Figure 1.5. (Culebro, Thomson, 2019)

Salt formations resulting from double bass notes played through a metal plate.

Figure 1.8. (Kallio, 2017). Adriano Adewale and Nathan Riki Thomson. Ode to Nanalive performance, 2017

Figure 1.7. Inverted close up image of milk responding to resonant bass frequencies played through a transducer attached to a metal bowl. (Culebro, Thomson 2019)

Introduction to Case Study Aims, Intentions and Methods


As the initiator of the projects, I also took on the role of facilitator of the creative processes, with the view of setting up a context for each musician to work within that would provide a minimum amount of structure and guidance, allowing them to work freely and explore their own voice within a given framework. 


This facilitation process requires a careful balance of intuitively knowing when and how much to steer and when to step back, creating space for other voices to be heard. The musical dialogues were also based on allowing known and unknown elements to co-exist and change shape throughout the creative processes. Although the art of facilitation may begin with clearly defined roles and conscious awareness of methodologies and approaches to working together, my experience has been that the lines become blurred over time, as the collaboration gets stronger. This results in the role of facilitator being passed back and forth freely at times, leading to a merging of ideas and ultimately, in the best case scenario, a sense of shared meaning amongst the musicians. The concept of resonance (Rosa, 2019) provides a clear articulation of this line of thought, whereby threads of connection may be formed between musicians through dialogue. Furthermore, I have proposed the resonance theme and concept as a binding element of the complete scope of my doctoral research, which is housed in the main exposition found here: (please note that this link will only be active when the final work has been published, which is anticipated to be during 2021).


Creative Working Methods


Two working methods were used for the musical dialogues. In the case of Ode to Nana, this involved two phases:


a)     Analysing berimbau techniques taught to me by Adriano Adewale and looking at the ways in which these techniques might be transferred or adapted to the double bass

b)    Engaging in a series of duo improvisations during a two year period between Adriano and myself, as a means for finding points of resonance and an emerging musical language 


In the case of Oaidnemeahttun / Invisible, the creation approach was based on a facilitated process led by me, in a way that aimed to provide a framework comprising some pre-composed material and some unknown elements. The pre-composed material was written by me, specifically based on elements that were characteristic of Hildá Länsman’s personal approach to using her voice and the Sámi culture she is connected to. This approach aimed to create a space for Hildá and me to interact and discover new elements, as well as for Hildá to bring her own ideas and personality to the music. Part of this process also involved asking Hildá to write Sámi lyrics for the melody and interpret the melodic content in her own way. 


These collaborative processes were documented through recording the improvisations and rehearsals, using a portable recorder each time we met. Spontaneous conversations were also recorded as part of the creation process, which I later transcribed and analysed as narrative text. These recordings were reviewed by me in-between meetings, as well as listening to previous recordings together during the creation process. The recordings have been archived on a hard drive and audio excerpts appear as part of this exposition. Ethical consent for this research was gained from my collaborators both orally and in writing through signed consent forms. 


S o n i c   C o n v e r s a t i o n s  

In order for communication to take place in intercultural dialogues, the musicians must search for points of connection, which may not be immediately obvious. As with any new musical encounter, the musicians may be required to re-assess previously formed norms, where approaches to musical elements such as rhythm, harmony, melodic sensibility or texture may not apply, or need to be adapted and negotiated in various ways. Bhabha refers to this notation when he describes hybridity as being ‘precisely about the fact that when a new situation, a new alliance formulates itself, it may demand that you should translate your principles, rethink them, extend them’ (1990, p. 216). This process is distilled in the musical duo format, which allows for clear examination of the effects of bringing two distinctively different elements together. 


This phenomenon is discussed in various societal and educational contexts, including, as mentioned earlier, third space theory (Bhabha, 1996) and hybridity (Bhabha 1996, Whitchurch 2012, Wren 2015).  Whitchurch (2012, p. 22) cited McAlpine and Hopwood, (2009) stating that third spaces ‘involve interactions between people who would not normally have worked together, where those interactions are focused on a shared (often novel) object (concept, problem, idea)…These new constellations of people, and the common motive they share, offer degrees of freedom to explore new possibilities outside the constrains of established modes of working which shape interactions in the various contexts from which people come’ (McAlpine and Hopwood, 2009, p.159). 


These statements ring true for me within the context of providing opportunities for musicians from diverse backgrounds to interact, enabling a shared space in which to explore and expand practices that are not confined to one given way of approaching music making alone. Opportunities of this kind have been crucial for me personally in terms of embarking on the process of forming my own musical identity. As a double bass player, I can trace the formation of key aspects of my playing back to seminal moments that arose through playing with musicians from diverse backgrounds. The 5-year period I spent living in Tanzania and Zambia mentioned earlier was filled with such moments, some of which are alluded to in my previous article, which discusses the formation of a sonic identity (Thomson, Lähdeoja 2019). The musical examples in this exposition resulted in further expanding my approaches to double bass playing, as well as newly developed compositional and improvisational ideas. Both of these aspects will be unpacked in the case study pages.


A key factor to point out here is that opportunities like this are not necessarily readily available in the daily life of a musician and must therefore be initiated and carefully nurtured. In doing so, we provide possibilities to expand practices, increase intercultural understanding and discover new musical ideas and modes of expression. As musician Toby Wren points out in his discussions on intercultural music projects and hybridity, 'the hybrids that most interest me as an artist and’s in which fundamental theoretical constructs are blended, aesthetics are juxtaposed, and musicians from different cultures are heard to interact and extend their cultural practices' (Wren 2015, p48).


In the musical dialogues presented in the following pages, I am interested in the collaborative process itself and the factors that lead to creating a space where musicians are able to truly interact and explore ground that potentially extends approaches and practices. It seems to me that this doesn't necessarily happen by chance, but is rather the result of considered ways of working together and a willingness to explore new territories and points of view. Examples of these working methods will be uncovered in the musical case studies. 


Educationalist Peter Renshaw highlights the importance of interpersonal skills and the ability to relate to other people in collaborative processes, including ‘trust; openness; responsiveness; listening to and acting on other points of view; ability to work collaboratively in a team with interchangeable roles; having the confidence to share ones’ vulnerability’ (Renshaw, 2010, pp. 68-9). I view such core interpersonal skills as being essential for the foundation of collaborative musical processes. Other skills and qualities also arose during the musical case studies presented in this exposition, including respect, patience, compassion, honesty, willingness to take risks, integrity, and developing the ability to listen fully to one another. 


Taking these core skills and qualities as a given for the basis of fruitful collaboration, I would like to highlight two other areas that emerge in the following case study examples, namely facilitation and the creation of shared meaning. The musical case studies both required a creative process to be guided, with the aim of creating work that had active engagement and shared meaning for each person.


The concept of resonance is important once again here. As Rosa states, ‘There can be no doubt that the concept of resonance is a highly suitable metaphor for describing the qualities of relationships, and that it moreover offers enormous potential for analysing how human beings relate to the world in nearly every area of life’ (Rosa, 2019, p.164). In transcultural, or indeed musical dialogues of any kind, resonance can be seen as a crucial aspect in creating the environment conducive to meaningful musical interaction. 


Rosa also makes numerous points of reference to music and sound as a form as resonance. Using the analogy of a tuning fork, he observes that if two tuning forks are in close proximity and one is struck, the other will sound as a kind of resonant effect. Furthermore, as his book claims, ‘subjects are geared toward resonant experiences, they can either seek out encounters that resonate with them (first tuning fork) or hope to encounter things that cause them to resonate (second tuning fork)’ (Rosa, 2019, p. 124). 


Rosa goes on to observe the experience of resonance becoming more dynamic or ‘charged’ in such moments as witnessing a sunset or listening to live music due to the fleeting nature of their existence. ‘Witnessing a sunset can be such a strong, sometimes (in the case of Bede Griffith) even metaphysically or cosmologically ´charged’ experience not least because the person touched by it is fully aware of its essential transience. Musical experiences of resonance are temporalized and made dynamic in a similar way: the apotheosis of a symphony, an aria, a song, or even a dance is experienced – like an organism – as a radically and always already passing moment’ (Rosa, 2019, p.120). 

In the following dialogues, I am interested in what happens in the transient space that arises from two distinctively different elements interacting and how the different forms of resonance take place, seen through the lens of two intercultural duets.   


1)    Ode to Nana (A dialogue between an Australian double bass player and a Brazilian berimbau player)


2)    Oaidnemeahttun / Invisible (A dialogue for a Sámi singer and an Australian double bass player)


Common to both of these duet dialogues is the unknown, transient nature of the encounter. Neither party is able to predict what will happen in that first moment of musical interaction. This gives rise to an acute awareness that every musical gesture or combination of sounds is happening for the very first time and will disappear as quickly as it arises in the moment. A resonant spark is created as a result, which in that moment is pregnant with possibilities and heightened awareness of emerging new elements. 


The duets will be unpacked in the following pages titled Musical Case Study One and Musical Case Study Two. 

Figure 1.9. (Haapoja, 2019). Hildá Länsman and Nathan Riki Thomson. Oaidnemeahttun / Invisible, live performance, 2019

Figure 1.6. (Culebro, Thomson, 2019)

Inverted image of milk resonating in response to bass frequencies.