Jacob Hart

The creative process as instrument making: a case study of four electronic musicians.

Subject and theories:

I am exploring an emerging practice in computer music and performance that presents instrument making as an intrinsic element of the creative process. I propose a methodology for analysing the act of instrument making through the observation of four technically-fluent composers (John Burton, Lauren Sarah Hayes, Olivier Pasquet and Rodrigo Constanzo) as they incorporate a particular set of new tools into their practices. This methodology is intended to give insight in to the work of contemporary musicians for whom instrument making is important, and to reveal some of the issues and questions generated by such an approach both for the composer and the analyst. This approach to musicking calls for a renewed reflection around the ontology of the instrument – I propose a model that considers performance as an inherent part of an instrument’s being, and the instrument as bearing a trace of the maker’s aesthetic project.


An analysis of the process of instrument making calls for a methodology beyond the scope of traditional musicology, therefore I borrow concepts and terminology from a large scope of neighbouring fields: organology (Hardjowirogo 2017, Magnusson 2017), ethnomusicology (Nattiez 1990, Nettl 2005), actor-network theory (Piekut 2014), analysis of performance (Abbate 2004, Born 2010, Cook 1999), and analysis of electroacoustic music (Battier 2003, Hanninen 2012, Roy 2003). For TCPM 2019 I will present a study of the four instruments created by these composers in the context of the FluCoMa project. The overarching constant in my research is as follows: these composers, experienced users of musical technologies such as Max and SuperCollider, are required to incorporate a same set of tools into their practice. The tools, currently under development by the project, are geared towards signal decomposition and corpus manipulation. I shall factorise the created instruments into clusters of different networks of:

–  Nodes: a composite or simple component of an instrument (material, bodily, social etc.)

–  Edges: the functional links between nodes (energy creation/transmission, amplification, filtering, ergonomic, aesthetic etc.)
These shall be mapped to further sonorous nodes, allowing us to gain an understanding of the landscape of sonorous potentialities proposed by an instrument.

Results of the study:

Through this methodology I create an ontology of the instruments under study (and specifically the components emerging from the FluCoMa project). Comparing results across the four practices, I shall present an analysis of the different ways in which components are used and how they have been incorporated into a creative process. I will reflect on the extent to which it is possible to consider a network of components as bearing a trace of the instrument maker-performer’s aesthetic project. For this, I propose three logics of fabrication: archaic (tools induce their use), classical (use induces the development of the tools) and contemporary (tools developed despite a use and potentially coinciding with aesthetic project). I shall also discuss how, in order for this analysis to be comprehensive, it must be extended to a study of performance and explain how I intend to continue research in this direction.



Abbate, Carolyn. ‘Music – Drastic or Gnostic?’ Critical Inquiry 30, no. 3 (2004): 505–36. Battier, Marc. ‘A Constructivist Approach to the Analysis of Electronic Music and Audio Art– between Instruments and Faktura’. Organised Sound 8, no. 3 (December 2003): 249–55.

Born, Georgina. ‘For a Relational Musicology: Music and Interdisciplinarity, Beyond the Practice Turn: The 2007 Dent Medal Address’. Journal of the Royal Musical Association 135, no. 2 (2010): 205–43.

Bovermann, Till, Alberto de Campo, Hauke Egermann, Sarah Hardjowirogo, and Stefan Weinzierl. ‘Musical Instruments in the 21st Century’, 1 December 2017.

Cook, Nicholas. ‘Analysing Performance and Performing Analysis’, 1999, 23.

Hardjowirogo, Sarah. ‘Instrumentality. On the Construction of Instrumental Identity’. In Musical Instruments in the 21st Century: Identities, Configurations, Practices, 9–24, 2017.

Magnusson, Thor. ‘Musical Organics: A Heterarchical Approach to Digital Organology’. Journal of New Music Research 46, no. 3 (3 July 2017): 286–303.

Nattiez, Jean Jacques. Music and Discourse: Toward a Semiology of Music. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 1990.

Nettl, Bruno. The Study of Ethnomusicology: Thirty-One Issues and Concepts. New ed. Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 2005.

Piekut, Benjamin. ‘Actor-Networks in Music History: Clarifications and Critiques’.Twentieth-Century Music 11, no. 2 (September 2014): 191–215.

Roy, Stéphane. L’analyse des musiques électroacoustiques: modèles et propositions. Univers musical. Paris: Harmattan, 2003.


Huddersfield University, UK

Having joined the University of Huddersfield in September 2018, Jacob is a PhD student on the FluCoMa project. Under the supervision of Fre!de!ric Dufeu, Owen Green and Pierre Alexandre Tremblay, his research centres around tracking the creative process of techno-fluent composers with the goal of acquiring a better understan- ding of the contemporary ear. Before this, he studied at Universite!Rennes 2, France, and completed his master’s research dissertation in 2017 under the supervision of Antoine Bonnet. During this time, he was also a Teaching Assistant in Computer Music.