You are reading my critical reflection that forms the main part of my artistic research project that I undertook at Norwegian Academy of Music between October 2018 and December 2021. I present a narrative through the body of texts, documentation and materials in the form of discussion, argument and the investigation of ideas. 

This Research Project (RP) and reflection have taken considerable effort not only in the execution of the artistic results but the analysis of documentation of the creation of the artistic results, of the ephemeral conversations, the assembly of different theoretical approaches and the contextualisation of myself within the field. The origins are in music and particularly Western Art Music (WAM). 

I proffer an individuated look at a collaborative compositional practice that is entangled with my composer-performer practice. I explore different ways to compose musical compositions that go beyond the traditional perspectives of music, where elements like choreography are part of the work. In this way I engage my colleagues differently, elevating them beyond interpreters to co-creators or devisers and benign to present collaboration as a compositional tool. With this starting point, the projects that I present are relatively diverse. Some are rooted in WAM and Electronica and others have produced music that engages with a particular community, music that is subordinate to a script and others that are film and video art. The aesthetics in this RP are not the focus. Instead the focus is the principles for collaborative working which are informed and enriched by these projects. I do this through implementing them as composer, as performer, within WAM and beyond. As I see it, this strengthens these principles and contributes to my developing skills as a collaborator, beyond the perspectives of genre and domain. All this is while exploring a score-less process. For me, the score has traditionally held power and I find this unappealing. 

Composer Tim Steiner writes on the role of the score and its inhibiting nature in the context of WAM and collaborative working. Clarinetist Paul Roe describes the nature of the creativity intention when there is a scored work as a top-down approach (Roe, 2007, p.46). For Steiner, the score with its notation brings the power of literacy and thus a social institution and Steiner writes: “As such it has been exploited for its restrictive and destructive qualities - those that have led to the impoverishment of oral process and which have alienated the vast majority of our society from the creative processes of music practice.” (Steiner, 1992, p.3). When the score, the composer and the performer are put in relation, we see a Foucauldian ‘Apparatus’, with different connotations to Adorno’s previous usage of ‘apparatus’. Giorgio Agamben helps to define an apparatus as “a set of strategies of the relation of forces supporting, and supported by, certain types of knowledge” (Agamben, 2009, p.2). He adds that he “shall call an apparatus literally anything that has in some way the capacity to capture, orient, determine, intercept, model, control, or secure the gestures, behaviors, opinions. or discourses of living beings” (Agamben, 2009, p.14). 

Georgina Born elaborates on these relations further saying: “The ontology of the musical work envisions a hierarchical assemblage: the composer-hero stands over the interpreter, conductor over instrumentalist, interpreter over listener, just as the work ideal authorizes and supervises the score, which supervises performance, which supervises reception.” (Born, 2005, p.26). I was uninterested in inheriting this hierarchy. Instead I found this sentence by Nicholas Cook as an excellent point of departure: “music subsists in the collaborative action of people playing and working together, so that performances can be thought of as complex social interactions, and scores as scripting them”. (Cook, 2014, p.2). 

My solution shifts power towards the performer by inviting them into the compositional process early on. In the following chapters I elaborate on the advantages of such a collective approach and the strategies that I have used. This requires a rethink of what a composer does, the hierarchy and what a performer is for. It forces us as composers to learn how to collaborate and to welcome the performers into the composing. It demands that we nurture difference, disposition, affinities and individual knowledge. There is a consensus among several of the writers who I quote in this RP that this area of investigation, composer and performer relations and collaborative processes, is still under-researched. Fabrice Fitch cites the particular impetus for writing his essay with Neil Heyde (2007) as the lack of models for the way that a student project at Royal Academy of Music in London, in this case a one-to-one collaborative student project between a composer and an instrumentalist, might operate. 

This RP initially had the title “Music for Human Face”, a provocation or kind of contradiction from the outset; an idea to compose music for a body part whose primary function is sensual and visual with its aural potential as secondary. It speaks to the growing repertoire of musical works within what Marco Ciciliani (2017) describes as the expanded field of music where composers use non-musical means to execute their musical ideas. In this expanded field that calls for instrumentalists but perhaps not for instruments, do we cease to be instrumentalists and instead become performers? 

Theatre Scholar Hans-Thies Lehmann names this a ‘mutation’. In the traditional view of theatre, that is theatre from before the Second World War, the text was primary and of utmost importance; the actors and every other theatrical element and tool was at the disposal of the script. In “Postdramatic Theatre” Lehmann writes: “The focus is no longer on the questions whether and how theatre ‘corresponds to’ the text that eclipses everything else, rather the questions are whether and how the texts are suitable material for the realization of a theatrical project.” (Lehmann, 2006, p.56). He continues and although he is writing on theatre, its principle is transferable to WAM where we can briefly equate the actor with the musician and the score with the text: “In the process it discovers a new continent of performance, a new kind of presence of the ‘performers’ (into which the ‘actors’ have mutated) and establishes a multifarious theatre landscape beyond forms focussed on drama.” (Lehmann, 2006, p.57). This speaks to both of the features of my scoreless, post-instrumental practice. Through diminishing the use and authority of the score, those other elements like my presence, my body, its movement, and posture come into view and into my compositional thinking also; using a musical instrument is no longer a certainty.

In their artistic research both Jen Torrence and Jess Aszodi ask an important question: how are we as performers preparing for this kind of performing? 

Much of this conversation is well-covered by Jen Torrence in her thesis “Percussion Theatre: A body in between”. Jen’s research and practice centres on work that asks the performer to do something other than the music-making that they were trained to do, at times, acting, moving, walking, singing, sometimes with no instruments at all, leaving only the body as instrument and even material. She has morphed into the role of a co-creator for a number of the works that she has presented. Torrence gives a useful definition of devising and how it differs from interpretation. By its very nature, devising is a non-hierarchical, collective collaboration, sensitive to the artists involved. Often a devised process bypasses score creation, favouring playing, experimenting and role-sharing, leaving the score production until sometime after the performance has actually happened.

Singer and writer Jess Aszodi writes in this short essay that as performers, we need to develop something new, a new awareness for how to assess our performance of this type of work that makes extra-musical demands: “For those of us making forays into music that requires so much beyond what we were trained to do, shouldn’t we be getting more serious about how to get good at it (whatever that might mean)?...As more music-identified practitioners take up residence in the interdisciplinary space between theater, dance, and sonic arts, and as the inclusion of embodied and theatrical elements become more normalized in new music, musicians must develop new criteria for evaluating our methodologies and performances.” (Aszodi, 2017). 

Jennifer Walshe’s “New Discipline” at once exemplifies and calls for such awareness through suggesting a new framework that encompasses musical works which are rooted in the visual and theatrical as well as the practice of finding new performative tools to meet the demands of such compositions. I explore ramifications of the 2016 text in the next chapter and in doing so provide a context for my own work and hint at the need for my own research and principles within this expanded field.  

Following that, I investigate what intimacy means and offer my definition. I do this by drawing upon examples of composers working in new music today and theatre practitioners. In the third chapter, I outline my methodology and the typologies and writings that I will reference in relation to my own in-person collaborative projects in the period 2018-2020. I apply my new definition of intimacy to my reflection on these projects and processes. The fourth chapter is an essay that finds a language for just what is going on in performance, between audience and performer, using the language of contagion. The fifth chapter is similar to the third in that I describe my collaborative projects that are now taking place largely online and use the same typologies and texts. These typologies proved to be enormously useful and concrete amidst a sea of quite different projects, outcomes and relationships. Their clarity is also useful when trying to pinpoint exactly what intimacy means within this context.

My decision to present a thesis-like body of texts came as a result of the pandemic when I began to write in the vacuum when all in-person meetings, rehearsals and performances were stopped; this body of texts became a creative output. They represent a chronological thinking-through of my research, beginning with my context, before addressing the key idea. After this, my collaborative projects and detail about working processes is interrupted by contagion - obviously alluding to the pandemic of 2020-2021 - before I finally conclude and then reflect on artistic research as an idea. 

Shortly after starting this fellowship, I began to make a piece with my now ex-husband, an amateur performer with little knowledge of the context that I was operating from. I wanted to create a piece that used the intimacy of our relationship and the sonic and visual qualities and permutations of kissing as its material. At the same time as I was requesting that he co-create the work, I was also putting up an aesthetic barrier. It caused me to reflect on who was making the decisions and in doing so realise that the process was not pursuant to the result that I wanted. 

At the same time, I was making lipsync work with Bastard Assignments. This exploration of lipsync quickly left the confines of the face and encompassed the body as a whole, moving in space. Researcher Merrie Snell uses the words miming, dubbing, doubling, playback, and picturization as synonymous with ‘lipsynching’ in order to describe the practice “by which a voice is severed from its body and made to inhabit a new body, constructing a hybrid that calls into question the authenticity and integrity of both” (Snell, 2020, p.4). Owing in part to TV shows like “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and “Lipsync Battle” as well as the app “Tiktok”, Lipsync is ubiquitous within pop culture. Whilst I was making work with Bastard Assignments, I was making work with Bastard Assignments. Without scores, we devised sections of my piece “FEED” (2019). I established ‘frames’ that invited their creativity into the process, a concept I will elaborate on in later chapters. 

These two experiences have shaped the nature of my inquiry as it is now. They have led to an interest in closeness, conversation, and familiarity between collaborators and it is in this space, this intimate way of viewing where the focus of my research points.  I will investigate this space from inside my practice as a composer-performer and observe from more of a social science perspective rather than that of the humanities, with which music has been traditionally associated. Keith Sawyer writes in his closing remarks in “Collaborative Creative Thought and Practice in Music”: “Perhaps the defining contrast between a humanities paradigm and a social science paradigm is that the humanities disciplines focus on texts and textual analysis, whereas the social sciences focus on observable empirical phenomena. The humanities paradigm is appropriate when the object of study is a text, generated long ago, in a historical period and a culture that can no longer be directly observed. In contrast, these chapters focus on contemporary musical practice.” (Sawyer, 2016).

As well as contributing to the discourse on ‘music in the expanded field’ (Ciciliani, 2017), more importantly I am contributing to knowledge around collaborative processes that spill across genres and domains. I have done this within the framework of artistic research that researcher and musician Mine Doğantan-Dack describes as “research activities that are methodologically integrated with an artistic creation and cannot be pursued without art-making” (Doğantan-Dack, 2012, p.36).

My focus in these chapters is on process and the dialogue between collaborators and their significance to the emerging work. Through this, I have been able to alter my own approach to projects. Dialogue, trust, humour and conflict all combine to create relatedness between individuals. Through an investigation into just what intimacy means, I will show how relatedness has the potential to shape feelings and identity and create a shared space where experimentation, co-authoring and role-sharing can flourish. I will investigate how this relatedness can be determined as more or less intimate within the projects that I undertake; how intimacy is a condition for collaboration.