at the University of Melbourne, VCA, 2000- 2007. She was endorsed as an artist with the German company Keilwerth and the American reed maker Rico.  Fiona was a finalist in the 2002 Freedman Fellowship and has received Australian Music Award and APRA nominations.


Robert Burke (PhD Monash University) is Co-coordinator of Jazz and Popular Studies at Monash University. An improvising musician, Rob has performed and composed on over 200 CDs and has toured extensively throughout Australia, Asia, Europe, and USA over the last 30 years. He has also released 11 CDs under his own name and has focused on creating research, educational and artistic ties with institutions, researchers and musicians in Italy, USA (New York), Japan and Brazil. Rob has recorded with George Lewis, Dave Douglas, Enrico Rava, Hermeto Pascoal, Kenny Werner, Mark Helias, Ben Monder, Tom Rainey, Nasheet Waites, George Garzone, Paul Grabowsky, Tony Gould, Johannes Weidenmueller, Debasis Chackroborty, Paulo Angeli and Richie Barshay. Rob’s research is mainly focused on practice-based artistic research, (jazz, improvisation and jazz pedagogy).

Publications include co-edited book, Perspectives on Artistic Research in Music (Lexington) and currently co-writing  (published later in 2018) Idea Chasing: Experimentation in Improvised Jazz with Andrys Onsman.


Nicole Canham (PhD) is a professional musician, festival director and scholar.  She recently completed a PhD at the University of Queensland, investigating approaches to sustainable creative practice by independent classically trained musicians. Other areas of research interest include musician identity, collaboration and various forms of creativity, employability, and the role of the independent artist in contributing to wider social and art form challenges. Nicole has presented her research at leading conferences around the world, including the ISME World Conference, Glasgow in 2016.  Nicole has performed throughout Australia and abroad in the USA, UK, France, Belgium, Germany and Mexico as a chamber musician and in collaboration with theatre-makers, dancers, and multimedia artists.  She has also worked as a freelance musician for the Sydney Symphony, Australian Opera and Ballet, Tasmanian and Canberra Symphony Orchestras.


Christopher Coady (PhD, University of New South Wales) is a lecturer in Musicology at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, the University of Sydney. He is author of the monograph John Lewis and the Challenge of ‘Real’ Black Music (University of Michigan Press) and is an active researcher of both historical and contemporary jazz practice.


Rod Davies is the coordinator of Popular Voice and a lecturer in Songwriting at the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, Monash University. Graduating with a Bachelor of Science (Psychology and Physiology) from Monash University in 1995, Davies has since sustained a diverse career as a professional vocalist, experiencing first-hand the full breadth of live performance – as a solo artist, a commercial entertainer and a backing singer to Australian music icons John Farnham, Olivia Newton-John, Tina Arena, Guy Sebastian and Mark Seymour. Rod’s performance versatility behind the scenes is also strong – as a session vocalist, (Hey Hey its Saturday, 1996-2010; Dancing with the Stars, 2004-2015), music theatre performer (Piano Men, 1996), writer (Pop!, 1999), musical director (Kissing Frogs, 2003; Minefields and Miniskirts, 2005), and songwriter (SONY Music Publishing).Davies’ areas of research focus include: Vocal performance (interpretation, trans-contextualisation, practice-based methodologies), health and wellbeing (performance anxiety, vocology and vocal habilitation).

Jonathan Day works as a musician, writer and image-maker. He is Associate Director of Research and Associate Professor of Transmedia Arts at Birmingham City University. He directs BirTH, the Birmingham Transmedia Research Hub and is visiting professor at Hong Kong Design Institute, Silpakorn University, Bangkok, Thailand, and the Academy of Design, Colombo, Sri Lanka. Jonathan has published three books, a series of musical works and numerous articles. Jazz, Kant and Zen: towards a philosophy of improvisation was published last year by Brill. His releases include Postcards from the Road (University of Chicago), Atlantic Drifter (Proper Records), The Politics of Navigation (VDM), Carved in Bone (Proper Records) and The Stain of Time (Aalto University). His work has been called “Seductive, complex and poetic” ARTnews magazine, New York, ” Scratching at the transcendent” the Independent, “Expansive, intelligent and eloquent” South China Morning Post, “Breathtakingly beautiful” Folk Radio UK, “Visionary” fRoots magazine, “Stunning” Bob Harris, BBC. Please see jonathanday.net


Leon de Bruin, Ph. D is a teaching assistant in Education at Monash University, Faculty of Education and has completed studies in performance and education (B, Ed Music, L.R.S.M, A. Mus. A) and works primarily in the areas of education, creativity, performance, music and performing arts and digital technologies. Leon works professionally as a musician, composer and educator, and has published in numerous international and national refereed journals. He reviews for a number of well-respected journals, and has presented papers at international music, creativity and education conferences. He has been the recipient of a Postgraduate Publications Award 2016 (PPA) and the Monash Education Research Conference Publication Award (2016).


John Fitzgerald (Associate Professor) is an experienced social researcher specializing in studies of marginalized populations.  He researches in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne and has led with Adam Simmons the Melbourne Music Map project, a social network analysis of the network characteristics of a cohort of 100 Melbourne musicians. He has also worked with Adam Simmons over the past 2 years doing sound workshops with primary school students and marginalized populations.


Mace Francis (Edith Cowan University, WA) is a passionate advocate of original Australian large ensemble jazz music, forming his own 14-piece ensemble in 2005 – the Mace Francis Orchestra (MFO). MFO have recorded 6 CDs, toured nationally four times and performed with international artists Jim Pugh (USA), Jon Gordon (NY), John Hollenbeck (NY), Satoko Fujii (JAP), Ed Partyka (GER) and Theo Bleckmann (NY). For his compositions Mace has been awarded an APRA Professional Development Award, the Italian international composition prize, “Scrivere in Jazz”, was a finalist in the 2010 Freedman Jazz Fellowship and Australian Bell Awards (2013 & 2016) and was the 2015 winner of the APRA Jazz Work of the Year.  Mace has worked as guest composer and conductor with l’Orcehstre des Jeunes Jazzmen de Bourgogne (France), the Graz Composers Ensemble (Austria) and the Showa University of Music Big Band (Japan). Mace currently works as the artistic director of the WA Youth Jazz Orchestra and has recently completed a PhD exploring site-specific composition of which he received the 2015 Faculty Research Medal.


Nick Freer is a Melbourne based guitarist and composer. He has worked extensively as a jazz and modern guitarist in numerous ensembles both domestically and internationally including Japan, Thailand, Macau, China, the USA, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea, Hong Kong and Germany. Academically Nick holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Performance from the Victorian College of the Arts and a Master of Arts in Music Performance degree from Monash University. Currently he is undertaking a PhD in Musicology through Monash University with a research focus on post tonal harmony in modern jazz. As part of his thesis, Nick is developing a mixed ontological method of music analysis aimed specifically at explicating organisation coherence in post tonal jazz harmony.

Research interests include Music Analysis, Music Theory and Geometric Music modelling.


Vincent Giles (PhD) is a composer; a tinkerer with acoustic and electronic sound in the context of concert music, electronic music, installation, and free improvisation. His work is strongly influenced by the natural world, science, and mathematics, and he enjoys compositional restraints as a mode of creativity. Vincent’s works are often structurally complex, employing what he calls polyphony of form meaning that many superimposed forms interact polyphonically, reflecting the complexity of the universe we live in. Vincent is an artistic director of Tilde New Music Festival, teaches composition at the Australian Institute of Music, is represented by the Australian Music Centre, and is on the review panel for Wirripang. He enjoys cooking vegan food, drinking coffee, and being a recluse.


Daniel Gough is a jazz pianist and PhD candidate at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music (University of Sydney). His research explores how individual tertiary jazz piano students pursue their goal of becoming a professional jazz pianist through the work they undertake in the practice studio.


Sage J Harlow

My singing practice takes inspiration from Tuvan and Mongolian overtone singing, Inuit throat singing, sound poetry and an ongoing exploration of extra-normal vocal technique. I also take influence from industrial musick, trance, and drone; insight meditation practice, urban shamanism and chaos magick; and Discordianism.

As a research, I have interests in feminist, queer and trans politics, intersectionality and ethical engagements with postmodern culture(s), with a focus on writing against normative narratives. A critical engagement with the ethics of performance, cultural appropriation and privilege form the core of my praxis.
I undertook a PhD at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts in 2016 exploring the intersection of, improvised chaos magick ritual and Buddhist insight meditation within the genre of free improvisation with extra-normal vocal technique. I previously obtained an MLitt from Glasgow University and a BA with honours in Linguistics and English Literature from the University of Western Australia.


Joshua Hatcher is a Brisbane-based saxophonist, educator and composer. In 2015 he released his debut album “Now and Then” featuring original music written for his quintet and in 2016 was the Composer-in-Residence for the West Australian Youth Jazz Orchestra and a semi-finalist in the National Jazz Awards (saxophone) in Wangaratta. His large ensemble compositions and arrangements have been recorded on several releases by Brisbane’s Enthusiastic Musicians’ Orchestra and a new recording featuring his quartet is planned for release in early 2018.

He is currently undertaking candidature for Master of Music Research at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, Griffith University supervised by Louise Denson and Steve Newcomb. In addition to a busy performing schedule he is a lecturer in Saxophone, Theory and Ensemble Skills at Jazz Music Institute, Arranging at JMC Academy, and a sessional ensemble teacher at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music and Queensland University of Technology.


Bruce Johnson

Formerly professor of English at the University of NSW, Bruce Johnson currently holds honorary professorships in Departments including Music, Cultural History, Communications and Media in the universities of Glasgow, Turku (Finland) and UTS, UNSW and Macquarie in Australia. He has long been active as a jazz musician, award-winning broadcaster and record producer.  As government advisor on music policy, his work included the legislation-changing report Vanishing Acts on live music, co-authored with Shane Homan. He was prime mover in establishing the government-funded Australian Jazz Archive. He co-founded the International Institute for Popular Culture in Finland, and is on the editorial boards of some half dozen of the world’s leading academic music journals. His academic publications number several hundred, including author/editor of over a dozen books, among the most recent of which are on popular music and violence, jazz and totalitarianism, and sound, memory and space.


Zoe Kilbourn is an emerging musician from Perth, Western Australia, interested in freely improvised and electronically mediated performance. After majoring in classical performance at the University of Western Australia, Zoe worked in journalism and the public service before returning to the saxophone through Tura’s Improv workshop program. Since 2016, Zoe has performed improvised music at Outcome Unknown, Noizemaschiin, Automatic Sound, Club Zho, Live@theLibrary, and In The Pines, and participated in the Tilde~ New Music Academy. She is currently working on a recorded release with support from the Tone List collective and Propel Youth Arts. Some of Zoe’s collaborative music can be heard here: https://soundcloud.com/1and2and.


Alfredo Lopes has been performing and writing jazz repertoire since his studies at Sydney Conservatorium of Music in 1993. In 2012 he completed an Honours exegesis at Southern Cross University: The harmonic explorations of Joe Henderson: A study by a professional jazz musician on his contribution to the modern jazz tenor saxophone sound. He is now at Queensland Conservatorium of Music, studying with jazz composers/educators, Dr Stephen Newcomb and Dr Louise Denson, developing a D.M.A exegesis: Compositions as ‘experiments’: Investigating creative design as a composer, player and leader in a small jazz ensemble performance. He has worked with and co-led music ensembles with some of Australia’s best jazz musicians including: George Golla, Judy Bailey, Craig Scott, Alan Turnball, Mark Isaacs, Paul Mac Namara, Bernie Mc Gann, John Morrison, Jeff Usher, Matt Mc Mahon, Sean Wayland, Jan Rutherford, Cathy Harley and Sharny Russell.


Karlin Love is a composer, multi-instrumentalist and semi-perpetual student with a BA (Social Work) from Seattle Pacific University, USA, a BMus from the University of Washington, USA, where she studied clarinet with William McColl and William O. Smith, an MA (hons) in composition through the University of Wollongong, and a PhD in the pedagogy of composition through The University of Queensland. Karlin moved to Australia in 1989 as woodwind lecturer at the University of Tasmania in Launceston where she taught clarinet, saxophone, theory, composition and improvisation until 1997. She is now a freelance performer, composer, teacher and researcher, working on projects investigating musicians’ early career development. Her composition interests include exploring interesting sound spaces and collaborations with visual artists, as well as writing for young and amateur musicians. She leads the Chordwainers leather instrument ensemble, the Tasmanian Clarinet Quartet, and performs with local jazz, experimental and classical musicians.


John Mackey is known as a performer, composer and educator. He has been lecturing at the ANU School of Music since January 2000. John was nominated for the Freedman Jazz Prize in 2001 and has recently been invited into the Higher Education Academy in the UK as a Senior Fellow and is excited about a recent co-invention with the Physics and Engineering Department at ANU. He is currently halfway through his PhD based at ECU, Perth,WA. His topic is researching Extended Applications of the Pentatonic Scale and proposing a new modal concept.

John has performed with many artists inlcuding: Ray Charles, B.B. King, Dame Kiri Tekanawa, Kurt Elling, Kendrick Scott, Nat Adderley, Eddie Henderson, Roy Hargrove, Red Rodney, Lew Tabackin, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Kenny Werner, Bob Mintzer, Richie Cole, Johnny Griffin, Al Cohn, Woody Herman, Ralph Moore, Mark Levine, Don Rader, Ronnie Scott, Jim McNeely, Kenny Werner, Mike Nock.


Charles MacInnes was awarded the position of principal bass trombone with the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra in Sydney in 1985 at the age of nineteen. Four years later he moved to Germany to further his studies with Prof. Joachim Mittelacher at the Hamburg Hochschule für Musik und Theater. After working for two seasons in a trainee position with the Hamburg State Opera Orchestra, he played for eight years as a regular guest with the North German Radio (NDR) Big Band. Since returning to Australia in 2000, he has performed with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Australian Art Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and as a studio and theatre musician. Charles has lectured at the Victorian College of the Arts, Monash University, Australian National University and The University of Melbourne (including two years as Head of Brass). He has a Masters in Composition and is currently undertaking a PhD researching improvisation in new music.


Sam McAuliffe is an active performer of improvised avant-garde music and is an active researcher in the field of critical studies in improvisation and performance studies. Sam completed his MA (100% research) at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia where he investigated how sounds of the environment could inform an improvisatory music practice. He currently resides in Tasmania and teaches guitar and improvisation.


 Jordan Murray is a lecturer in Jazz and Popular Studies at The Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music –  Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.

Jordan is a graduate from WAAPA – Edith Cowen University, VCA – Melbourne University

and currently a PhD candidate at Monash University. Jordan’s PhD practice-led research

focuses on practical approaches to free improvisation.


Tom O’Halloran leads the Jazz Piano department at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) at Edith Cowan University, and lectures in jazz composition and improvisation.  He holds a Master of Music (composition) from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and plans to start a Ph.D. imminently. His Future research interests are: hybridity within jazz works, multi-disciplined approaches, technology and moving image within jazz and integrating bitonality within jazz improvisation and composition.

Tom recently received an Australia Council grant to compose and record an album entitled Now Noise – for his group Memory of Elements. He has two jazz trio records to his name, and We Happy Few won the 2009 ABC Limelight Magazine award for best jazz achievement. He recently composed a piece for six pianos entitled Drumkit, and in 2012 was nominated for an APRA Australian Art Music Award for his piece Dissolve, for two pianos. o ignored


Andrys Onsman is a writer, music and academic with a background in cognitive psychology and an interest in performance, translation and cross-disciplinarity. He has published widely, including four books as well as numerous journal papers and conference presentations. His work has been described as challenging, unflinching and entertaining. He is currently writing a book on experimental and improvised jazz with Robert Burke.


Ben Phipps is a bass player, sessional tutor and final year PhD candidate in music at the University of New South Wales. His research interests include improvisation and cultural hybridity and centre around their relationship to practices and roles in musical performance.


Andrew Robson saxophonist and composer, Andrew Robson is considered to be one of Australia’s premier jazz musicians. An ARIA award winner and a recipient of the Freedman Jazz Fellowship, he performs nationally and internationally with groups including the Paul Grabowsky Sextet (winner of the 2014 ARIA award), Mike Nock’s Big Small Band, Ten Part Invention, the World According to James and his own groups. Andrew has toured widely with numerous ensembles and has performed at major jazz festivals including, Chicago, Berlin and Australia’s Wangaratta Festival of Jazz. As a leader Andrew has released a number of critically acclaimed albums, including most recently (in 2016), The Child Ballads. In 2016, Andrew was awarded a PhD by the University of Sydney. His thesis proposes a new theorization of jazz historiography, one that understands jazz as a global form that manifests in plural local expressions. Andrew currently lectures in music at Macquarie University in Sydney.


Danilo Rojas is a pianist, composer, music producer, educator and researcher.! From Bolivia, and a family of musicians, Danilo has released albums including CD/DVD, “Jazz in Bolivia”, “Lunar” and “Música popular Boliviana”.! As an educator, Danilo taught piano for seven years at the National Conservatory of Bolivia in the department of Modern Music. Now living in Melbourne, he runs a private music school in Newport teaching piano, especially jazz and Latinoamerican music, while completing a Masters of Music in jazz and improvisation at the University of Melbourne.! He is author of Bolivian Book Music Improvisation (BBMI) supported by the Swiss Embassy in Bolivia and the La Paz City Council. The book is a historical compendium containing a compilation of transcribed scores of Bolivian music for jazz and improvisation.! Danilo has decades of national and international performance experience and is currently in Melbourne performing, composing and arranging for his trio and ‘Ensamble Latinoamericano.


Dan Sheehan (BA/BMus Hons) is a Melbourne-based improvising pianist and composer. He completed an Honours degree at Monash University in 2012 with an investigation into the compositional approach of saxophonist Tim Berne, and is currently undertaking a practice-based Masters in improvised solo performance. He has studied with Dr Tony Gould, Dr Tim Stevens, Marc Hannaford, and has participated in workshops at the Banff Centre (Canada) and the School for Improvisational Music (New York). Dan leads improvising collective Infinite Ape, which has released three independent albums; his debut Infinite Ape (2013) earned a shortlisted Bell Award nomination. He performs regularly around Melbourne in various improvisational settings with collaborator Tony Hicks.


Adam Simmons is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and educator with a focus on improvisation. Adam teaches Japanese shakuhachi at the University of Melbourne in addition to teaching woodwind techniques and improvisation at Victorian College of the Arts and Melbourne Polytechnic. He has performed at festivals here and abroad with numerous artists and ensembles, including his own projects such as Origami and the Adam Simmons Creative Music Ensemble.  He has been involved as a creator and curator of events such as the Festival of Slow Music, La Mama Musica, Portraits Concert Series and 100:25:1, which provided the performance aspect of this research with John Fitzgerald.


Greg Stott is a PhD candidate at the Australian National University (ANU). He has taught jazz and contemporary guitar for two decades at the ANU (in particular the pre-tertiary programs) and the Canberra Institute of Technology’s (CIT) Music Industry Centre. He performs regularly around Canberra and interstate and is the curator of the Friday night jazz series at the National Press Club. Two of his works are included in the Australian Jazz Real Book (compiled by Tim Nikolsky) and a number of his other works are featured in film and on his 2008 album ‘One Second Ahead’. His new album is due for release mid 2017 featuring some of the works associated with his PhD research.


Andy Sugg (PhD) is a saxophonist who performs regularly throughout Australia and internationally. He features on numerous recordings and leads an ensemble that specialises in a fusion of jazz and popular styles. Sugg is also a musicologist, attached to the University of Melbourne and the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, Monash University. He has lectured at the Manhattan School of Music, the World Saxophone Congress and elsewhere. Sugg has written for The Times Literary Supplement, the International Society for Jazz Research (Graz), and Music Forum, the journal of the Music Council of Australia. His book The Influence of John Coltrane on Improvising Saxophonists, has been praised by leading US jazz scholar, Prof David Demsey, describing it as “an analytical masterpiece.” Sugg was a consultant for Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary, the first feature length film of its kind, directed by John Scheinfeld and “Crew Neck Productions” (Los Angeles).


Paul Williamson (PhD) Australian jazz trumpeter, composer and educator, Dr Paul Williamson, has established a reputation for producing distinctive recordings of outstanding ensemble performances. Williamson is also a faculty member at the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music at Monash University. In addition to his ten commercially released CD releases, Williamson has performed with international jazz artists at festivals and venues in the United States, Europe, Asia, and Australia. He was active in the European jazz scene whilst based in Dublin and performed with Bill Carothers, Dave Liebman, Reggie Washington, Paul Wertico, Ronan Guilfoyle and Métier before returning to Melbourne in 2009.  His recent performances include collaborations with Eddie Palmieri, Tomasz Stańko, Charlie Haden, Kenny Werner, John Abercrombie, the Australian Art Orchestra, Hermeto Pascoal, Aaron Goldberg, Django Bates, Mike Nock, Nasheet Waits and Mark Helias.  In 2014 Williamson was invited by Dave Douglas to perform at the Festival for New Trumpet Music in New York City where he premiered a program of new compositions.


Tim Willis is a jazz guitarist and composer who has performed on national and international stages and is currently in the process of finalising his PhD studied at Monash University. Tim studied music performance/jazz guitar at the Australian National University under the tutelage of Mike Price and George Golla. He has also studied privately with Jeremy Sawkins, Stephen Magnusson and Misja Fitzgerald Michelle. Highlights from Tim’s performing Career include performances at the Vannes International Jazz Festival in 2012, Melbourne International Jazz Festival in 2013 as well as multiple performances at Jazz clubs such as Duc Des Lombards (Paris) and Melbourne’s own Bennetts Lane, the Paris Cat and the Uptown Jazz Café. Tim has been recipient of awards including the 2012 PBS106.9 Young Elder of Jazz Commission, the Australian Postgraduate Award and the 2014 Yamaha Postgraduate Research Scholarship in Performance (Jazz).


Dave Wilson holds a position as Lecturer in Music at the New Zealand School of Music at Victoria University of Wellington. His work focuses on jazz and popular music in Southeastern Europe and explores how music and sound relate to nationalism, belonging, intangible cultural heritage, the construction of social space, and the nature of scenes. His research has been supported by the ACLS (American Council of Learned Societies), the American Councils of International Education, and the Herb Alpert Foundation, and his work has been published in the Yearbook for Traditional Music and in Ethnomusicology Review. He received his PhD in ethnomusicology from UCLA, and is active as a composer and performer in jazz, popular music, and classical music.


Jonathan Zion is a bassist/composer and PhD candidate at Monash University.  Graduating from VCA in 1992, Jonathan has been performing in Australia and overseas with many artists including Ian Moss, Pete Murray, Lior, Deborah Conaway. In 2016, he toured with Paul Grabowsky and Robert Bourke to Japan performing at Tokyo Jazz Festival, performed at Wangaratta Jazz Festival with the Luke Howard Trio and the Anton Delecca Quartet and is appearing at the Melbourne International Jazz Festival with the Luke Howard Trio. Jonathan co-founded the Luke Howard Trio in 2008.  The ensemble has produced three albums and become a feature of the Melbourne Jazz scene. Using a practice research methodology, Jonathan’s longitudinal study into the evolution of musical language in a jazz trio proposes that ongoing performance interaction is central to stimulating new musical growth and engagement.