My PhD thesis comprises a folio of recordings and a dissertation, Creative Collaboration in and as Contemporary Performance Practice. Taking a practice-led research approach, this study investigates how contemporary composers and performers working within the Western art music tradition collaborate to create, interpret and transmit new musical works.
The central argument of the dissertation is that the lines of demarcation between the processes of composition and interpretation in collaborative composer–performer relationships are significantly more blurred than is traditionally perceived. In fact, successful work-realisation is contingent on a symbiotic relationship between the multiple agencies bearing on the final creative outcome (such as the composer, performer, musical notation, instrument, and technology).
The three projects studied represent varying degrees of collaborative engagement between the composer and the performer in the processes of content-generation, notational realisation, interpretation and transmission of new work. My underlying assumption was that working closely with living composers would enable a greater understanding and familiarity with the performance aesthetics, techniques, and practices prevalent in contemporary music and lead to more informed, integrated and compelling performances.
Drawing on contemporary theories of collaborative creativity as found in the work of Vera John-Steiner, this study explored the hypothesis that co-creative engagement between the contemporary performer and composer may yield artistic outcomes and discoveries greater than the sum of the individual skills.
Situated within the practice-led research paradigm, this thesis comprises a folio of recordings of four new works for piano and a dissertation, Creative Collaboration in/as Contemporary Performance Practice. Using the specific examples of the collaborative projects involving myself as performer and four Australian composers, this study integrates artistic practice and qualitative analysis to investigate collaborative creativity in composer–performer dyads working within the contemporary Western art music tradition.
Three of the four recorded collaborations are used as case studies in the dissertation. Framed by the contemporary theories of collaborative creativity proposed by Vera John-Steiner and the creative cognition theory developed by Thomas Ward, Steven Smith and Ronald Finke, the discussion aims to provide insight into the creative processes of musical work-realisation and the way collaboration between composers and performers impacts on content-generation, notation, interpretation, and transmission of new musical works.
Challenging the apparent schism between the ‘constructive’ and the ‘reproductive’ modes of musical practice characteristic of Western art music, a model of musical work co-construction is proposed, in which the ‘musical work’ is seen as a complex and dialectic interplay between the generative, interpretive, and performative processes that the composer and the performer engage in through a bi-directional feedback loop that exists within the collaborative setting.
The study draws on a variety of qualitative research approaches and the method of Thematic Analysis specifically, enabling the identification of key themes through which to conceptualise, interpret and report the results of the research. The rigorous investigation of the collaborative case studies suggests that co-creative engagement between contemporary performers and composers in the process of musical work-realisation significantly enhances artistic outcomes and has important implications for contemporary performance and notational practices, the locus of creativity, and the participatory nature of artistic practice.
PDF copies of the full dissertation are available upon request. If you would like to obtain a copy, please contact me and I will be happy to email it to you.