Research

Rich's PhD, entitled Combining Musical Identities through Composition and Improvisation, addressed the accommodation of non-congruent improvisatory approaches within compositional frameworks. An array of improvisatory approaches and compositional techniques were examined and developed, spanning genre, culture and idiom, by working practically within many different ensembles. A selection of Scores and Live Studio Recordings can be found here. The combination of improvisation and composition continues to be a primary research area.

Much of Rich's current research gravitates around the fretless electric guitar. This instrument remains relatively unexplored due to its infancy and ‘prepared’ nature, and whilst it features occasionally in popular music, Rich is pioneering its use in more contemporary and eclectic settings; encompassing its use as a solo instrument, as well as exploring its role within different ensembles. More specifically, his research engages newly commissioned performance repertoire (via international calls for scores for solo fretless electric guitar); the development of new techniques and original notation specific to the fretless electric guitar; the use of technology-based augmentation (including an array of effects pedals, loops, E-bow etc.); building relationships with composers; improvisation; and cross-cultural collaborations through performing modern hybrid-embodiments of music(s) which utilise microtonal tuning systems. His latest publication on the subject can be found here.

He also regularly composes and performs original experimental pieces – which combine part-composed material with improvisation – with his band vLookup Trio (trumpet, percussion and fretless electric guitar).


Research projects include:

• Fretless Architecture: An Exploration of the Fretless Electric Guitar (ongoing)

Perks, R. (2019). Fretless Architecture: The Expansion of Improvisatory Techniques and Sound-Palette Specific to the Fretless Electric Guitar 
Premier performance of Improweb MMXIX, composed by Perks, R. – International Guitar Research Centre, Improvisation and the Guitar Conference, Academy of Perfroming Arts, Hong Kong. [Lecture-recital]

Perks, R. (2019). Fretless Architecture - Towards the Development of Original Techniques and Musical Notation Specific to the Fretless Electric Guitar.
Music & Practice, Vol 4, New Perspectives on Technique and Practice [Journal Article]

Perks, R. (2016). Fretless Architecture: An Exploration of the Fretless Electric Guitar. 
Premier performance of Divisions 2, composed by Hall, A. – International Guitar Research Centre, University of Surrey, UK. [Lecture-recital]

Perks, R. (2015). Fretless Architecture: An Exploration of the Fretless Electric Guitar. 
Premier performance(s) of Turbulence, composed by Usher, J.; Divisions, composed by Hall, A.; Deadly Sinner, composed by Trotter, J.; Elephants, composed by Maguire, P.; Rhapsody, composed by Minshew, T. – Colchester Arts Centre, UK. [Concert]

Through a process comprising collaboration with composers and a critical evaluation of performative practice – drawing directly from extensive engagement with the fretless electric guitar across diverse performance contexts over the last ten years – this research focuses on the development of original, extended performance techniques – specific to the fretless electric guitar – and how an engagement with technology (incl. effects pedals, Ebow etc.) might create new timbres. Furthermore, it offers a corresponding system of musical notation, through which the techniques and timbres of the fretless electric guitar might be disseminated into the wider musical community, allowing it to grow as an independent force, both as a solo performance instrument, and within ensemble settings.

In January 2015, Rich released an international call for scores (for solo fretless electric guitar) in conjunction with Colchester New Music. This enabled him to subsequently collaborate, engage in dialogue, and exchange feedback with composers, over approximately a one year period, in order to develop a repertoire for – and explore the technical potential of – this new and exciting instrument. Rich curated and carried out a live performance (and recordings) of a selection of five of the entries at Colchester Arts Centre in November 2015. The concert was received well, and videos were subsequently uploaded to YouTube for both documentation, and public dissemination. As a direct result of this project, a body of contemporary pieces for solo fretless guitar now exist, one of which – Turbulence by Julia Usher – has been published by Primavera and is available to purchase and download from their website on request. Rich believes this to be the first instance of a publicly available repertoire piece for solo fretless electric guitar. In March 2016, he was invited to deliver a follow-up lecture-recital at the International Guitar Research Centre’s annual conference (hosted at the University of Surrey), where he premiered Divisions 2, a new piece by composer Andrew Hall, and discussed his findings from previous calls for scores and performances. A selection of Scores, Live Studio Recordings, and Live Videos can be found here.

An open access, peer-reviewed, article addressing the advancement of original performance techniques and musical notation specific to the fretless electric guitar – and approaches to developing instrumental techniques through collaboration – was published in April 2019, in Music and Practice Journal, vol 4, New Perspectives on Technique and Practice; and this work – along with the premier of an original part-composed, part-improvised piece: Improweb MMXIX, by Perks, R. – took place at the International Guitar Research Centre's conference on Improvisation and the Guitar, at the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts in July 2019. Click here for video

• Strung Together: A Night of World Music Improvisation.

Perks, R., Manhoobi, S., Minooei, F., Zedan, F., and Osman, R. (2017). Strung Together: A Night of World Music Improvisation. Performance project, commissioned by Diaspora Arts Connection – African American Art & Culture Complex, San Francisco, US. [Concert].

This research project investigated the extent to which the improvisatory approaches of musicians from non-congruent musical cultures could be combined to create a programme of original, eclectic, collaborative works, within a limited time frame. Furthermore, it examined how much, and what kind of musical information should be provided initially by the musical director to optimise productivity, whilst maintaining contextually-relative improvisatory freedom(s).

In September 2017, Rich led a collaborative performance project entitled Strung Together in San Francisco, US. After the initial proposal was accepted, full funding and promotional support was awarded by Diaspora Arts Connection. The ensemble comprised five professional musicians from Iran, Syria and the UK (oud, santour, saz, percussion and fretless electric guitar), each with a background in a different tradition of improvisatory music. Rich acted as musical director/performer (fretless electric guitar), composed the preliminary musical material, and was ultimately responsible for the project’s curation and delivery. The musicians gathered together daily for a week, and during this time collectively developed, arranged, curated, and rehearsed a complete performance programme of original, culturally-eclectic music; a live performance of the show took place on the evening of the final day. The basis of the musical content was improvisation – in its broadest context – combined with the pre-composed, identifiable 'Fragment(s)' which incorporated influence from each of the performers’ respective musical cultures, and served as initial ‘vantage points’ for the development of the final pieces. The performance was received very well by both the audience and the greater World-music fan base of the San Francisco Bay area; it was broadcast live via social media (and videos were later uploaded), reaching an international audience, maximising impact. In response to the videos and the live feed, comments have been received from all over the world, including Iran, Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. Live videos from the performance and copies of the preliminary scores can be found here.

vlookup Trio: Contemporary Muisc/Improvisation Ensemble (ongoing)

Perks, R., Hall, A., Atherton, T. (2019). Performance with vLookup Trio – Dutch Fretless Guitar Festical VIII, NL. [Concert]

Perks, R., Hall, A., Atherton, T. (2015). Performance with vLookup Trio – Colchester Arts Centre, UK. [Concert]

vLookup Trio (trumpet, percussion and fretless electric guitar) explore the sonic possibilities of an otherwise limited instrumentation by incorporating effects and live electronics.

In 2015/16 this trio generated much public interest by performing a series of concerts at prolific UK venues including The Forge, The Spice of Life and Colchester Arts Centre, showcasing original pieces which stretched the sonic limits of this instrumentation. In 2019 they produced an (EP/Mini-Album) of original pieces, which will showcased their latest discoveries in terms of instrumental techniques and soundscapes. In may 2019, vLookup Trio performed at the 8th Dutch (International) Fretless Guitar Festival in Amsterdam.

• Composition: Jigsaw #4

Perks, R. (2015). Jigsaw #4 for Piano and Fender Rhodes, commissioned by Kate Halsall. Recorded and commercially released on Miniturised Concertos | Maché, Metier Records, 2016 [CD].

This part-composed, part-improvised work explores the boundaries between performance identity, composition and improvisation. More specifically, Jigsaw #4 combines the improvisatory approaches of two performers, each from non-congruent musical backgrounds; providing them with a structural framework as well as various improvisatory ‘milestones’, thus maintaining a degree of compositional identity, whilst simultaneously accommodating the improvisatory ‘voices’ of both performers. The piece was commissioned by pianist Kate Halsall, and was performed (and recorded) by Kate Halsall and Rachael Ueckermann.

• Composition: Box of Serial

Perks, R. (2011). Box of Serial for solo Flute, selected from an international call for scores by Colchester New Music. Premiered by Ruffer, N. – Colchester Arts Centre, UK. 2012 [Concert].

From 2011 to 2013 Rich composed a series of pieces for solo wind and brass instruments entitled The Series. All were recited and recorded and the piece for solo flute, Box of Serial, was selected by Primavera in their call for new scores and was premiered in 2012 by the internationally acclaimed flautist Nancy Ruffer. This part-composed, part-improvised work explores the boundaries between performance identity, composition and improvisation. More specifically, Box of Serial combines through-written serial techniques with indeterminacy, and interpretive freedom for the performer. Elements of choice, chance and improvisatory freedom are incorporated throughout, allowing each performance to maintain its identity, whilst sounding fresh and different each time.

• Composition: Imposition

Perks, R. (2009). Imposition. Album of original works. Recorded and commercially released, 2009 [CD].

In 2009 Rich independently released an album of original works entitled Imposition, which received critical acclaim from various organisations and reviewers, including Music Orbit and Unftretted. Imposition explores the relationship between composition and improvisation to varying degrees. Rich wanted to determine how different compositional techniques or methods effect improvisations; how improvisation can occur within certain compositional parameters or boundaries and how improvisers react and perform when considering certain focal points. Starting from the first track, which is essentially a rigidly structured composition with limited solos, the degree of freedom for the improvising musician increases until the last track which is a collective (loosely guided) free improvisation. The tracks in-between bridge this gap by altering the balance.