Forging a singular musical path: The compositional explorations of Mark Cain

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Australian Music Centre

Place of Publication

Ulitmo, New South Wales


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts




Originally published as: Ryan, R. (2016). Forging a singular musical path: The compositional explorations of Mark Cain. In Sound Scripts, Volume 9. (pp.33-43). Ultimo, NSW: Australian Music Centre.


A diverse contribution to Perth's interconnected spheres of new music, experimental jazz, free improvised genres and world music ranks saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Mark Cain (.1955) of Fremantle, amongst the most inventive of Western Australian musicians. He was an essential contributor to Perth's 1980s breakthrough period in new music, performing open-form improvisation at Tos Mahoney's first Evis (now Tura New Music) concerts and the inaugural Perth Festival of Improvised Music (1985). Cain subsequently co-founded, with Peter Keelan, the group AC/PVC (1987-1990) to explore the musical potential of industrial plastic tubing. Since the early 1990s he has focused on more idiomatic forms of improvisation, often utilising the simplest of recycled materials to create extraordinary sounds. This paper unpacks Cain's approach to composition through the interlocked avenues of improvised performance, instrument invention, and community collaboration. It examines his eclectic range of instrumental techniques with an emphasis on compositional innovation, novelty and mutation.

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