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Devising music: applying creative approaches from dance and theatre to music composition

Picknett, Michael (2014). Devising music: applying creative approaches from dance and theatre to music composition. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, Guildhall School of Music and Drama)


My principal research question is: How can the directed devising techniques and principles of practice found in contemporary dance and theatre be adapted to the composition of music?

The relationship between fixed material and improvisation within devised projects is often a grey area (see Etchells: 2013b). Some performances are tightly scored with little room for the performers to steer the performances - whereas other performances could be almost seen as free improvisation. The difference between improvisation and devising is always found in the performer’s relationship to the material. Devising processes can generate material whose definition is so elusive that its realisations vary wildly from night to night. But however inexpressible, devising material always has a definite meaning for the performers to which they return in every performance - seeking to generate new interactions and new connections. In every performance we search to find the ephemeral moments that might become a lasting memory.

During my research, I have become increasingly interested in developing a performance practice that uses performer freedom to discover and stimulate unique experiences within performances. Although I feel I have made progress in moving towards this, I know that there is much more to explore in this practice.

All submitted works and examples are available online at:

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Performing Arts > Music
Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Communication & Creativity > School of Communication & Creativity Doctoral Theses
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