Document Type



Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Performing arts studies, Musicology


This paper looks at the synthesis of computer technology and instrumental practice in improvised music performance. The emerging field of performers who use real-time signal processing as a technological extension of their instrument is discussed. How do new tools affect musical practice? Does the use of computers impose an associated aesthetic?

A number of key players are scrutinised including Evan Parker, La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Jon Hassell, Miles Davis, Pauline Oliveros, David Behrman. The research provides a historical context to these practices and explores how pre- and post-digital technologies have shaped their work.

This article identifies an innovative and emergent area of performance practice which builds on historical developments in electroacoustic music and more recent advances in the music technology industry.

The general nature of tools – their design, suitability and application is discussed. The place of technology in contemporary society as a “vital and dynamic link between human imagination and reality,” is seen as an agent in the creation of new artwork.[1] However, the oft-held notion that artistic invention follows technological break throughs is challenged and it is argued that these two factors are co-dependent and inform each other.

[1] F. Richard Moore, ‘A Technological Approach to Music’ in Companion to Contemporary Musical Thought: Volume 1, John Paytner, Tim Howell, Richard Orton and Peter Seymour (eds.), (London: Routledge, 1992), 329.