A Phenomenology of Collaboration in Contemporary Composition and Performance

Document Type

Theses, Ph.D


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence



This thesis considers how collaboration between composer and performer affects the practice of these musicians. The established paradigm for the creation of new work in the context of contemporary classical music promotes separation between composers and performers. Typically the composer is seen as 'creator', the performer as 'interpreter', and the audience as the 'recipient' of the music. This inherent hegemony creates division between these musicians, creating expressive barriers in the development and the dissemination of new work. In this research, the creative processes of both composition and performance are assessed in the context of collaborative practice, in a continuum where both composers and performers are seen as integrated elements within music making. IIi order to evaluate collaborative practice between composer and performer I commissioned five Irish composers to write solo bass clarinet pieces for me to perform.. These five individual cases provided an opportunity to examine collaboration in a practical framework. An integral part of each commission was the examination of collaboration through the careful documentation of the creative processes of interactive practice. Over the course of a year I worked collaboratively with the composers concerned in a series of practical sessions where the new works were discussed. and tried out. A key part of these meetings was the investigation of various elements relating to collaboration, including. notation, improvisation and transmission. A significant amount of data was collected in the course of this examination including audio recordings and transcripts of meetings. The findings from this research 'indicate that collaboration between composers and performers can have significant beneficial effects on musicians' practice. These benefits include increased motivation, creative stimulation, multiple communication modes and notational clarification. These represent some of the practical findings from this investigation of the effect collaboration has on the practice of composers and performers.