Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (Performing Arts)


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)

First Advisor

Tom O’Halloran

Second Advisor

Phil Everall


The music of Hungarian composer Béla Bartók (1881-1945) reconciles hauntingly lyrical beauty with harsh, atonal dissonance, appealing to music fans, musicians, and theorists alike for over a century and suggesting a rich resource of inspiration for improvising musicians. The composer Pierre Boulez commented that “Whether it is in a brutal violence animating a sound material in fusion, or in a tranquil gentleness glowing in a halo of grating sounds and colours… Bartók is incomparable and remains unique”. Informed by Bartók theorists Elliott Antokoletz, János Kárpáti, Erno Lendvai, and by Bartók’s own writings, this research identifies four melodic techniques: ‘mistuning’, ‘chromatic compression and diatonic extension’, ‘polymodal chromaticism’, and ‘inversional symmetry’. These four techniques inform a reflexive practice-led research project developing a collection of practice methods aimed at internalising and executing the techniques in improvised performance. The resulting practice methods were implemented and documented over a one-year period, exploring and evaluating concepts of automaticity and motor program theory. The research culminates in a collection of recordings along with this exegetical text reflecting on the process and results of the research. This project aims to expand my improvising practice, fuel the creation of new, interesting music, and to generate insights into ways other musicians and jazz students may approach the work and analysis of composers such as Bartók as a source of inspiration.

Access Note

The recordings are not available in this version of the thesis.