Patrick Howard, a researcher in Phenomenology suggests that a recent surge of interest in collaboration is due to a shift in thought away from the self-maximising individual towards a collective sense of communal effort and connected intelligence, enabled by information and communication technologies, social media, the drive for innovation, and enhanced modes of connecting in an increasingly globalized world (Howard, 2020, p.2). Coordination and cooperation are seen as less ambitious undertakings within this RP. I have tried to engineer projects or alter my own approach to composition such that an artistic process is shared, as much as possible, in the pursuit of a shared creation which brings about a new understanding previously possessed by neither party. The blending of skills, perspectives, personalities and expertise in the creation of new artistic work within WAM is still a new area for research.

In his PhD thesis, Pianist Zubin Kanga introduces the idea of the ‘mythology’, problematising much of the received history of composer and performer relations. He writes: “In the emerging field of research into composer-performer collaboration, the  small core of texts forming the basis of the research is supplemented by a deep well of assumption, tradition and folk knowledge from the long history of practice of collaborations. This received knowledge, a web of ‘mythologies’, pervades the work of both practitioners and researchers in the field.” (Kanga, 2014, p.15). One such ‘mythology’ that is relevant to this RP owing to its interdisciplinary nature is that of the collaborative relationship between John Cage and Merce Cunnigham. Clarinetist Paul Roe (2007) writes on their relationship, citing writer Paul Kaiser, that whilst Cage and Cunningham were engaged in one of the more famous partnerships, their strategy was actually rooted in avoiding fragmentation rather than actually collaborating, which would have demanded role-sharing and dialogue. Cage and Cunningham created their own parts independently and only united their work when it was nigh-on fully realised (Roe, 2007). The unstated motivation here was more “about avoiding clashes of ego, 'a Zen-like approach of collaborating through noncollaboration'” (Kaiser, 2004, p.1).  

As I outlined in the introduction, this RP began as “Music for Human Face” and was based on a material approach. It then developed into being concerned with collaboration and even striving to make the projects that I was participating in and/or initiating, as collaborative as possible for no other reason than to see if I could. However this told me nothing of the quality or nature of the collaboration, where I feel there is a great deal of interest and insight available that is normally hidden from view. There is growing research into collaboration, particularly in WAM that I will reference here. I do not believe that a collaborative working method automatically produces better work than an ostensibly non-collaborative compositional practice but I do feel that composers and performers should explore this way of working and understand it as a practice. I hope this research can facilitate such exploration. I support Heather Roche’s position in her own study into collaborative working. Her investigation “is motivated by a need for research in this area, for an exploration of models of collaboration, in this case, one founded on dialogue” (Roche, 2011, p.29).

When talking about creativity, and especially within WAM, the story always begins with the solitary genius; the composer writing alone. I was taught to compose this way, that composition requires quiet and solitude so that your best ideas could come and could be heard inside your head. We were told this was how every great composer worked or at least we were not offered any models to base a different working method upon nor were we taught any kind of collaborative working method.

Psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi asks a very relevant question: ‘where is creativity’ rather than ‘who’ or ‘what’ is creative. In doing so, Csikszentmihalyi reminded us that creative thought and practice does not rest solely in the individual as an attribute of mind and/or personality.” (Barrett, 2016) I will demonstrate the value of this question through my projects with the group and the rest of my collaborators and share my discoveries. Psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion defines a group as a collection of people that, “however casual, meets to ‘do’ something; in this activity, according to the capacities of the individuals, they co-operate.” (Bion, 1961, p.143.). This RP is not concerned with individual ideas but more interested in how such ideas can arise and then how to harness the collective creativity of my colleagues. In doing so, I hope to trouble the idea of the genius role of the composer within WAM and beyond.

Jimmy Bickerstaff, writing on Collaborative process in Theatre, uses Barthes to describe how a script is composed of words that have been used innumerable times before and have innumerable meanings to individual users, speakers and listeners: “We know now that a text consists not of a line of words, releasing a single ‘theological’ meaning (the ‘message’ of the Author-God), but of a multi-dimensional space in which are married and contested several writings, none of which is original: the text is a fabric of quotations, resulting from a thousand sources of culture.” Any act of writing is a result of more than a single author or artist; it is really the result of social processes, cultural influences, and works of numerous others, including the “reader” (audience), “a fabric of quotations, resulting from a thousand sources of culture”.” (Bickerstaff, 2011, p.48). Here is the important acknowledgment of the audience in performance. Then follows a similar linguification of a work as a text, as mirrored by Travis Just and Richard Vella from the previous chapter, to understand that just as words are multitudinous in their use, meaning, and source, so to is a theatrical act the work of many: “If we were to think of the collaborative theatrical process as a kind of “writing,” resulting in a perfo[r]mative text, then in any act of theatre, as with any act of writing, the “text” that we see and hear is also attributable to the work and influence of numerous others, even to others beyond the immediate collaboration of that production and its audience.” (Bickerstaff, 2011, p.49). I apply this to another idea: as I am typing this sentence on a computer, this RP, along with all of my artistic projects, is a collaboration with the designers and assemblers and programmers of such a computer, for example. In this way of viewing, the great composers, that is composers who worked in isolation, contemporary composers who would not consider their working practice to be collaborative, could be said to already always be collaborating with the designers and manufacturers of their tools: instruments, computers, paper, tables, etc. This more holistic view offers a different perspective on the idea of the genius, solitary composer but is harder to observe in this investigation. Instead I will focus my view on what I can observe and on those directly involved with the artistic projects and engaged in dialogue.

‘Synergy’ is a term Bickerstaff uses; it means the interaction or cooperation of two or more organisations or agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects. Perhaps most interestingly, Bickerstaff also claims that at some point in the process, the work itself becomes a collaborator, feeding back into the process and being resistant, slippery or offering something. He quotes Anton Erenzweig: “The work of art acts like another living person with whom we are conversing”. (Bickerstaff, 2011, p.50). 

Education researchers Neil Mercer and Rupert Wegerif’s research has produced a typology of talk that I will use. “Disputational talk” is characterized by disagreement and individualized decision making with few attempts to pool resources or to offer constructive criticism. It is built from short exchanges that are mostly assertions and challenges, rarely suggestions. “Cumulative Talk” is used by partners to create common knowledge through positive, uncritical repetitions, confirmations and elaborations. “Exploratory Talk” happens when partners all actively participate constructively with each other’s ideas, offering suggestions and statements that are considered by the group. Here reasoning is more visible in the talk and knowledge is more publicly accountable (Mercer, Dawes, Wegerif & Sams, 2004).

There are a number of typologies for collaboration and writings about it that I will reference in relation to my projects including those by Jen Torrence, Alan Taylor, Sam Hayden and Luke Windsor, Vera John-Steiner, Zubin Kanga, Heather Roche and Keith Sawyer. I will discuss my projects using these texts to investigate in greater detail. 

Keith Sawyer’s idea of “Collaborative Emergence” is introduced in Collaborative Creative Thought and Practice in Music”:

“Collaborative emergence is more likely to be found as a group becomes more aligned with the following four characteristics:

• The activity has an unpredictable outcome, rather than a scripted, known endpoint.

• There is moment-to-moment contingency: each person’s action depends on the one just before.

• The interactional effect of any given action can be changed by the subsequent actions of other participants.

• The process is collaborative, with each participant contributing equally.” (Sawyer, 2016).


Sawyer also uses the term ‘distributed creativity’ to refer to situations where collaborating groups of individuals collectively generate a shared creative product (Sawyer & DeZutter, 2009). Below is a three-part taxonomy by Hayden and Windsor of composer–performer interactions:

Directive: The composer seeks ‘to completely determine the performance through the score’ and collaboration is limited to ‘pragmatic issues in realization’. 

Interactive: There are substantive discussions between the composer and the performers, but the composer is still the ultimate author of the work.

Collaborative: There is collective decision-making, with no single author and no hierarchy of roles.” (Hayden & Windsor, 2007, p.33)

Vera John-Steiner has attempted to provide a framework for examining all collaborative creativity across the arts and sciences. She too has used the term ‘distributed’ within her four-part typology that I will now outline. ‘Distributed Collaboration’ describes work with minimal interaction between colleagues and the creative work is divided between the participants according to their specialities; however the organisation and delegation of work may be determined by an external agent or authority (John-Steiner, 2000, p.197). ‘Complementary Collaboration”, the most widely practiced, is exemplified by “a division of labour based on complementary expertise, disciplinary knowledge, roles and temperament.” (John-Steiner, 2000, p.198). ‘Family Collaboration’ is the sharing of work by large communities but is distinct from ‘distributed collaboration’ in that roles and authorship are shared between many people (John-Steiner, 2000, p.200). What defines ‘family collaboration’ is an intensity stronger than ‘complementary collaboration’ and though usually applied to families, it can be applied to groups too, groups that might have shared jokes and lexicon. ‘Integrative Collaboration’ is characterized by the merging of participants’ roles, the sharing of authorship and a set of common beliefs is established. Participants thrive on dialogue, risk-taking, and a shared vision (John-Steiner, 2000, p.203). This type of collaboration transforms both the field and the participants. Zubin Kanga argues for the merging of John Steiner’s typology with that of Hayden and Windsor with the suggested omission of ‘family collaboration’ owing to its irrelevance within music-making. I will not omit ‘family collaboration’ from this RP. Kanga arrives at the trichotomy of Directive, Interactive, and Collaborative to replace John-Steiner’s Distributed, Complementary, Family and Integrative, suggesting that the proposed conditions and borders of the categories remain almost identical (Kanga, 2014, p.27). I will make use of Directive, both Complementary and Interactive, Family and Integrative. I should declare that when I am working with colleagues in my projects, I am pursuing, what John-Steiner calls, ‘Integrative Collaboration’. It will become clear that a project is often built from different types of collaboration.

Alan Taylor’s (2016) typology, shown below, emphasises the importance of the imagination and evaluation of ideas within a collaboration (Taylor, 2016, p.570).

Finally Jen Torrence’s typology foregrounds the performer’s role within the composition or realisation of a new piece. At one end of the spectrum, it illustrates a more proximal relationship between composer and performer where the score is secondary and the inverse where the score is primary (Torrence, 2018).

Using these typologies and equipped with a new understanding of the power of relatedness, I will give an account of each of the collaborative projects that follow. To understand intimacy as a condition of integrative collaboration, we must understand a collaborative process as built of incidents of relatedness. These moments are the play of borders between people when shared vision, exchange and dialogue and role sharing occur. The more these incidents shape the feelings, sense of selves and identifications of those involved, the more that intimacy can be evidenced as a condition of integrative collaboration. I stress that the audience is an important collaborator in the performance of a work but because such a phenomenon is much more complex to observe, the following accounts will focus on the compositional process for the emerging works. 

My method has been to approach projects with a different conception of creative space that is more porous and malleable to the will of the group. This and an openness to indeterminacy that has become part of my practice and developed across the RP itself. My research practice has been to record every in-person interaction with my collaborators in audio or video format. 

I have taken a sociocultural perspective by focusing on the dialogue and how the dialogue then relates to the emerging work over time. A sociocultural view prioritises an over-time and multi-setting perspective showing the moment-by-moment emergence of process within a wider context. Here the typologies that I have drawn upon have been useful in that they try to bridge the space between the dialogue, the idea of the creative space and the emerging collaboratively produced work.



Because my projects with Bastard Assignments form such a large part of this critical reflection and I write so much about my colleagues, I have integrated sections from an interview with them into this chapter, recorded on September 9th 2021, where they are able to comment on my projects with me. This, along with the rest of my documentation, is useful in corroborating my perspective and understanding of the events. I am inside every project as well as being the researcher and have immersed myself into the data. I gradually developed a theory across the RP and sought specific literature as it became relevant. I wrote “memos” throughout, which I have used; some writing has become irrelevant. I have experimented with types of analysis that have emerged from the production of theories or hypotheses, which was possible because of the RP’s flexibility; it has been inductive. Each project accrued data that I compared with my previous findings. I was then able to propose a different approach for the next project and so on. This roots my methodology in Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss’ “Grounded Theory”, on which Christina Goulding writes that “the developing theory directs the researcher to the literature which best informs, explains and contextualises the findings” (Goulding, 1998, p.51). It has also led me to investigate larger themes and concepts like Intimacy and Contagion. Goulding continues: “With phenomenological studies, the words of the informants are considered the only valid source of data. Grounded theory, on the other hand, allows for multiple data sources which may include interviews, observation of behaviour, and published reports.” (Goulding, 1998, p.51). This feature of Grounded theory makes it suitable for my needs as an artistic researcher. My primary system for coding conversations has been to apply Mercer and Wegerif’s types of talk because not only is what is said significant, but so is how it is said and how it functions within an interaction. I have used this system when it is relevant. I offer my own experiences of the events and interactions as I remember them.