Distillation and Synthesis (2017)

“A monumental work of research, analysis and interpretation!”, Robert Poss, composer and avant-guitarist (Band of Susans, solo artist).

Distillation and Synthesis: Aesthetics and Practice in Rhys Chatham’s Music for Electric Guitar is a PhD thesis that studies music by Rhys Chatham (b. 1952), a distinct body of work from an important artistic figure in the history of twentieth and twenty-first century music. It investigates the development, realisation, and import of these works – that distil and synthesise elements from various genres, primarily, minimalism and rock – created between 1977 and 2006, in an analytical, biographical, and cultural account that examines unpublished performance directions, scores, and original interviews with this under-explored artist and his collaborators (full abstract  below).


Keywords: Chatham, electric guitars, avant-garde, minimalism, downtown, Cage, Subotnick, Electric Circus, Radigue, Amacher, Palestine, Riley, Young, Conrad, Pran Nath, Ramones, no wave, noise rock, post-minimalism, post-Cagean, postmodern, popular music, post-rock, entrainment, radical pluralism, perceptualization, frisson, immanence, subjectivity, participation.

The full thesis can be viewed and/or downloaded as a .pdf file here: Distillation and Synthesis PhD

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