Niklas Lindberg is a Swedish composer and was, at the time of writing, a student at NMH. He is six years younger than me. 


Immediately prior to the lockdown in March 2020 was the premiere of Trond Reinholdtsen’s epic “The Followers of Ø: «To arms! To arms! » - an affirmative Oratory” (2020) in which I played a brief and improvised saxophone solo. After this Nilklas asked me to perform his piece “({stage, im-}persona)/(love you,) ***ophone” (2019), written during his studies, for alto saxophone, fixed and live electronics and light, at Ultima Festival on 17th September 2020.


Upon receiving the part, I was immediately struck by how difficult it was. I was happy to do it, however. Niklas had mentioned that he was interested in reworking some of the piece, perhaps with my collaboration but this did not transpire because of time constraints and circumstances. In our communication during June to July of 2020, he was remarkably accommodating around my concerns about my ability to execute the work, saying that not all the rhythms had to be played as written; what was important was that my part was clearly imitating the audio part. He also recorded me playing long high notes to add into the audio part at the beginning. Below is an exchange from late-July 2020.

I am surprised and impressed at this exchange. I was able to calmly express a concern and offer an alternative whilst reassuring Niklas. Niklas too was very receptive to this. I suggested that I make my own transcription of the synthesizer material, just as he had, but free from notation. This was, in part, informed by the distributed creativity and independent working that made up much of the Lockdown Jams and the confidence I had in working on someone else’ work in private. I would not have done this under different circumstances. I arrived at the same place as Niklas had in his score but I was working more effectively than if I were trying to execute the notation wholly accurately. This is because I was applying my own compositional strategy, and even principles from this RP, to the preparation of Nikas’ piece. With his consent, I designated the complex section of the work as a frame for myself to reconstruct. I could use my skills as a composer as well as an instrumentalist to create my part faster, better and it would be memorised easier. I was careful not to be overly assertive whilst taking initiative and leading my own exploration; I was aware I could easily dominate the situation. I did not alter the structure of the work in any way and I sent him demos as I went. I implemented his feedback. This was a collaborative experience because of this dialogue and Niklas’ bravery in letting me render my own reading of his work, effectively making my own part. We managed to do all of this over Facebook Messenger.

Having remembered that lighting would play a significant part in the piece, I suggested a piece of clothing that I had which would amplify his compositional idea; he loved it. 


The first section of the piece is quite free and through practicing it, I learnt new things about my saxophone, which is such a joy and transformative unfolding, that hints at the work-specific aspect of a post-instrumental practice. I wish that every new work I learned taught me something about my instruments; to an extent there was a transformation of the relationship I have to my saxophone. I interviewed Niklas soon after the concert and have isolated a particular passage that reinforces our thinking behind this collaboration.

Hospital Project (2020)


Duncan Mitchell is a close family-friend about 13 years my senior. He asked me, ahead of filming, if I could recommend a choreographer for the project and I immediately responded suggesting Francesco Migliaccio, who has appeared briefly in this RP already. Duncan has heard many of my Big Band arrangements.


In Autumn of 2020, my friend Duncan asked me to arrange the music for a Christmas song, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (1943) by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. It would be recorded by staff at the Royal London Hospital, where he worked. There would be an accompanying music video filmed at the hospital featuring sixty-five members of staff who were interested in being in it, including nurses, doctors, porters, and administrative staff. Duncan had initially been approached by a superior of his to organise a hospital-wide, morale boosting exercise amidst the pandemic. 

The musical arrangement, in particular the demo I made, was central to the whole project. The choir of self-taping staff at the end of the video would be recording to my demo, the editors would be editing to it and the actual filming that included dance routines would follow the demo also. It was provided to the entire production crew and the staff, who became the performers, ahead of time to create familiarity and a shared vision; it behaved as a text. The resulting track remained faithful to the demo. The production crew was largely made up of professionals who were giving their time in service of raising money for “Barts Charity”. The video and track were to be released; the single was available for download and streaming on the usual platforms like Spotify; the video was uploaded to Youtube on December 18th 2020, at the same time as the single release. This meant that there was a degree of quality expected, especially from an audio perspective; there are conventions for volume that are related to compression and equalisation; singing and instrumental playing are expected to be completely in tune and rhythmically accurate. The music video also had to comply with conventions around resolution, high frame-rate for slow motion shots, well-composed shots of people dancing, costume and makeup; the list goes on. This meant that there was a dual function for this project. It was at once an inclusive, morale-boosting exercise for the staff of the hospital, who are medical professionals, not professional musicians, and it had to be able to compete in a commercial music environment. In other words, it had to be good and good in a different way to other more artistic projects within this RP.


Although my arrangement was central to the production, there were a few decisions that would determine the larger features of the arrangement. Firstly it was requested that I do a fast version of the song different to the slower, ballad versions that most people know. Secondly my arrangement would be for the instruments that were available, that is the instruments played by the staff. I needed this information before I could complete the demo but the chord sequence and progression of the song could all be figured out without this knowledge. There was some discussion about the staff rewriting the lyrics but the original words by Blane ended up being used. Knowing what instruments I was arranging for was useful and affected my decisions to an extent. The demo was made up entirely of synthesized sounds and my own voice. Much of the final result was also synthesized, particularly the strings, Bass, Piano, Harp and pitched percussion. Duncan also provided me with a list of the instrumentalists, their names and how well they considered themselves to play. This was another consideration for me: how well could these people play? I did not want to write parts that were too difficult but they also had to be stylistically accurate. Ideally the instrumentalists would achieve a flow state during the recording session, which was to take place on a Sunday in the Hospital where a make-shift recording studio was going to be established. These things were well within my skill-set. Through our friendship and shared history, Duncan knew I would be able to deliver what was required of me. I made my arrangement and assured myself and Duncan that any parts which were not recorded well could be replaced by synthesized sounds. This was not ideal because in fact the sound of the synthesized instruments was quite undesirable but the option put the team at ease.


Once I had completed the demo on November 22nd 2020 and produced parts for the musicians to prepare, Francesco and I were tasked with coming up with a provisional shot-list by the team, which was a surprise. I would have expected the director to create this in collaboration with the choreographer. It might be that at that time, I knew more about the structure of the emerging work than anyone else. On November 26th 2020 Francesco and I had a phone call to make a start on this, just days before filming. Having never made a shot-list before, neither of us felt entirely at home but we plunged in at the beginning. We knew that the last verse and chorus would be primarily built from the staff self-shooting on their phones at home but we wanted a logic for the music video. We arrived at the idea of the empty hospital slowly coming to life until it is filled with singing and dancing people. We were also working with the limitation of facemasks, a condition of the Hospital, which affected my vision for the work; I had envisioned everyone lipsyncing to the track. Below is the shot-list that we arrived at in under an hour. 

This was integrative collaboration characterised by conversation, sharing of roles, merging of ideas and an emerging shared vision for the logic or dramaturgy of the music video. We engaged in mostly exploratory talk with moments of cumulative talk and a good deal of humour. Interestingly, Francesco and I were able to draw on a mutual reference from a show that we had been to see together. It was “Kiss and Cry” (2011) by Michèle Anne de Mey and Jaco Van Dormael, a live video in theatre piece where the characters are represented by the hands of the performers. Francesco brought this idea up as a solution to the facemasks obscuring the mouths of the dancers; we could use hands figuratively. By this time, Francesco had already devised some choreography and disseminated it via video to the whole team and the performers, like he had with “Tro//ing”. It was requested that he devise some different choreography that was slightly more ballroom and he obliged. He and I both communicated, in private, that we both knew his original, more simple choreography would most likely end up being used because we were working with amateurs. Whatsapp was the team’s primary method of communication; I was in close contact with an audio editor in the post-production stage, sometimes via phone but mostly via email. Duncan was overseeing the process but not in creative control, much like a producer. He was essential in coordinating between the creative team and the hospital.

Prior to the shoot, there was a Zoom meeting with most of the production team to agree on the practicalities of the shoot day with little conversation about the creative choices. The Director, Natalie, mentioned some ideas she had, which helped to put me at ease; it is natural for me to underestimate the capabilities of my collaborators prior to working with them. I communicated to Francesco that a priority should be to ensure that Natalie got a lot of shots to use, with the emphasis on variety and camera movement to take the focus away from potentially weaker dancing.

Owing to travel restrictions, I remained in Oslo for this project, which had a big impact on the workflow in the weeks after. It led to the breaking of one of my principles from this RP and resulted in more work. Firstly, I was not familiar with the instrumentalists meaning that I could not write for their dispositions and strengths; instead I had to write for, in a sense, a generic amateur instrumentalist. This meant that many of the instrumentalists found their parts challenging. When they were recording their parts one at a time at the hospital, it is possible that they might have felt self-conscious or embarrassed. This was purely my own conjecture after having listened to the ‘takes’ in the following days despite Duncan’s assurance that everyone enjoyed playing the music. Some of the performances were strong, particularly the vocalists, who I was also tasked with ‘comping’ - that is creating an ideal take from several different takes - however some performances barely resembled the part that I wrote at all. The piano that was set up in the foyer of the Hospital was also used in the recordings but was just slightly out of tune making the performances unusable. The dissatisfaction of these instances is compounded by the fact that whilst these performances were not good enough to be used from a commercial point of view, indeed they had to be replaced by synthesized instruments, those staff performers were then not being included in this project, the project that had been precisely designed to feature as many employees as possible. Secondly, this meant that I had to spend nearly two weeks ‘comping’ and editing all the recorded parts. For some parts, this included moving and pitch shifting multiple notes per bar or replacing missing notes with synthesized notes and so on. The sound editor helped a lot in mixing the final track, something my computer was not powerful enough to do, and he autotuned almost everything. I could work much faster than he could and so I took on ‘comping’ everything because I knew the arrangement like the back on my hand. Had I been present for the recording session, I might have tried to coach the instrumentalists more, aiming to improve upon each take. This would have saved me time and possibly led to a nicer experience for those recording.

It is apt to recognise aspects of this project as falling under Claire Bishop’s category of ‘delegated performance’ in “Artificial Hells”. This is determined by the use of hospital staff to perform as singers, instrumentalists and dancers over the course of the weekend in late November 2020 following instructions set out by myself and other members of the creative team. Whilst they are singing, playing and dancing they are also asked to perform their professions (Bishop, 2012).

Whilst the staff are portraying themselves at work, in their working environment, we are not asking them to do work as doctors, nurses and porters etc. we are instead asking them to execute tasks that are outside of their expertise and rooted in performance, a service that is closer to that demanded from people like me, amounting to “affective labour” (Doyle, 2013, p.91). Doyle cites an ethically difficult work by Santiago Sierra from 2002. Sierra hired manual labourers to simply hold heavy beams in an art installation in New York for no reason. On the first day these labourers walked off the job, angry, arguing that it was demeaning to be used as props in an installation (Doyle, 2013, p.91). The workers demonstrated that they knew they were being paid to perform manual labour but were instead doing “affective labour”, and they were aware that such labour was more valuable in the context of a gallery than the manual labour. As I see it, the staff have opted into this project instigated by hospital staff for hospital staff for the duration of just a weekend. My only ethical concern lies in the potential embarrassment and exposure of the weaker musicians during the recording session but as these did not get heard by anyone not involved with the project, those participants have nothing to fear.

To an extent, the outcome of the music recording and the result in general was somewhat unforeseeable, which, for Claire Bishop, amounts to a highly directed form of authenticity, delegated to the production by the participating staff through their proximity to the social reality of their identity (Bishop, 2012). That the filming happened in their place of work contributes to this.  Amateurism is essential in this regard, according to Bishop, it ensures that the project is a space of risk. She also makes the useful claim that this kind of labour should be understood as more than capitalist exploitation - although this is clearly a participant led project into which I was invited as opposed to projects instigated by the artist, like Maurizio Cattelan’s “Southern Suppliers FC” (1991) where he assembled a football team in Italy from North African immigrants who lost every one of their matches - and more of a limited working period, tethered to a specific space; here the norms that constitute their day to day labour and place of work are suspended and put to pleasure in perverse ways (Bishop, 2012, p.238). In our case, the hospital takes on a magical status filled with smiling, happiness and dancing in the corridors, and a very different reality, even a transgression, that is enjoyed by everyone involved, participants and creative team (Bishop, 2012).


The staff coming together to form a hospital orchestra, choir and groups of dancers acts as a metaphor for a working hospital and its many voices are represented both visually and aurally. In fact our idea to show the Hospital waking up, represented through the synchronisation of the Glockenspiel notes with lights turning on, suggests that it is an organism, even a voice in the song.

Collaboration was happening in numerous modes within this particular project. Amongst the creative team, much of this was limited to distributed collaboration, particularly amongst the creative team, and cooperation in both pre- and post-production, we kept to our own area of expertise but had a common goal.  Similarly, the instrumentalists and singers were interpreting what I wrote. On the day of recording, I was phoned by the drummer who turned out to also be the tenor saxophonist and he wanted to discuss what he might do because I had not written a drum part. He suggested an approach that amounted to a slight change of pattern in the middle section, which I agreed to happily. This was a moment of dialogue that produced a new way forward and even a new instrumental part; I was initially planning to use a simple drum sample. It is another incidence of integrative collaboration, akin to the exchange with Francesco. 

This was a successful project in that the result functioned as intended and was completed in time for the Christmas holidays. We felt a sense of achievement as corresponds to Pollard’s coordination/cooperation/collaboration typology. It was delayed slightly due to the amount of editing that I had to do on the recorded parts and this had a knock-on effect for the editors who were cutting the video to the track. There was effective communication from the start of the project and a shared vision, which amounted to the shared value of the emerging work rather than the value of the unity of the creative team as a ‘group’. This was clear to everyone and gave the team a collective goal to work towards. This was important because we had never met and would be working separately. The one moment when there was a lack of clarity and even stress was when Francesco and I became tasked with creating the shot-list but this ended up being an enjoyable, even transformative conversation. Our intimacy built from trust, a shared history and humour, enabled us to take on this task and complete it quickly and effectively, all over the phone. It was a condition for the collaboration that allowed us to share the role of creating the shot list. My interaction, or lack of interaction, with the musicians could have been collaborative and is different to my interaction with Francesco in almost every possible way.

Webseries: “ComposerGENAU!” (2021)

In early January 2021, John Moran and I were commissioned by Hellerau Europäisches Zentrum der Künste Dresden and Schaubühne Lindenfels Leipzig to create a four-part webseries. Each episode would be released every month from January to April. On January 8th 2021, we had a group video call with all parties involved. Everyone was excited about this because for us, it meant a high degree of freedom and for the commissioning partners, it was almost no work as the webseries would exist on Youtube and required little to no resources from them. It was to all be rooted in lipsync and set in our respective neighbourhoods, John in Dresden and me in Oslo. John and I were to be the co-hosts and each month we planned to show what we had been working on, although the webseries took up all our time, and we would also interview a guest whom we admired. John and I would draw upon our mutual interest in strange or impossible realities and loops of time although it was never clear what the webseries really was, to me.


On January 9th 2021, I sent John a demo showing some possible music that could go under his introduction. We had agreed to try this type of working and I asked what kind of style he imagined; he replied with “Arvo Pärt”. I explored this, referencing Pärt’s 1980 version of “Fratres” but John did not want to use what I had  done. I felt his criticism was a little harsh but I was being overly sensitive likely as a result of seeking John’s approval. Many of the problems with this project were because of this. Specifically he said that the music seemed random in its relation to the tempo and rhythm of the scene and that he was concerned with what my content for the show would be; he then linked my demo to my contribution citing his concern that it, too, would feel random. Below is my demo music with John’s introduction.

John expressed his concern that we would not get the episode done in time although we still had two weeks. This caused me stress and it felt like I was letting John down in some way, like he did not trust me. This contributed to a hum of anxiety that persisted throughout the webseries project.

The next day, Constanze and Marie in Dresden sent me the voiceover that I had asked  them to record. We settled on the name “Composer GENAU!” for the webseries. John quickly produced header art and a logo for the Youtube channel. I had said that I did not want to use the word ‘composer’, ‘composing’ or ‘composition’ in the title; it felt unappealing and an inaccurate descriptor but I ended up compromising. On January 12th, I recorded my part of the episode from my office at NMH. My idea was concerning audio description where a voice, separate from the story, narrates the action for the visually impaired. In my narrative, the voice began to lead the action and take over. The day after this on January 13th, I edited what I had done very quickly and sent it to John. He suggested that I cut my segment into two parts so something else could go between it. He suggested this so my presence is more spread out across the episode. My immediate reaction was no, however it was not a bad idea. I experienced this as a moment of conflict.

On January 14th, I began adding the foley sounds and music to my scene. John asked me to do a walking shot and another shot that sets up another scene, which I was happy to oblige. Then communication went quiet and I knew that John was working away; he would message every day or so; he was tasked with assembling the parts and scenes of the episode and adding titles. The first episode came to fifty-one minutes. I knew he was having a lot of trouble with his interview with Joseph Keckler in that the audio was slipping out of sync with the video. Because John was talking about Joseph so much and trying to reassure me that it would be great, I felt like he was more interested in Joseph than me, but I realised that this was unfounded. On January 22nd I recorded a response to a phone call with John that he needed. Later he commented that I seemed bored in my performance and I thought this to be unfair because I had no idea what the finished episode was going to be like or how this scene would fit; I did not know if I was supposed to be calm or excited; we had no shared vision and I felt kept in the dark.


On January 24th, the episode aired on Youtube and I was very impressed by it. It was great to see everything come together in this new formation and we had a sense of achievement. I was working with someone whose work I found inspiring and was excited to see what we could do together. I was hoping that the next episode could be more collaborative; as yet we had really only worked in a coordinated and cooperative way, not yet achieving trust or synergy.

John, Marie and I had a call the next day to plan the second episode. We rarely spoke over the phone or skype, favouring email and Facebook Messenger, and this was a potential root of the problem. I was now on the same page as John; I had the shared vision for the series having now seen an episode. This felt like a moment of integrative collaboration amidst a project with almost no collaborative emergence. John gave me some useful suggestions for my conception of my persona that would be a slightly exaggerated and fabricated version of myself. We agreed that in the next episode, I needed to show who I was and where I lived because the first episode had not really been an exposition on me but of John.

On January 28th I moved my entire studio home from NMH and into my bedroom because NMH was urging staff to work from home if possible. By being forced to create at home and about my home, my work gained an authenticity and intimacy.

On February 1st, I had to speak to a friend about this project because my anxiety was increasing. He suggested that I make John the project lead, in my mind, and hand over responsibility to him. It made me appreciate and miss my colleagues Bastard Assignments, who facilitate a feeling of individual agency and non-hierarchical working. I wondered if John had ever even mentioned that we would be working collaboratively or if I had made that up, if I had assumed that because we were ‘co-hosts’, we would be co-composers automatically. Vying for partnership and not getting it was causing me stress. John did not like the guest I had initially chosen for my interview which I took to be another blow to my position. I proffered another guest, Dickie Beau, and John was delighted with this suggestion. Having become unattached to working collaboratively with John, I immersed myself in making a great introduction.

On February 10th, Oli Dawe filmed me lipsyncing to my prerecorded dialogue. He was easy to work with and a mood booster. We had determined that he was to be a “hired gun”, functioning as a cameraman rather than contributing creatively. This is a boundary that was useful for both of us and we established it prior to work beginning. Oli ended up contributing a lot to my introduction and this emerged from the process; he helped to compose the shots and evaluate them. This interaction was collaborative, built from moments of distributed, complementary and integrative collaboration, and the experience was transformative. Having only known one another in the context of live theatre as director and composer, we gained a new respect for one another’s abilities as they translated to filmmaking; there was an exchange.

The next day, I filmed with Dickie Beau for his interview over Zoom. We both recorded sound locally and had each set up a green screen behind us. Dickie and I had agreed to this and Dickie suggested that his background music be simply English Birdsong.

On February 13th I had a call with Marie and John and also filmed a portion of dialogue with Marie for the episode. This went well and I was clearly excited with the filming that I had done, both of my introduction and my interview with Dickie. This experience was markedly different from my experience in January; I felt in control of myself and that I had space to roam in. I felt like I was being collaborated with finally, and that maybe the project had not been mine to invite John into anyway; it had been his to invite me into.   

I sent John an edit of my introduction on February 14th. He quickly gave feedback saying that he liked it and that maybe I could try cropping into some shots, making it more filmic. I was happy to explore this. Similarly on February 15th, John suggested I explore video colouring with a piece of software, “DaVinci Resolve” and he sent me a scene of his with Jule and Kristin, which I loved. I had started to have fun and was enjoying learning about colour correction.

On February 20th I sent my introduction to John and was completing the new edit of the  interview which was much too long. I had started using two different laptops to edit on and at some stage, the resolution of my project mysteriously dropped from 1920x1080 to 980x720. The next day I managed to send, what was now, the third edit of my introduction to John to add to the assembly. On February 22nd John asked if he could add some additional music into my scene and I was happy to see what he would do. I felt exhausted after this and had been getting minimal sleep. I felt that I had given John everything he needed and with as much time to assemble it as I could have. I requested John add some text overlaid into a scene of my introduction and everything seemed ready.

On the evening of February 23rd, the episode was launching on 24th, John messaged me to request that I give him all my audio parts for my introduction. He wished to change the audio mix and ‘cross some of my opening moments’ to make it shorter. I said that I had evening plans and he agreed to work with what he had. I then requested that I would prefer to see the result before it was broadcast but John denied that. John persisted and said that he felt my introduction was very long, with buried vocals and that he found it alienating. I compromised and requested he did not cut out full shots.

It is in this exchange where the project fell apart for me. I remember feeling conflicted, both angry and fearful, torn between wanting to please John and suspecting that I had been right about the unworkability of this process. He wanted to edit both my audio and my shots and not wait for me to give my approval. I conceded and changed my evening plans in light of his frustration and sent the files. John drew emotions into this interaction by explaining that he was frustrated and this pulled on our friendship.

The next evening, I watched the episode and was hurt and disappointed; I was unhappy with the version of my introduction that had gone out. The sound was now undynamic and thin and many of my footsteps were out of sync. The overlaid text I had requested was also wrong. An entire shot was missing, another was halved and many others were shortened. 

From this position, I had lost trust in John. Because of this, I had no more ideas for the series or any drive to continue. 

The next day, I sent John an email saying that I would be considering whether or not I wanted to participate anymore in the project. How could I continue when I no longer trusted my colleague? Why would I continue if I was not satisfied with the finished result? I pondered why my work was the subject of such editing. I knew that I had allowed this all to happen by not enforcing a boundary, perhaps I was not aware of it until it was crossed, and too much of this project was left to chance, unplanned. In planning, the emerging group gets to build a shared vision for the work. A major factor in this breakdown was the lack of face to face, in-person interaction. I let John and Marie know that I would not be participating any longer in the project some days after.

“ComposerGENAU!” is the outlier of this RP; I expected it to be more successful as a collaboration than the Hospital project. However there was a dissonance in values from the outset that was not resolved. In fact it led to suffering on my end. I am of course responsible for my own actions and for particularly giving John parent/teacher authority over me; I am not trying to defame John in any way. My own insecurities about seeking approval were at play here. My hurt was a result of this mismatch of values: John valued the emerging work whereas I saw more value in building the trust and unity of the emerging group. I perhaps carelessly took my experience with Bastard Assignments into this collaboration, thinking that a personal relationship was available to us and that we could execute this project - and many more - along these lines. John continued the project without me.


Because of this and the absence of integrative collaboration, I initially concluded that this partnership lacked intimacy. However if we return to Ara Wilson’s idea that the concept of intimacy can capture deeply felt orientations that include positively valued feelings along with problematic feelings, then we can view this project differently. The very fact that I was so hurt by this hints at the amount of trust and emotional investment I had put into the relationship, not only the work. Because I felt so betrayed by someone whom I admired and was seeking approval from, of course intimacy was present as a condition for this collaboration; it just turned out differently to how I had planned.


During this separation caused by the pandemic, the most successful work sprung from processes that gave the group, or individual, space to create or frames in which to build the piece, away from the auspices of the composer; a notable example is Jennifer Walshe’s use of Bastard Assignments.

I conclude that it is hard to keep a project alive across the separation of Lockdown if the partners have had very little working experience together in real life. This could be because there is not enough trust established. Most of the cases of integrative collaboration occurred in relationships with a history of working together, amounting to shared knowledge and versatility of roles, trust, familiarity, humour, and openness, which I incorporate as intimacy. Dave Pollard (2005) drew exactly the same conclusion: “It is relatively easy to coordinate the activities of a ‘virtual’ group that must work remotely and asynchronously, and much harder (but not impossible) to achieve virtual collaboration, especially if the collaborators already know each other.” The Lockdown Jams that featured asynchronous (or diachronic) working periods within a sequential process are a new direction for the group but are actually closer to the goal of Bastard Assignments than anything else owing to the equal share of work and contribution made by each member. 

With the example of my half-brothers working together, the project was cut short by the pandemic not only in terms of it hindering us meeting and jamming in-person together but it took the end point of the project out of view. I had envisioned us being able to perform the songs at some stage but the practicalities of organising that were too complex amidst Lockdown. Conversely with Bastard Assignments it was very easy to move our practice online; we just organised to meet and everything grew from those meetings. Our trust for one another and commitment to the group meant that we were able to sustain such a project without actually being in physical contact. This trust grows as part of the shared history of the group. Creativity grows and blooms through this trust. It also comes from meeting, doing and conversation in many of these projects; creativity is the energy in between, arising from no one but the combination. 

Was the webseries not, in fact, a collaborative project? Because of the uneven distribution of power, small amount of co-planning and because we were working on our own parts without ever working on anything together, this process was primarily cooperative actually. I thought that the webseries had the potential to explore integrative collaboration but I think the difference in collaborative experience and expectation was a problem, along with the already mentioned difference in values. Collaborative emergence was not present: there was little contingency in that my actions had little interactional effect on John’s and there was not equal contribution - at least not in terms of decisions being made. For me it was a bad process that has badly impacted on the possibility of future collaborations. It was in some way transformational in that it made me newly grateful for Bastard Assignments because of the conditions there which are by and large non-hierarchical, collective, mutual and free. With Bastard Assignments, the value is the unity of the group because without the group, there is no work.

A new mode of collaboration became visible during these Lockdown projects that was concerned with post-production. When the artistic product is less a live performance and more a piece of video-art or music, composition and collaboration encompass post-production, which includes editing, arranging and mastering. The most pronounced example was the “Fugue in C minor BWV 847” where Ed implemented a process for the audio layer of this work that took place after the performance, opening up a new mode. This was even more pronounced in “Unprecedented” in which the process was engineered such that we were always working with prerecorded materials; there was no live performance where we were co-present as a group. Another example is the project with my half-brothers. This is distributed creativity in action; the collaborative work is networked and happening online; it is separated spatially and temporally and the product is only disseminated through the group’s social media, which is an extension of our network (Born, 2005). Barrett points out that “Collaborations are not necessarily physically proximate as evidenced increasingly in the use of digital technologies to link individuals and groups across vast distances of space and time as they engage in simultaneous and sequential work processes.” (Barrett, 2016).

Bastard Assignments were not alone on our quest to simply continue meeting and working as a group. Other groups notably, “ThingNY” and “Lil’ Jürg Frey”, seized the opportunity to explore the new mediums and performance arenas for creating music online. On their fifty-minute video work premiered in April 2020, ThingNy write: “SUBTRACTTTTTTTTT is a series of Etudes, Songs and Scenes, developed in isolation, and crafted for a quarantine culture, intended to toy with the abilities, shortfalls, and comical inconsistencies of bandwidth broadcast.” (, 2020).ThingNy are made up of six composer-performers who collectively create and perform theatrically-charged experimental music.

“HitRecord” is an online collaborative media platform founded and owned by actor and director Joseph Gordon-Levitt that has existed since 2004. On the platform, the eighty-thousand users can collaborate on each other’s short films and other artwork. It is a prime example of Born’s distributed creativity. 


“Lil’ Jürg Frey” is a group of artists who took to “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” on the “Nintendo Switch.” On this platform they could design rooms and use avatars to operate virtual furniture and appliances live, with the sound design offering an exciting new palette. Writer Joshua Minsoo Kim from “The Wire” writes: “Bahto tells me that scheduled rehearsals…[occurred] many times a week and lasting two to three hours. ‘It felt like being in a legit band,’ laughs Bell. You can tell: while the game’s cute graphics and the performances’ overall premise may feel gimmicky at first, the meticulous consideration for rhythm, sonic qualities and spirited experimentation are undeniable upon viewing and very much in the lineage of Fluxus.” (Kim, 2020, p.84). 


A big unknown of this chapter is the audience; they were invisible. Social media platforms like Instagram and Youtube, where most of these works exist, can show me how many times a video was started but not much else about the experience. If, as Born (2005) points out, a concert hall’s architecture disciplines the audience’s behaviour, rendering them motionless in rows of dark seats to take in the truth and beauty of a work, then the Jams and the other online projects mentioned do the opposite. Thanks to the domestic spatiality of the Jams and the webseries, the hierarchy between composers/performers and the audience is less defined. The audience is free to watch at the time and location of their choosing and they will likely be alone. For example, the webseries was broadcast at a particular time and then made available in perpetuity but not everyone who watched it, watched when it was broadcast. 

Without a conventional performance space, the already vague distinctions between composer and performer become more blurred and slippery, especially in the Jams and webseries projects. Where does creation end and rehearsal begin? In the early jams when we recorded the entire session before deciding what to release, everything was already performance as well as a creative and rehearsal time. We performed for each other and the hypothetical audience; it was not a closed rehearsal space.

I have reconfigured the composer-performer diagram from the chapter “New Discipline” into a configuration that shows this confusion. The domestic space is also the creative space which is also the performance space; my introduction to episode two of the webseries plays with this new formulation.


These projects contained many incidents of relatedness and collaboration along with less successful periods of coordinated and cooperative working. These incidents of relatedness through work and dialogue brought me and my colleagues into contact in new virtual ways. Because these projects and dialogues were so instrumental in redefining myself as a composer and creative person and forging new relationships amidst the isolation of the pandemic, they were undeniably intimate.