The Necks - an acoustic experiment ; Places

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This submission for the Doctor of Creative Arts is in two parts. The first part is a written, analytical discussion of the work of the ambient, minimalist, free improvising Australian trio, The Necks. Despite the emerging interest in the trio on an international scale, few formal academic writings have been compiled. The thesis adopts a research-led practice methodology and framework whereby research has informed both the thesis and creative work. Research methods employed include qualitative interviews with musicians as well as qualitative and quantitative musicological focus when dealing with textual and musical analyses of recorded material. I argue that The Necks’ body of work is an acoustic experiment, situating it in terms of its hybrid nature. Whilst The Necks’ musical tracks are a sonic experiment in their own right, their music does not constitute the totality of the individual members’ output. I will show how the influences from other genres and musical styles when combined with the free improvising approach of The Necks create the acoustic experiment. The link with American minimalists, global and local performers and world music is considered. The theme of landscape, place and location is explored throughout the thesis. The relationship between the environment and The Necks’ performances is significant, and often features in their album titles. Included is a document (Appendix B) that contains transcriptions of their main musical themes relevant to the analyses of The Necks’ body of work. These are specific examples from which various conclusions are derived in order to prove the theory that their work is usefully described as an acoustic experiment. The second part of the Doctor of Creative Arts is the creative component. Chapter 8, ‘Notes on the Creative Project Places CD’, accompanies a compact disc (CD) audio recording which is an original body of work exploring contemporary improvising practices. I have composed and performed a set of piano pieces based on the theme of location, place and identity. This links with a section in the thesis, Chapter 6, ‘Landscape Place Location – Townsville’. I have explored a number of ways the acoustic piano can create subtle shadings in tone colour. The solo piano works of Chris Abrahams have been a source of inspiration and I refer specifically to his album Glow (2001) in discussing the evolution of my own work. I have also been influenced by Debussy’s tone colours, use of the pedal and his impressionistic solo piano compositions. Asian music and the art of simplicity and clarity has been a contributing stylistic consideration. Repetition and minimalism are also explored in ways of creating new sound. Thelonious Monk’s bold, angular, percussive style and the music of free improvising jazz pianists such as Cecil Taylor, Carla and Paul Bley are other influences. Australian jazz pianists such as Mike Nock and Roger Frampton (my teachers) and the way colours, new sounds and new music are created in a contemporary Australian context are inspirational for this work.
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