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Artur Matamoro-Vidal

Published date
22 May 2019

Exploring the notions of silence and sociality: New contexts of listening in contemporary music improvisation

College: London College of Communication
Supervisors: Professor David Toop, Dr Salome Voegelin


This practice-based research investigates the relationship between improvised music, the notion of silence and social structures. It begins with the observation that whilst the practice of improvised music moves away from musical norms it simultaneously creates its own conventions and continues with the question: Is silence a method for improvisation?

Context and background

The first section of this research considers silence as an interruption of playing that enables one to interrogate the set of rules that builds ones practice. According to sociologist Luc Boltanski, what we perceive as reality is the result of social constructions. Apart from reality, there exists what he calls the 'world' that is made of a flux of events that remains inaudible since they are situated beyond social constructions. In this research I investigate the notion of silence in improvised music as a method for approaching Boltanski’s inaudible of the world.

The second section of this research studies the notion of structures in improvised music by asking the question: How are these structures identified since, according to psychologist Jean Piaget, 'structures do not belong to consciousness but to behaviour'4 and therefore resemble what anthropologist Edward T. Hall calls a silent language? My research investigates strategies of dis-adaptation, which according to Piaget enables the individual to become aware of these structures. Thus, in this research improvised music goes toward silence in two directions: firstly in order to identify existing structures and secondly to approach what is situated beyond these structures.

Bringing those two sections together, through this project I argue that silence in improvised music is a form of dis-adaptation that makes one aware of habits of playing and thus reveals what Boltanksi calls the inaudible of the world. My practice develops a method for improvisation that brings together the notion of silence and improvisers' concern with an intentional change of structures in order to overcome existing social constructions.