In this lecture I outline the concept of “mis-competent improvised sound work” and leverage this thinking towards a new theory of improvisation. My concept avoids ethno-musicological genealogies of technique, instead focussing analysis on the experience of improvisation within a socio-political context. This framework reflects my own experience on practice as an artist at work in ‘society’.
Central to my thinking is the question of obsolete technologies; why they have such widespread appeal; why so many underground musicians use them, how do they intersect with notions of improvisational freedom. I argue that improvised sound work as a practice, insistently foregrounds its own (inevitable) failure to attain the ‘authenticity’ to which it strives: the project of recovering ‘true communication’ in a social space for autonomous self-expression.
Bruce Russell is a New Zealand experimental musician and writer. He is a founding member and guitarist of noise rock trio The Dead C and free noise combo A Handful of Dust (with Alastair Galbraith). In the 1980′s Russell established the Xpressway label to release music by experimental New Zealand artists, including many who’d split from Flying Nun as the label began to eschew its lo-fi beginnings to pursue a more commercial sound. Russell also established Corpus Hermeticum, an imprint for New Zealand and international artists, exploring free noise and improvisation. In 2009, Russell published Left Handed Blows: Writing on Sound 1993-2009. Russell also writes for publications including The Wire.partners