More Than One Thing
: A Practice-Led Investigation into Transdisciplinary Free Improvisation in Sound and Movement

  • Dougal McPherson

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis is a practice-based investigation into my artistic practice of Transdisciplinary Free Improvisation (TFI) – a performance practice of live improvisation integrating expressive sound and movement, enacted concurrently by one performer (myself), as well as in collaboration with other artists (performing with co-improvisers). Within the conceptual frame of TFI offered as a form of performative world-making (see Hayot, 2016; Bench, 2016), and underpinned by the epistemological principles of Transdisciplinarity, I explore the emergent characteristics and qualities of my practice across text and audiovisual documents, presented side-by-side in a multimodal exegesis of improvisation practice-as-knowledge. In Part I, situating my practice genealogically at the crossroads of multiple improvising cultures, I draw intersectionally on feminist and critical race theory in addressing the impact of hegemonic masculinity and whiteness upon the aesthetic development and discourse of sound and movement improvisation in the western transatlantic context, considering the way in which the human body and corporeality have been both foregrounded and occluded in performance practices from the 20th century to the present. Moving from an acknowledgement of its historical and cultural precedents, Part II of the thesis foregrounds emergent aspects of my own performance practice, presented as a non-linear series of interreferential mini-chapters. These sections integrate conventional academic prose, reflective writing, participant interviews, and annotated audiovisual practice documents (constituting the portfolio component of the thesis) in a syncretic whole. Part III proposes open conclusions regarding improvisation as/in contemporary epistemology, and offers thoughts on a critical trajectory for developments in practice-based improvisation studies. Throughout the thesis, my own voice is interpolated with quotations from practitioner-colleagues with whom I have undertaken documented interviews and informal conversations, as well as practical sessions in studio and online, across the course of this research. These voices, largely uncited elsewhere in academia, are included in a pragmatic effort to better represent the diversity of the global community of improvisers within the academic arena, and to recognise intersubjectivity as an essential, rich, and insightful aspect of artistic research.
Date of Award11 May 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorBen Spatz (Main Supervisor) & Hilary Elliott (Co-Supervisor)

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