Date of Award

8-2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Music

Major

Music

Major Professor

Rachel M. Golden

Committee Members

Gerard Cohen-Vrignaud, Leslie Gay

Abstract

This thesis examines the music of the Oslo-based experimental ensemble SPUNK. Maja S.K. Ratkje, Kristin Andersen, Lene Grenager, and Hild Sofie Tafjord have operated at the juncture of site-specific conceptual art and experimentalism since the early 1990s, recording and releasing much of their work for Norway’s Rune Grammofon label. Employing voice, electronics, and acoustic instrumentation in a free improvisational style, the group’s music demonstrates a robust and varied engagement with a range of experimental and avant-garde traditions.

Drawing from ethnographic, theoretical, and historical methodologies, as well as my own experiences as a free improvisor and listener, I situate SPUNK’s work within the contested rubrics and fluctuating discourses underlying Euro-American experimental musical practice. I interrogate free improvisation’s political and aesthetic valences, tempering my analysis through interviews with the group and close “readings” of their recorded work. I focus particularly on their twelve-year long opus, Das Wohltemperierte SPUNK, a massive project unfolding in discrete acoustic environments throughout Oslo. With respect to this expansive work, I argue that free improvisation enacts a critical ontology that I call processual community.

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