Actual collaboration is difficult and, as a composer, there are structures that exist within our system and institutions to keep the roles (of composer, musician) clearly defined and separate.
This presentation will touch on just a few of the projects that I am undertaking and explore the challenges and work methods therein. These will be projects with my group Bastard Assignments, with pianist Zubin Kanga, and with two of my brothers.
Each has begun similar preparations: preparation of materials, of scheduling of time, and conversation. Then what is important is how I respond to the reality of what happens and perhaps how that is changing. With each project being quite different from the one before, it can be a challenge to find a thread to follow or a hypothesis to test.
Near the beginning of this project, I identified some key advantages of working with Bastard Assignments in a more collaborative way, as devisers, and now I follow that trajectory through to a larger scale project with them and an expanded team. The language we are beginning to use to describe our processes is beginning to change too.
Poetic modes of reflection or use of metaphor to describe outcomes have enabled a thread to be found and help me to situate what happens in the rehearsal room within a wider field. I have also begun to build case studies of other composer-performers/choreographers to build a clearer context for myself and of this way of working.
How far am I willing to go with collaboration as my compositional method? Are there implications for me, my collaborators, and for composers in general?
The Covid-19 pandemic of early 2020 has had a huge and wide-reaching effect. My group made up of four composer-performers called Bastard Assignments was not exempt. We were pulled to continue to make work, the difference now is that we are online at our individual homes and meeting each other on Zoom. Zoom is a company that has been around since 2011 and a lot of us have recently become familiar with it to celebrate birthdays at a distance, catch up with friends, or conduct our business. It was set up by a Chinese computer scientist who only after the ninth attempt at the application secured his visa to live in the USA. Since the beginning of 2020, the worldwide usage of Zoom has risen 67%, its use diversifying from corporate communications to domestic and arts activities. My compositional and performance work with Bastard Assignments is rooted in collaboration, devising, and group creation. It favours memorisation over the use of musical scores, emotional presence over reproducibility. As we take our work together into a purely online workspace, important questions arise. Through a new way of working online, does our adaptability bring about a new form? How will we understand this online work when and if normalcy returns? Skills that we learn as composer-performers are dropped, remade, and tested during this period, how will our practice have changed?
Collaborative creative processes within the realm of Western Art Music are usually hidden and/or not actually collaborative at all. Vera John-Steiner (2000) defines ‘integrative collaboration’ as a working situation in which roles merge and a shared ideology and vision emerge through dialogue.
This artistic research project investigates to what extent intimacy is a condition for collaboration and what it means within music-making. Intimacy is newly defined as the play of affective, physical and emotional borders between people where our own sense of ourselves can be shaped.
By considering collaborative working as a compositional tool, intimacy becomes something that can be encouraged, indeed collaborative skills can be practiced. Through a variety of music-making projects in which I am project lead, composer and/or performer or composer-performer, I devise strategies for handing over power to my colleagues and harnessing their creativity such that they become co-creators rather than just interpreters. I investigate different approaches to intimacy within the domains of music and theatre. I also reflect on my own development as a collaborator and attempt to create a set of principles for successful collaborative working.
A set of advantages to adopting a devised process have emerged and a new focus on the long-term potential of a group or partnership changes the context for collaboration. Understanding that a creative partnership is a tree and artistic products are the fruits of that tree has caused me to understand collaboration as multimodal, beyond the score, and made clear the options for the choices of values within collaboration.