Instrument de/reconstruction as a Feministing Practice
Keywords:free improvisation, virtuosity, feminism, technique, performance, oboe, 'cello
This article discusses the impact of instrumental and intellectual virtuosity on British Free Improvisation (BFI) from a feminist perspective. I argue that its pursuit may have contributed to the development of this genre as a masculine stronghold in which it has been difficult for women to gain agency or visibility.
I propose a feminist practice of instrument de\/reconstruction within contemporary BFI and present three new instruments; my gliss anglais, a de/reconstruction of the cor anglais, together with the skin and bomb ‘cellos, devised by Khabat Abas. I offer insight into how our developing relationship with the materiality and possibility of these instruments frees us as improvisers from existing power structures in BFI and gives increased agency and sonic potential to us as performers.
Collaboration is vital to my practice as an instrumentalist, and I present a case study of the gliss anglais as an example of how collaboration can influence the development of new instruments. I introduce the concept of "feministing" (after Reardon-Smith 2020) free improvisation, which involves adopting a feminist practice, inclusive of male feminists, that prioritises the knowledge of women, investigates the social context of its subjects, and fosters non-hierarchical relationships.
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