The aim of this research was to explore devised collaboration between Seán Clancy and Andy Ingamells as a compositional process through the creation of two works that use collaborative creative strategies in different ways:

1. in This is About, by devising all material through the act of doing, considering all material in a given process to be collaborative.

2. in Antonio Guillem, by collaboratively constructing and performing a piece remotely over the internet, intended as a creative response to the COVID-19 pandemic by exploring technology in a novel way.

This exposition provides contextual information to support the two creative outcomes. 

Both works borrow aspects from other areas of Clancy's practice-based research, such as intervention and translation (available here). Both were devised through discussion, creating material by moving back and forth between doing and reflecting. We explored the collaborative process through a kind of visual musique concrète arising from the images of performance situations. In both works the compositional process was scrutinised, reviewed by funding bodies and festival directors, and disseminated internationally by BBC Radio 3, Twitch and YouTube.


This work can be contextualised alongside other contemporary duos that engage with devised practices, including: Ma La Pert (Tony Conrad and Jennifer Walshe), Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion, Difficult Listening (Paul Norman, Michael Wolters), James Saunders and Tim Parkinson, Adam de la Cour and Neil Luck, as well as Ingamells's other work with Kathryn Williams (Private Hire) and Maya Verlaak.

Historical anticedents exist in the work of composers associated with Fluxus, such as George Brecht, Philip Corner, Alison Knowles, Takehisa Kosugi, Yoko Ono, and James Tenney.

Relationships can also be found between this work and field recordists/sound artists such as Luc Ferrari, Hildegard Westerkamp, Chris Watson, and Louis Johnstone.

In these pieces we have also recontextualised some historical compositional/performance techniques found in the work of John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Christian Wolff.


CLICK TO ENLARGE: This is About Birmingham performance (Photo credit: Tom Earl)

CLICK TO ENLARGE: This is About Dublin performance (Photo credit: Miriam Kaczor)



Work 2: Antonio Guillem -  Video capture of live-stream


Total duration of performance: 30:21




Work 1: This is About – Audio recording from Dublin performance


Total duration of performance: 48:41 


CLICK TO ENLARGE: Antonio Guillem first performance (screenshot)

CLICK TO OPEN: Antonio Guillem performance score

CLICK TO OPEN: This is About performance score


Work 1: This is About

This is About is a c. 40-minute music-theatre performance combining the ancient Irish sport of hurling with the sounds of contemporary music, putting the audience at the heart of the action. The piece features synthesized music, playful and unconventional approaches to playing the piano, detailed field recordings, and harmonious vocals juxtaposed with football chants. The musical and physical action takes place around the audience, fully immersing them in the sound world.

This piece explores three primary research aims.

1) Uninhibited collaboration and the act of doing:

We explored an uninhibited approach to devising material, deciding to create all material through the act of doing. With no preconceived concept, we considered all material that arose over an initial five month period to be collaborative. This highlights a shift from traditional compositional processes (writing and giving parts to performers) to more radical approaches where nothing is cut and dried, and outcomes are devised through collaboration and constantly in flux right up to the moment of performance.

2) Visual musique concrète:

We explored the collaborative process through a kind of visual musique concrète arising from the images of performance situations. In this piece sonification happens as the result of particular performance situations: sound could only arise from the visual, rather than through arbitrary decisions. This marks a departure from other similar practices. An example of this is a pas de deux where Ingamells attempts a 'freestyle hurling' routine whilst Clancy tries to get as close to the ball as possible with a microphone in order to amplify it, layering repeated recordings in real-time to build up a rhythmic musical texture (see performance photographs (left) and from 20:11–22:05 on the audio track). A second example is finding a musical solution to overcome a lack of hurling skill. For example, to counteract Clancy's poor soloing (with a hurley) ability, he did this over the inside of a grand piano to create exciting sonic textures each time he dropped the ball. In both examples the sonic textures are the direct result of the performance situation.

3) Collaborative composition as lived experience:

Hurling is a highly physical and sonically rich game that is very much tied up with Irish identity. Clancy is Irish yet cannot play, whilst Ingamells is a recent English immigrant to Ireland and took up hurling as a way to integrate. In 2018, Clancy became a father and hoped to learn hurling so that he could play it with his son in the future. As musicians, we approached the game of hurling in a distinctly musical way to explore changes in our lives. This experience is articulated through a spoken narrative that was written by both collaborators. However, the narrative is also something audiences can relate to: the birth of a child; moving to an unfamiliar place; trying to fit in; choosing between work and family; facing up to your own limitations. As a result, this work illustrates a move towards a hyper-personal form of artistic practice, and composition as lived experience.

In addition to thse primary research aims, the work also utilises methodologies seen elsewhere in our individual practice, such as using the structure of a hurling match to create an unpredictable musical structure (see below), and using field recordings of a collection of hurling matches as an audio score.  

CLICK TO ENLARGE: This is About sketch for the structure


Work 2: Antonio Guillem

In the summer of 2020 we were scheduled to create and perform a new piece entitled Baldessari's Trumpet. As Covid-19 took its toll, we entered various states of lockdown, and live performances were forbidden, we we needed to devise an alternative performance situation (and piece) which went beyond simply performing as individuals in isolation. As a result, we formulated a strategy that would enable us to create and perform a piece remotely, whilst engaging with our individual lived circumstances. 

The photographer Antonio Guillem is responsible for creating a stock image that went on to be used in the 'distracted boyfriend' meme, appearing on the Internet in 2017. The meme became a springboard for this piece, provoking a fragmented text that we improvised on Twitter over the course of 28 days. Our collected text (as seen on the right-hand side of the video documentation, and also in the image below) became a score of choreographed actions for paper marionettes, a child’s set of maracas, musical typing, copying and pasting, a synthesiser, and performed speech.

Similarly to This is About, this piece explores the collaborative process through a kind of visual musique concrète arising from the images of performance situations with sonification again happening as the result of particular performance situations.

We performed the piece on the last night of Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s online Coda Festival in 2020. This festival (and performance) replaced a live Coda Festival (and performance) which was cancelled due to COVID-19 lockdown, meaning we had to devise a new live performance that was physically distanced and rendered online. We each performed from our homes, and the event was broadcast via Zoom to an audience in several different countries.

CLICK TO ENLARGE: Screenshot showing the online collaborative process

CLICK TO ENLARGE: Selected example of the Twitter threads that we maintained during the creative process, using a written-out version of 'the distracted boyfriend meme'. Click this link for an explanation of the meme from Know Your Meme website: 


The two creative outputs were performed at significant events and festivals across Ireland and the UK in 2019 and 2020. Documentation of each work exists online (as well as in this exposition) and videos are available to stream for free on YouTube. This is About was prominantly featured on Kirkos Ensemble's website and was promoted in The Irish Times and other online publications such as Nialler9A 10-minute radio edit of This is About was broadcast on BBC Radio 3's New Music Show on 26 September 2020, alongside other works by Clancy.

These two works and the concepts behind them are used as examples in postgraduate teaching at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, particularly in the MMus module Contemporary Music Concepts and Practices where internet performance and devised practices are discussed. These techniques are also presented to BMus students at RBC through the Performance Traditions 2: Music after 1900 in theory and practice module.

These collaborative methods have been discussed at invited talks at numerous institutions both in the UK and abroad.


Live performances

This is About
performed by Seán Clancy and Andy Ingamells 

6 September 2020 – Biosphere Festival, Sandymount Strand, Dublin (supported by PRSF Beyond Borders). 

4 March 2020 – NAWR concert series, Volcano Theatre, Swansea (supported by PRSF Beyond Borders).

2 May 2019 – Birmingham Record Company Day, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Recital Hall, Birmingham.


Antonio Guillem
performed by Seán Clancy and Andy Ingamells 

19 June 2020 – CODA Festival, Online (via Zoom video conferencing platform).


This is About
26 September 2020 – BBC Radio 3 New Music Show


Public funding and support

This is About was supported by the PRSF Beyond Borders scheme and produced by Third Ear.