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Composition: interaction and collaboration

Steiner, T.J. (1992). Composition: interaction and collaboration. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


For more than two hundred years it has been assumed by those engaged in the production of conservatoire-based music that a composition is best written by a single individual. It has been assumed that the most effective way to communicate a composition is through the exclusive means of the notated score. It has been assumed that the processes of performance and composition should be separate disciplines and that in general, the role of performers should be restricted merely to that of the interpretation of notated music. This thesis presents a challenge to these assumptions through the presentation of a folio of compositions that have each been written through processes based not only on notation, but also in improvisation and various other collaborative aural and oral means. This folio is accompanied by a written discussion of the reasons for wishing to compose music in such a way. In Part One of the written discussion I argue that the tradition of Western art music has reached a point of crisis. This is a crisis that is the result of a growing imbalance between literate and oral modes of thought and expression. I argue that the technology of notation is only partially useful as a tool for composition and communication. Conversely, I discuss what can and has been achieved by musicians when they allow non-notation based processes to form a significant part of the processes of the composition and performance of music. In Part Two I consider the nature of the skills of improvisation. I argue that the practice of improvisation holds part of the key to the regeneration of the conservatoire music tradition and that it is a skill that should serve to undergin an elements of a player's musicianship. In Part Three I discuss some of the more practical considerations of the techniques used in the composition of the music presented in Part Four of the thesis. I attempt to show that through effecting a balance within the composition process between notated elements scored by a single composer, and improvised/realised elements written within the context of an ensemble, a practice can be developed that has implications not only for traditional assumptions of composition, but which serves to question the whole way in which our culture traditionally organises and structures its institutions of education and performance. Part Four takes the form of a recorded folio of works that have been composed as the result of collaborations between the ensembles that perform them and myself
as a director.

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