Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty of Creative Arts
Butler, Gary, Prepared instruments in improvised music: precedents and purposes, Doctor of Philosophy thesis, Faculty of Creative Arts, University of Wollongong, 2000. http://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/1756
It is a common assumption that improvising musicians using prepared instruments are influenced by Cage's music and that they are using preparations for similar purposes. Improvisors, however, tend to draw on a wide range of sources, spontaneously combining them during performance. There is no general agreement among improvisors as to the importance of Cage's music - some embrace Cage's music and philosophy enthusiastically, some rejed them, and others accept only some of Cage's ideas.
Facile assumptions of Cage's "obvious" influence on musicians employing prepared instruntents and chance should be replaced by examining the array of ideas relevant to each individual performer. Alternative precedents for instrument preparation indude other composers, percussion stops in old pianos and harpsichords, sound effeds in theatre organs, African instruments, vaudeville and visual arts.
A brief explanation is given of why improvisors are likely to be influenced by at least some of these precedents. The question of precedents intertwines with a consideration of the purposes of instrument preparation: timbre, humour, to imitate other instrurnents or produce sound effeds, visual appearances, politics, indeterniinacy and the (literal or metaphorical) destrudion of an instrument
Questions of organology are also considered - examining definitions of "prepared instruments", categorising several distind approaches to instrument preparation, and suggesting that prepared instruments pose significant challenges to traditional systems of organology.