The Appearance of Sound: Listening to Sculptural Percussion

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Joy, Rosemary (2015) The Appearance of Sound: Listening to Sculptural Percussion. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


This practice-led research inquiry explores the field of ‘Sculptural Percussion’ as defined in a series of works created by Rosemary Joy between 2008-2014. Taking the form of a performance and an accompanying exegesis, the research investigates sculptural percussion as a means of creating subtle and transformative effects on the musician and the audience. Performed by percussionists on sculptures that primarily comprise handmade elements and found objects, the works are mostly performed in front of a deliberately small audience. The research explores a number of artistic strategies, which together encourage a sense of intimacy and connection between audience, musician and sculpture in the performance of sculptural percussion. Informed by perspectives drawn from phenomenology, relational aesthetics and contemporary sound theory, the exegesis details key aspects of Joy’s sculptural percussion works including the scale of audience and sculpture, the proximity of the audience to the musician, ideas around site specificity and the interaction of visual and aural perception to create a focussed listening experience. The historical and theoretical context of the work is examined through discussion of Fluxus experiments with performance; Cage’s broadening of the possibilities of contemporary music and R. Murray Schafer’s ‘ear cleaning’. In defining the terms ‘sculptural percussion’ and ‘percussive sculptures’ the work is situated in relation to the fields of both sound art and percussion. Part of a discernible trend towards deliberately small audiences, the research contributes to the understanding of performance events that make sculpture central to the creation of music. The research makes a particular contribution to the field of percussion, where the possibilities of audience proximity and sculpture have not been thoroughly investigated. The relative weighting of the components of the thesis is as follows: 70% creative component; 30% exegesis.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1904 Performing Arts and Creative Writing
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > College of Arts
Keywords sound art, music sculpture, experimental music, Xantolo, Yakumo Honjin
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