Between 2009 and 2014 I undertook a practice-led research doctorate at G.S.M.D. in devised composition. This investigates how contemporary classical music can be created through workshop collaborations with specific musicians.
Inspired by devising practices found in theatre and dance, my research explored how these practices could be applied to the composition of musical works. I not only examined the methodology of creating devised works, but also the relative advantages and disadvantages of applying these techniques to music. Devising processes take the performers as the starting point, creating material through workshop/rehearsals in which performers improvise responses to tasks or exercises set by the composer/director. These tasks and exercises are then repeated and refined by the performers directed by the composer/director, until they take a form ready for performance. Devised performances, therefore, reflect the experiences and interests of the performers as collated and set by the composer/director.
I am interested in the ability of devising to create:
performer specific pieces; works that are drawn from the experiences and ideas of the performer, where the performer holds a deep level of ownership over the work – the work is specific to the performer.
Reactive performances; performances that reflect the situation and circumstances of the musicians, audience and society in general in the moment of performance. Ephemeral performances; works that age with the performer and at a certain point; may no longer be performed.
Canon as aural history; works are preserved by what they represent to the teller – not as objects, but as stories – deep, rich and constantly adapting.
The complete text of the doctorate is available in PDF format on request.
There is also a permanent link to the materials and examples used in the text.