MARK SUMMERS is a performer who specialises in improvisation on the viola da gamba, largely in conjunction with live computer processing. He previously worked as a professional musician performing early and contemporary music, then as a researcher in information science. He is now gradually returning to performing around the UK and abroad, whilst looking after his young son.

Mark is also a part-time doctoral student at the University of Sheffield where he examines instrumental improvisation with interactive computer processing from the performer’s point of view.

Mark has a strong side interest in photography, especially combining improvisation and photography in such a way that each is entangled in the creation of the other.

© Mark Summers

© Mark Summers

My first solo improvisation was the result of a lack of practice. I had written a piece for solo cello, loosely based on one of the Bach suites, but it turned out to be too difficult for the amount of practice I had devoted to it. When it came to the performance of “Untitled” (for it had no name), I figured it was better to improvise well than play the piece badly. I used the layout of the performance space (downstairs at St Cecilia’s Hall, Edinburgh) to hide myself away. I announced the piece as being called “From another room” and got to work. From the first moment of my ‘cello spike accidentally scraping along the stone floor as I picked up my instrument, I was away…

Since then I have enjoyed playing, listening to and watching improvisation (very much in that order). Another fascinating skill I have developed is that of (self-)doubt, at which I am now expert.

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