At a recent online conference, “Music and/as Process”, in June 2021, I was asked if real collaboration is possible; if a process could be 100% collaborative. I had no prepared response to this question and pushed the conversation forward without attempting to answer it. I could not give an answer and felt embarrassed but on reflection, I realised that it was a slightly naive question. It follows an earlier line of enquiry in this RP that I had given up on because it would not produce useful results. That line of questioning is similar to asking whether a marriage or relationship is 100% successful; does that mean that there is no conflict?; doesn’t a relationship need some conflict? A similar question might be to ask if a performance of a piece of music was 100% in tune or accurate. The answer is likely to be no but would a performance of the same piece of music played 100% in tune and completely accurately be better? I would say probably not. There are a myriad of other factors that contribute to a performance and the experience of it which evade quantification. 

So the question is not: how collaborative a process was but rather: what new modes of collaboration could exist? What is the quality or nature of a particular collaborative relationship? Where and when could collaboration be happening that we have not already thought of? And what is the relation between a successful and ethical collaboration and a successful result? These are questions that have become important as a result of this RP and in particular as a result of the intimate way of viewing which I have adopted.

This RP does not argue for the notion that I am the perfect collaborative partner in any way but I know I can be a good collaborator. I can also be inarticulate, lazy and both passive and domineering. I inauthentically avoid setting boundaries and often take conflicts personally. I can be both arrogant and manipulative as well as cold, aloof and bitchy. At other times I can be very generous, empathetic and freehanded applying my knowledge and experience. I am eager to experiment and willing to help and push others. However the question of what makes a good collaborator may end up being another dead-end question because it neglects the fact that there is more than one person in a collaboration. “What makes a collaboration successful?” is a stronger question to ask. A successful collaboration is much like a successful relationship where roles merge, a set of common beliefs are established along with a shared vision; the collaboration transforms both the field and the participants, to define Vera John-Steiner’s ‘integrative collaboration’ again (John-Steiner, 2000). The synergy and creativity of a collaboration transforms the creators through the “personal experience of the process” and others through the distribution of new knowledge and innovation through culture (Sawyer et al, 2003, p.72).

In my experience there needs to be shared values, what John-Steiner might call common beliefs or ideologies, amongst participants pertaining to a particular dichotomy: the group or the work. It does not matter if the participants choose ‘the unity of the group’ or ‘the life of the emerging work’ as long as everyone agrees on the same one. Several years ago, we, as Bastard Assignments, agreed that what is most valuable to us is the unity of its members and integrity as a group; projects and pieces were secondary and would not exist without the group; the group was the real project and most valuable resource. On the opposite end of the scale was “ComposerGENAU!” where John was concerned with delivering the work and garnering Youtube views. Whereas for me all that mattered was to ensure our partnership had longevity, beyond the webseries, until we could meet and continue real-life in-person performance work; to me, the webseries represented merely a fruit of this partnership and this was the problem.

When two or more people meet to compose together or work collaboratively on a new project, they are automatically in a relationship together and it ought to be conceptualised as such. For different people, different things are at stake and each person brings their own insecurities into a process that they must be responsible for. All of these things should be discussed at some stage as the collaboration opens up a shared, safe space between those involved. This shared space ought to provide security as well as freedom to explore and structure at the same time as room to play. Esther Perel notes that just as fire needs air, so a stable, long-term relationship needs passion and excitement. How do collaborative partners juggle the “professional” and the “personal”? How do they manage other apparent dichotomies like clarity and flow; the “product” and the “process”; security and freedom; boundaries and creativity? How can everyone get what they want? 

The answer is simple but in practice can be harder to execute. Partners must willingly enter the shared space together with boundaries established, openness and free dialogue to together build a shared vision for the emerging work but ideally for their future relationship also. If more attention were paid to the relationship and interaction between collaborators, be it composer and musician, such that the partnership became the project’s mainstay, the field would benefit enormously and music-making would likely become a richer, more varied experience. Intimacy then becomes a sort of plane to aspire to, a state reached as a result of a particular technique or structure, something that can be practiced and developed to aid the success and longevity of creative partnerships. In this situation, each partner wants the best for the other and will go above and beyond for them, to a greater extent than ever they thought they could and they would do this over and over again. 

A key principle of this RP is: do not make work about intimacy; instead work intimately. This is echoed by Travis Just’s writing in “After Opera” where he quotes “Jean-Pierre Gorin and Jean-Luc Godard's slogan from the Dziga Vertov film group: "the problem is not to make political movies, the goal is to make movies politically." (Just, 2014, p.2). By working intimately, we will work collaboratively. How might this principle be applied to instrumental composition? Quite simply, work with the instrumentalist. Heather Roche discovered the importance for the composer of replacing the idea of the Clarinet with the concrete Clarinet. In her collaboration with composer Alec Hall, which began more or less in person at Darmstadt 2010, she began by demonstrating the instrument to breakthrough his initial bewilderment and reducing his distance from it (Roche, 2011). She writes that his first reaction was to actually take her instrument and hold it. This illustrates the same principle but slightly reformed to: do not write a piece for the Clarinet; instead work with a Clarinetist. This takes the Clarinet out of the realm of abstraction and text-book explanations of range and breath-length and instead into the realm of collaboration, cooperation, and disposition.

My other principles relate to the advantages of a devised approach and the implementation of frames when working within the ‘expanded field of music’. 

  1. Explain the task through dialogue; through speaking. You should not already know the exact outcome.

  2. If memorisation is the goal, devised work is highly recommended.

  3. Use the group to give feedback to itself; it helps everyone by creating discussion, dissolving hierarchy and clarifying the ideology.

  4. If time is short then task people with devising their own part.

  5. If the image is important and it needs to look good then it should be made by the performer through a frame or task.

These principles are pursuant to flow and encourage creative problem-solving that goes beyond interpretation and score-reading; they have more in common with improvisation than conventional music-making

Contrast this emphasis on the group, with the “Hospital Project” in which the process was more like a production line with all participants focussed on the emerging result, each playing their part through the application of their expertise. Dialogue was focussed on the end goal and was overseen most of the time. The “Hospital Project” was a successful coordination and collaboration that was at times distributed and at others complementary. This also produced a successful result. But Hayden and Windsor’s (2007) point still stands that a successful process does not necessarily produce a successful product. 

Using “Tro//ing” as an example, the collaboration was highly successful yet the work itself was less successful in my opinion. With the webseries “ComposerGENAU!”, the opposite was true; the collaborative nature of the partnership was tenuous and eventually broke down but the result was somewhat interesting and well-executed. 

Conway’s Law states that “organizations, who design systems, are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations” (Gilson, 2021) and we see that in these examples. 

Similarly when examining the ‘Lockdown Jams’, our distributed situation meant that the resulting work is imbued with a strong sense of each of us (Cape, Henderson, Rowley and me). Less hierarchical projects invite a large amount of individual personality. With “Tro//ing”, the integrative way of working meant that the piece contained too many different ideas and influences that had arisen through dialogue. And with “ComposerGENAU!” the creative distance that resulted from the lack of shared vision and in-person meetings caused us to contribute quite different things that were not without merit on their own but did not necessarily produce a cohesive artistic work. 

I disagree somewhat with Zubin’s closing remarks from his thesis: “Despite the apparent clashes of  egos found in the case studies, my own intentions and responsibilities have been directed towards the music itself. I hope I have served the music well.” (Kanga, 2014, p.463). This focus on the outcome is not wrong but having the idea of a collective outcome is the important distinction, that it is a product of the shared vision and sense of purpose. Conflict is lessened when the collaboration is intrinsically motivated. However an overemphasis on consensus can stifle creativity. Too much cumulative talk does not serve the collaboration. Exploratory talk allows for thinking through out loud, feedback on ideas, counter-offers and is proof of trust through an “effective synthesis of multiple perspectives” (Moran & John-Steiner, 2003, p.12). My own insecurity around gaining approval is partly to blame for the major conflict that took place within this RP.

From my point of view, the process of collaboration and the relationships requires the most attention, responsibility and even skill. The music then blossoms from these relationships like fruits. Roche too notices that, within the existing literature, focussing on the creative process rather than its product can lead to more fruitful partnerships. For my RP, it was the emphasis on the two values mentioned that I found to be most significant for both, the projects and the future of that partnership. The partnership should not be considered the end-goal artistically but the ability to collaborate should be thought of as a compositional tool. The group then can provide a resource for such activity as each contributor brings a varied profile of skills, knowledge and expertise to the enterprise. John-Steiner (2000) describes this process as one of ‘mutual appropriation’ as ‘in collaborative work we learn from each other by teaching what we know’ (p. 3). Schulman describes a collaboration as a ‘marriage of insufficiencies’ (Shulman, 2004, p. 476) where partners bring complementary skills and perspectives, ensuring that across the participating members all of the necessary elements are available. John Moran and I represent a partnership where skills overlapped too much and that lacked crucial other elements and perspectives. Conversely, the project with the hospital was executed by a team of people with complementary skills ensuring a clear distribution of roles that produced a successful result. 

My conception of the choice of collaborators as a compositional choice is another outcome of this RP. For me it avoids conflict that results from an individual’s attachment to their own ideas. This can then lead to “conceptual blindness” (Agarwal, 2010, p.43) where an individual or group may become possessed by their own vision of the task and therefore unable to see any other perspective. It can be difficult to undo this without breaking the task or idea down to its abstract elements.

The different types of work that I present as artistic results pose a challenge for assessing their relative successes. Some are more commercial whilst some are more artistic; the hospital project is more socially engaged and the project between my ex-husband and I is something quite private. It is hard to compare them on the same terms. However I have just shown the diversity of projects as a strength to my research by allowing for a rich comparison between the collaborative partnerships. The diversity contributes to my own developing collaborative skills and experiences as a composer-performer. Furthermore, the focus of this RP is on principles and strategies for fostering a better collaboration in music-making that attempt to transcend genre. Sennett (2012) defines cooperation ‘as an exchange from which the participants benefit from the encounter’ (p. 3). Roche describes these exchanges as learning opportunities. Similarly Deirdre Heddon describes how she learnt about herself through her exchanges with Howells. I share this perspective also and suggest that the variety of projects create a variety of kinds of exchanges. 

For some months, I worked to create a theory or at least a metaphor for collaboration and even to describe a conceptual space, like a third space or shared space, where such activity could happen. I called it the ‘creative acreage’ owing to the recurring theme of cultivating ideas that formed eventual works as well as the future partnership and, to me, ‘acreage’ has strong associations with Apple orchards. The parameters of the ‘creative acreage’ could be set and measured by the degree of the collaboration. Again, this became concerned with quantifying the collaborative working rather than describing its quality and the interactions within it. Despite that, I was encouraged when I heard composer Luke Nickel present his findings in the use of gardening as a metaphor shared amongst the orally transmitted collaborative practices of four composers including Luke, Cassandra Miller, Éliane Radigue, and Pascale Criton. In his 2020 article “SCORES IN BLOOM: SOME RECENT ORALLY TRANSMITTED EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC”, Nickel writes specifically on collaboratively made works that have no score, or at least no physical score in existence. Instead, the performers become living scores who carry the work, which blooms. On the subject of the score in Radigue’s collaborative output, Clarinetist and Composer Carol Robinson says that if there is one then “it is a score that is blooming all the time” (Nickel, 2020, p.54).

Nickel (2020) mentions Radigue expanding on this metaphor by alluding to the flowers producing fruit over time. Nickel considers whether or not Radigue is talking about the works being transmitted from one performer to another, something he says that has not happened as yet. It is true that it is common within my own speaking and thought to use words like ‘germinate’ and ‘cultivate’ in relation to compositional ideas in tandem with the metaphor of ‘seeds’, ‘germs’ and ‘planting’. Nickel conceptualises the score as a plant within this metaphor that might yield music. Such a blooming represents just one part of the cycle of the piece. He writes that in Radigue’s collaborative compositional practice, the score is one part of an evolving and cyclical process that can be transformed by “exterior environmental elements and internal processes” (Nickel, 2020, p.54). This metaphor emphasises the living aspects of these processes and the “hospitable environment required for their development”(p.54). I feel a strong resonance with this metaphor; in this blooming “we find beauty in the entanglement of process and product.” (p.54).

I became interested in Deleuze and Guattari’s (2004) use of the term Rhizome in relation to establishing this theory or metaphor for a non-hierarchical working process. It is easy to describe the collaborative practice of Bastard Assignments as a Rhizome owing to our ability to work together, decide things, improve and adapt to a new location. If we were to gain a new member or lose one of our members, the nature of the group would be altered drastically. However, if we were to lose a member, their voice would endure in our minds, indeed Caitlin and I agree in our article “Schedule Meeting: Keeping it Live in Bastard Assignments’ Lockdown Jams” that we each carry parts of each member with us when we are not together. Rowley and I “propose this group structure as rhizomatic because of its characteristics of multiplicity, perpetual disruption and connection, and constant ‘experimentation in contact with the real’ where the real is live performance” (Rowley & Spear, 2021). One of us cannot do the work of the group or possibly contain it all; we are each integral to the works that the group has produced and the group is Bastard Assignments. We operate as living scores in this way. Within this RP, only Bastard Assignments can be described as a rhizome purely because of the amount of time spent together and the trust that has built up; the other relationships are too young. Our creativity and ability to maintain a kind of networked collaborative partnership as an adaptive response to the pandemic is further evidence of this.

Georgina Born offers a term to describe much of the work made as part of my Lockdown collaborative projects chapter and indeed works that are made and distributed in digital format across the internet, works she describes as being “continually, immanently open to re-creation”; this term is ‘relayed creativity’ (Born, 2005, p.26). Born (2005) draws on Alfred Gell and Marcel Mauss to describe the connectedness across space and time that occurs through the creation and reception  of art objects, or gifts in the case of Mauss, but in both cases, the gift or the art object are treated as extensions of persons. Gell’s theory of art agency “centres on the idea that the objects that result from creative agency condense or embody social relations, and that they do so by spinning forms of connectedness across time and space” (Born, 2005, p.16). Through the art object, or to use a specific example, the Christmas video by the staff at Royal London Hospital, “these social relations are distributed and dispersed both temporally and spatially” (Born, 2005, p.16) but in doing so the social relations are also relayed and transformed, along with the video. It is crucial to point out that the social relations exist between the creators as well as those receiving and perceiving the art object. Gell proposes “the notion of a ‘corpus’ of artworks as a kind of spatio-temporally dispersed ‘population’” (Born, 2005, p.20) where the corpus, or body of works, in the case of ‘Lockdown Jams’, is a product of what Gell calls the “‘extended mind’ – that is, externalized and collectivized cognitive processes” (p.20). 

These are useful concepts for explaining the nature of the different modes and depths of collaboration. They support the thrust of my investigation that situates intimacy as a condition for collaboration. It is my position that integrative collaboration, where there is transformation, requires intimacy, to reach a shared vision. A project might feature all types of collaboration or just one, just as it might be built from one type of talk or more. Intimacy has also shown up in surplus in compelling ways, not always as a condition for collaboration but simply a site or climate. This project has placed huge emphasis on the audience as co-creators of performance and in that way they are collaborators but rarely, if ever, is integrative collaboration happening between performer and audience.

Integrative collaboration, the type of collaboration that I was usually trying to engage in, characterized by dialogue, risk-taking and a shared vision demands a particular environment, nourishment, familiarity and trust. Kanga, Roche and Torrence all cite the importance of trust in these relationships. It seems cliched or even obvious to mention it but for Torrence it is the keystone: “With the possibility of trust and a shared vision, the performers involved have a foundation from which to explore extended practices and radical models of collaboration. It may sound obvious as the reader considers this text, but there is nothing more important to be found in this entire reflection. It is my belief that this investment in collaborative partners is the core element that makes risk taking and the expansion of dispositions in collaboration possible at all.” (Torrence, 2019). For Torrence, it is the coffees, shared meals and ultimately time spent together that engenders a fruitful collaboration. I would corroborate that cooking and eating together, jokes and off-task-talk has been instrumental for the rapport and trust within Bastard Assignments. All of these things, crucial to a successful integrative collaboration, come together to constitute intimacy.

Zubin and I both agree that communication becomes incredibly strained when renegaded to email or facebook messenger. Zubin articulates this well in his thesis pointing out that in email, a lack of play or humour or whatever rapport the relevant parties shared can paralyse a partnership, apparently precipitating a struggle to maintain authority. Zubin even concludes that working in person is more conducive to play than working over email; I would agree wholeheartedly. On the closing stages of one of his collaborative commissions, Zubin writes: “the ability to interact in the same space allowed a play and subtlety of  expression that was easily lost when transcribed into written correspondence.” (Zubin, 2014, p.380). This was the case with John’s correspondence leading up to my moment of compromise the night before the broadcast of the second episode; the language reads as directive rather than suggestive or supportive.

For me, composing and being a composer during the pandemic was very different to the in-person meetings and workshops and performances that were the norm prior to 2020. Different processes mediated by the internet produced different results and as I have mentioned: communication structures can relate to the nature of the artistic result. Intimacy was still possible despite working in isolation owing to the relatedness caused by simply continuing to work and meet with colleagues virtually. These meetings reaffirmed my idea of myself as a composer and as part of a group. In the same way, we continued to keep in touch with our families to experience the relatedness that affirms us as family, as part of our original group. 

I began this project by importingIgor’s rough thematisation of intimacy from his curatorial approach to the LCMF and distilling types of intimacy as they applied to his programme. As was with the case with “Tape Piece” by Verlaak and Ingamells, some works can at once use intimacy in a literal, spatial sense, asking the performers to take up each other’s space and force their bodies together and then apart and at the same time have been the product of two collaborators who share an intimate, romantic relationship together. This collegial intimacy, not necessarily romantic intimacy, became the most interesting form because it played out in rehearsals and workshops. It was tested and used and became most visible during this investigation. Intimacy of material, like in John Moran’s “Constanze” or my work with my ex-husband, is the most obvious type of intimacy and offers little insight, remaining quite superficial. It was only when I began to investigate empathy pathways and mirror neurons in the chapters called “Contagion” and “Intimacy” that I understood how a feeling, action, or activity in performance can be transmitted to and felt by an audience also. This idea is coupled with thinking about direct audience interaction in performance, even understanding the audience as a collaborative partner for the work. This is most pronounced in the examples I put forward in this RP, by Charlie Sdraulig in his one-on-one works and those by Adrian Howells. In these works, the differences between Igor’s categories are less clear.

This project is significant to me because I was interested in finding the best way to work with my group Bastard Assignments in the creation of theatre and music that can described as inhabiting the ‘expanded field’.. I had begun to approach workshop sessions with an openness to integrate their limitations and dispositions into the work I was making with them. This began to build trust as well as familiarity. I then was able to give up more and more to the group and the creativity of the individuals to the point where they were making crucial decisions and even devising their own parts. In my reading of Claire Bishop’s “Artificial Hells” I found some resonance with my thoughts on my participation, as the composer, within my own works. Although writing on participatory art with socially engaged practices, I align myself with the idea of an artist who “does not occupy ‘a position of pedagogical or creative mastery’” (Bishop, 2012, p.23). In my work with Bastard Assignments for example, I try to create systems where the voices of the group can be heard and ideas implemented. My approach to creating these systems is improving and developing with each project. This amounts to a certain degree of delegation via my method of ‘framing’. Bishop astutely points out that one cannot delegate without first having the authority to do so: “the artist delegates power to the performer (entrusting them with agency while also affirming hierarchy)”. (Bishop, 2012, p.237). That there is an initial hierarchy feels like a certainty, at least within WAM, unavoidable yet quite easily overturned by choices of process. Money can also setup an unhealthy employer/employee situation that is undesirable. I was aware of this when working with my half-brothers whom I was unable to pay for their time because of issues with research ethics. Using my own projects in this RP as models, power can be quickly distributed to others via framing for example, that is, through the actual compositional approach; it is not mysterious. Flow states and difference are useful things to make use of but familiarity is necessary first of all.

This research has led me to understand a change in thought around the performance of music whereby the presiding means used to understand it, the study of signs and their use or interpretation, are giving way to studies rooted in sociology; this can be described as the ‘affective turn’. Many of the models for collaboration that I have mentioned and drawn terms from were made in the early 2000s and since. This mirrors the emergence of both the ‘affective’ and ‘social turns’.

At around this time, New Labour policy in the UK (1997-2010) deployed a rhetoric to justify public spending on the arts that was rooted in increasing employability, minimising crime and fostering aspiration. Claire Bishop (2012) writes on the subject: New Labour thought to encourage the idea of arts as socially inclusive rather than exclusive meaning that audience figures and marketing statistics became essential to securing public arts funding. By making the arts socially inclusive, it was thought that ‘creativity’ would replace heavy industry, not only in the UK but across northern europe, and that the business sector would acquire more insight into possibilities offered by the creative sector. In doing so, there was a merging of ‘art’, ‘creative industry’, ‘culture industry’ and ‘entertainment’ (Bishop, 2012, p15). The drive for creativity was thought to herald a future generation of socially diverse creative thinkers and workers whose skills “need not only be channelled into the fields of art and culture but will also be good for business” (Bishop, 2012, p15). I understand the ‘social turn’ to be directly related to this government policy. I also suggest that my interest and indeed the interest of others in the inclusive nature of collaboration stems from this policy too.

Paul Mason in his book “PostCapitalism: A guide to our future” mentions the idea of “peer networks” and gives the example of “wikipedia” of one such functioning system. It could provide a collaborative, non-market form of capitalism (Mason, 2015, p.121). He also argues that they are contradictory systems. Collaborative or shared economy displaces normal business models by negating sellers; instead consumers can go direct to each other. This is a double-edged situation in that it poses problems for working conditions by allowing infinite working hours. It is also not likely to be as environmentally sustainable as planned because people have more money saved as a result with which to pay for other carbon intensive products and services. For Mason, peer-produced ‘free stuff’ drives out commerce, as we see with ‘wikipedia’ (Mason, 2015, p132). My network of collaborators and especially Bastard Assignments’ network who have appeared in this RP could be described as such a “peer network”. We operate non-hierarchically, de-centralised and our product has questionable commercial value but of course we rely on public funding. The point is that the system of WAM is founded on too much air travell. A peer networked based system in my domain would prioritise work within the preexisting network rather than flying to new places and doing new, one-off projects with new partners in promiscuity. A lot of this work could be done online with the performance taking place not far from where the performers live. This is why my emphasis on creating long-term collaborative partnerships is more and more relevant. Repeat projects with the same people and nurturing a community could produce better work for the reasons I have outlined in this RP. The need to shift thought away from product and towards process is pressing. As mentioned earlier, the collaborative partnership should be understood as a significant part of the project, not just the works that are produced by it.

Music Researcher Srđan Atanasovski discusses the affective turn, a common term now in social sciences and humanities, and outlines its impacts and potential uses. He cites an interesting phenomenon whereby the social event, in this case the riots that took place in many cities in the UK during 2010-2011 concerning austerity and increased tuition fees, seemed at odds with the music that was heard at the riots and marches. Protesters were marching, dancing and chanting to a variety of musics and soundtracks with no politically related message. In fact: “The soundtrack of the riot was “not transgressive, subcultural or radical” as one would expect it to be.” (Srdjan, 2015, p.71). Furthermore, and quoting Thompson and Biddle: “Instead of providing a message of opposition for people to rally around and to identify with, music mobilized bodies through affective transmission. Sound was used to create a particular ambience or atmosphere, via the induction, modulation and circulation of moods, feelings and intensities, which were felt but, at the same time, belonged to nobody in particular.” (Thompson & Biddle, 2013, p.5). Atanasovski argues that it is in precisely this non-signified materiality that there lies the potential for the sonic event to generate affect as a ‘vibrational body’ (2015, p.65). He writes that if we understand affect as the intensity released through the collisions of bodies, the production of affect is based on the “intrinsic capacities of bodies to affect their surrounding bodies” (2015, p.65). This position is rooted in Spinoza’s theory of affect.

Not only does this notion speak to Nicholas Cook’s quote from earlier: “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, 2013, p.2) but it also offers an explanation of my experience watching the Kurtágs perform in London. In that concert, the music the couple played, whilst it swung between a stayed baroque, consonant flow and stranger dissonant and arhythmic gestures, had the effect of warmth, invitation and closeness. This was through affective transmission and although I maintain those feelings were generated by the Kurtágs and carried by the music, it may be that they originated from nowhere special. It may be that the particular makeup and mood of the audience and the intrinsic capacities of the bodies to affect other bodies played a large part in the in situ experience.

My multimodal conception of the reality of collaborative working, of composing together, is quite different to the typologies by Torrence and Hayden and Windsor. They do not escape a score-based paradigm, which is of course natural considering their basis in WAM but it is limited. Taylor’s (2016) “types of shared imaginative working” is concerned with both the evaluation and imagination of ideas which are two potential modes within my multimodal model that can be hierarchical, co-operative, consultative or collaborative in nature. Vera John-Steiner hints at surrounding activities and structures to the work and emphasises interaction and dialogue. 

Born (2005) and Barrett (2016) point out that creativity can be displaced geographically and temporally, even relayed and sequential. This concept embraces the fact that work can continue after the working period and infiltrates and is infiltrated by future interactions. It argues for the acknowledgement that activities between creative partners are instrumental for that relationship whilst seeming quite unrelated to the creative work. Such activities can include coffee breaks, meals, cooking, talking on task and off task, conflict and resolution. 

It is easier to conceptualise this as an assemblage that includes the working group and their particular project. This means that all the activities that I have mentioned above along with the artistic activity and all those possible interrelations make up the assemblage, that is the assembly for the working group. Assemblages are defined as ‘wholes whose properties emerge from the interactions between parts’ (DeLanda 2006, p. 5). For Deleuze, ‘the assemblage’s only unity is that of co-functioning’ (Deleuze & Parnet 1987, p. 69). It would be expected that the collaborative functioning of these elements may alter the structure of the assemblages over time. An assemblage is temporary.

Discourse analysis, for example, is limited, time extensive and will miss much of the work and thought that happens away from the researcher and neglects the categories of supplementary activities or modes that are not ostensibly based on the task.


A multimodal conception acknowledges that which is invisible and tacit as well as that which is measurable and recordable. This idea is useful for understanding several concepts. First, a project always begins somewhere long before the first work session and ends quite a long time after the performance, if there is one. Second, all these activities before, during and after the music-making are opportunities to build trust and rapport. For me, honouring plans and arriving on time to meetings and workshops is fundamental to building trust and reliability. Third, in artistic projects some activities seem bigger than others but each is part of a possible mode making it just as significant as any other. Multimodality goes beyond the score, beyond discipline, removes the emphasis on text and that which is visible, and is inherently creative.


I have presented projects here that I have undertaken in Norway, UK, Germany and online. The change to project description had made my whole practice relevant to this RP. The change came well into year two meaning some projects have been excluded on the basis of a lack of documentation. This did not effect my research as a whole however.

My first plan for this project was to engineer artistic projects such that I would be able to specifically foreground the thematisation of the human face. Quickly I was forced to somehow consider the full body as part of the face and I was trying to make my artistic projects fit my research. Drawing on Darla Crispin’s (2019) model of ‘Unfolding the Process’, I can assess my first plan and use it to see where this project was rich and fecund in one regard yet fell down in its unfolding. The fold is the site of constant strain and rupture but also the site of possible reformation and, ultimately, art-making. It is the site of performance and negotiation and holds epistemic potential and possibility (Crispin, 2019). On one side of the fold sits my project, ‘Music for Human Face’, within the cerebral world I have built for it and where thoughts are unbridled. On the other it is at work in the real world, communicating with people and addressing meta-questions. As the project unfolded, nothing was at play on this second side, as if it was torn off completely; nothing was there to be revealed; all that existed was its own idea.

I realised that I was not wholly in control of what projects would actually come my way and make up this RP; the pandemic proved this. Those that did were already rooted in group work with a shared history. This group work had been developing for some time and was much easier to study because it was so externalised. This project has encompassed, without exaggeration, my entire practice as a composer-performer. My own thoughts for the second version of my project translated easily across the fold into meaningful discoveries or even surprises that fed back across into a cyclical process. In my own world I could make predictions and wishes and see those unfold or even unravel in the real world with collaborators.

Crispin lingers on the idea of unfolding as discovery, as opening, spreading out, as removing the covers which, whilst is all true of my experience, it neglects the potential transformation of the practice as a result of the artistic research. Perhaps the transformation is an end result rather than something of the process, which the idea of unfolding is centred on. Nonetheless I must stress that I am changed; the value of people, the unity of the group outweighs that of the allure of an idea, piece of material, or the work.

Despite not being required to write a critical reflection in text-form, I have ended up writing a quite conventional thesis. I wrote these texts after doing the artistic projects and they are based on notes written between or during the projects themselves. The formation of the reflection has then demanded that additional texts be written, like the chapters on Contagion and Intimacy. These texts I have found to be the most imaginative and ambitious in their attempt to link larger concepts to my own newly formed understanding of them within specific artistic contexts and even my own artistic work.

Eirik Vassenden suggests that the framework of artistic research brought these texts into being, indeed they would certainly not have existed otherwise (Vassenden, 2013, p.2). The extent to which I draw on theory and other writings deemed a written critical reflection the most effective to my ends. I have not struggled to bring text and work together but I do feel that doing so has sucked air and nuance out of the account of the experiences. Texts do not capture the momentary nature of so many of my experiences within this project, that is why I have included a lot of documentation of dialogue, to show how much space and silence there was. I have embedded the artistic work within the reflection alongside documentation of the dialogue around it, which in one way could demonstrate my closeness to all parts and how indistinct they are for me. Writing has meant that I have undertaken an intensive interpretation phase. 

In a way, my reflection and self-censoring has meant a corruption of the data. Everything I have presented has been through my own emotional response to it. I felt that the exercise of writing about my work has meant that I have had to adopt a more certain and definite tone and be more concrete than I think was appropriate. This is the nature of the critical reflection and for Vassenden, he envisages the interesting reflection work as taking place in the interaction between the specific experiences and the pre-existing language styles or even the formulation of a text (Vassenden, 2013, p.5). Vassenden also notes that music of all the arts has a highly conventionalised language already, within and around the art form, meaning that the issue of articulation has traditionally been important (Vassenden, 2013, p.9). 

I regrettably omitted a very long short story with embedded audio from this reflection that would have amounted to a disproportionate tangent. However I feel it was in fact a new literary form, at least to me. It was a fictional, time-travelling story about a collaboration with the musician Prince. The emotional reality and the romantic life of the protagonist was uncomfortably autobiographical and I felt it was slightly immature for this body of texts. I can see self-censorship here as a kind of problem that has hobbled a piece of artwork and its potential capacity within this reflection. Vassenden points out that research is bound by requirements of accuracy and an objective approach, citing reliability, openness, and of course no presence of cheating. But what separates scientific research from artistic research is that the latter is “not about pure objectivity, but about what happens in practice, in the research event (regardless of whether the practice in question is interpretative or performative). Science registers, while research is productive and creative.” (Vassenden, 2013, p.22)

Vassenden notes that theory emerges from the performativity of the practice as corroborated by the grounded theory methodology. To give an example, writing my reflection on “FEED” with Bastard Assignments asked that I investigate different typologies of collaboration. Similarly the “Hospital Project” caused me to reflect on delegation and the power structures which delegation affirms, initiating a more Foucauldian analysis of not just that project but the RP as a whole. Not every approach is applicable to each project. For example, I have chosen not to apply social discourse analysis to every piece of documentation because it is simply not necessary. This flexibility is a strength of artistic research and grounded theory in my opinion.

In Vassenden’s essay, Andreas Aase is quoted as declaring that music needs to be done to be understood, despite the essays that Aase was writing and that it (music) happens in performance (Vassenden, 2013, p.11). This runs slightly contrary to my own project where the real focus is on the creation with others, that makes explicit not only my tacit knowledge but theirs too through dialogue, which is a bit different to what most people in the field mean by ‘music must be done’. I have had the same conversation with a director about the theorisation of theatre. Their position was that Theatre must be done, not theorised. To me it is lazy to make the assumption that something can only be understood by doing it and comes from an exclusive, privileged position of being inside that world. Being able to separate oneself from the doing is the big project of artistic research I think. Or looked at in another way, Sally Macarthur points out that “in order to justify our creative compositional works as research, we need to find critical languages and theoretical frameworks with which to discuss them” (Macarthur & Lochhead, 2016). My own quest to find such languages and frameworks has been fruitful and I have delved into various academic fields.

I contribute to growing interest in collaborative projects and the in-depth analysis of these projects in pursuit of new values and models for collaborative working amongst composers and musicians as well as artists from other domains. My wish is that collaboration can be understood as a compositional tool and in doing so, the value of the group is foregrounded. This amounts to new knowledge in the paradigm of artistic research, this new paradigm needs to be understood in terms of the performative force of the research. Artistic research has the capacity to effect movement in thought, as Barbara Bolt puts it, enabling a reconfiguration from within convention rather than from outside of it. Because of this she names it the “performative paradigm”, separate from both quantitative and qualitative research. This is predicated on difference with repetition rather than repetition of the same as is par for the course in quantitative research. Using Butler, Bolt writes: “Repetition is never repetition of the same. It is always repetition of difference. In everyday life we don’t always welcome the misfires and bad performances. In the creative arts and artistic research, on the other hand, it is these “misfires” that become the source of innovation and movement. This is the “stuff” of research.” (Bolt, 2016, p.136). 


I have been promiscuous throughout this project with genre, my partners and the texts that I have referenced. Fintan Walsh jokes that “intimacy is often thought of as promiscuity's nobler relative, the exclusive encounter we really seek among promiscuity's many beds” (Walsh, 2014, p.57) but I too hope that from such a wanton approach to this reflection, something of the real experience of relatedness bleeds through the pages.