Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Experimental Music and Digital Media

Document Type



EAI (Electro-Acoustic Improvisation) has long presented issues pertaining to its definition and practice. This is due to the wide range of acoustic and electronic sounds present in the style as well as the style’s stated adherence to improvisation. This stated adherence to improvisation and wide potential range of acoustic and electronic sounds seem to clash with EAI’s stylistic consistencies. Because the EAI style has been difficult to define, it has also been difficult to place historically within experimental music traditions. In order to clarify the definition, practice, and historical positioning of EAI and identify where the style’s boundary lines around acceptable sounds and methods of performance have been drawn, a history of the style’s evolution has been assembled based on lists of important recordings collated by major proponents of the style to identify commonalities in EAI performer’s attitudes towards influence, ensemble communication, and instrumentation. In order to bridge the gap between aesthetic intention and application, each of these different aesthetic aims have been grounded in EAI’s material practices. These practices, seen in the tendencies towards modularity, instability, and automatism in the construction and use of EAI musician’s instrumentariums, provide physical evidence of EAI musician’s intentions towards listening and interaction within a performance setting. By connecting commonalities seen in EAI instrumentariums with the aesthetic intentions of its musicians, apparent contradictions contained within the EAI style can be resolved. This resolution will contribute to an accurate definition and positioning of the EAI style within experimental music history. This definition and historical positioning of the EAI style draws from art theorist Rosalind Krauss’ structuralist analysis of sculpture, and conceives of EAI as a style that has inverted historical tendencies of improvised and composed music in its effort to innovate while maintaining connections with music history. Extrapolated outward, this focus on inversions of improvisational and compositional methods within music’s tradition is what connects EAI with emergent trends in experimental music.



Committee Chair

Allison, Jesse

Included in

Music Commons