Epistemology of instruments

In any real-time performative medium, you walk in with something already prepared. If you are a pianist, the piano has already been built — the audience generally does not wish to see you construct a piano there and then on-stage.

In theatre there are sets, costumes, lights, stage directions, usually a script, all of which have been carefully prepared before the live event itself.

Even improvisational performances require much preparation. Nobody goes into a jazz improv session without lots of practice and grounding in the rules of the genre. The same goes for improv comedy or dance. In fact, the more “improvised” genres tend to have very well understood boundaries — that’s what lets them work without dissolving into chaos.

Everything you come in with, every asset available to you to use in your live performance, can be thought of as an instrument. Your trained voice and body, your guitar, the spot light from stage left, these are all instruments.

It might be interesting to study genres of live performance entirely from the perspective of nature of the instruments they require. There are many overlapping taxonomies of instruments, and the more one thinks about it, the more complex and intricate the questions get.

I wonder whether anybody has ever looked at understanding varieties live performance entirely from this formal perspective — through an epistemology of instruments.

One Response to “Epistemology of instruments”

  1. Michael W says:

    Dear Ken … any performer knows that improvisation is a matter of careful preparation.

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