City Research Online

The Elephant and the Blind Men: Myth-Making, Musical Tracking and the Creative Process

Nooshin, L. (2017). The Elephant and the Blind Men: Myth-Making, Musical Tracking and the Creative Process. Keynote Paper presented at the Tracking the Creative Process in Music, 14-16 Sep 2017, Huddersfield, UK.


In the ancient parable of the elephant and the blind men, each man attempts to describe the elephant through feeling a different part of its body - the smooth tusk, the long trunk, the rough skin, and so on - and each reaches a very different understanding of the nature of the animal. Tracking creative processes in music often feels rather like this: each of the methodologies commonly used by scholars working in the various branches of music studies – whether ethnographic, analytical, psychological, and so on - touches on and seems to reveal quite different things about the creative process. In this keynote, I explore some of the themes and issues that have arisen within ethnomusicological studies of musical creativity, through the prism of my own work on Iranian classical music, a tradition in which the performer plays a central creative role and which is therefore usually described as ‘improvised’. I will consider some of the myth-making that surrounds musical creativity in this tradition - and the purpose that such myths serve - as well as exploring the ways in which younger musicians are developing new discursive frameworks for their creative practice. Ultimately, I’m interested in the methodological challenges in bringing together the different parts of the elephant in order to describe and understand creative processes in music more holistically.

Publication Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Keynote)
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Performing Arts > Music
[thumbnail of Laudan Nooshin Tracking the Creative Process in Music Huddersfield Keynote September 2017.pdf]
Text - Accepted Version
Download (203kB) | Preview
[thumbnail of Laudan Nooshin, Tracking the Creative Process in Music, Huddersfield Keynote, September 2017.pptx] Slideshow - Presentation
Download (57MB)
Official URL:


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login