Dissertation/performance (MMus in Creative Practice), 2016
Felix Obelix: research, music composition/performance
Collaborators: Barnabas Poffley (drums/composition), Genevieve Dawson (vocals/piano/composition), Nour Emam (electronics/composition), Rick Leigh (trumpet), Tim Gardner (violin)
Goldsmiths, University of London
For my Master of Music in Creative Practice final dissertation, I chose to explore how notions of trust and vulnerability play out in collaborative creation.
In the basic emotional exchange of vulnerability, one party chooses to risk potential judgment by opening up to another, and when the other party rewards that risk by responding positively, this leads to human connection. Vulnerability is also thought to be the prerequisite psychological state necessary for trust to develop. As trust is a highly dynamic process, the agents in the relationship continually manage risk, reward, and control, and in the case of identity-based trust, can even experience a merging of identity with the other. In this research, I posited that this same phenomenon can play out between people in creative collaborations. Each creative act made in front of another person represents this same exchange: by showing oneself to another during the process of creation, imperfections and all, a bond can be forged. Creative collaborations likewise involve notions of risk and trust. But how does this emotional exchange actually transpire in collaboration? How do both parties in the exchange negotiate issues of control, trust, vulnerability, risk, and reward during the act of creation? What specific insight into the phenomenon can be gained through arts-based collaborative research, where the researcher is also co-creator of the work?
I sought to answer these questions by undertaking three separate collaborative musical projects during the summer of 2016 with fellow MMus students at Goldsmiths, University of London. In addition to co-composing, I interviewed the participants and recorded our creative sessions to document the trajectory of our interactions.
Contact me to request a copy of the dissertation: Trust Them With Your Weird and Strange Notes: An Arts-Based Research Perspective on Vulnerability and the Social Dynamic in Creative Collaboration
I also presented results from this research on vulnerability/trust and collaboration at two conferences, Tracking the Creative Process in Music (Sept. 2017, Huddersfield, UK) and the Thirteenth International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry (May 2017, Champaign-Urbana, IL), where I showed this video on the concepts of emergence and flow.
This songwriting collaboration with Genevieve Dawson led to our ongoing collaboration as Private Cathedral.
In collaboration, Nour Emam and I co-created a live improvisational language. In recorded sessions, I played acoustic instruments (piano, organ, bass, English horn) and Nour took my sound and manipulated it through electronics, with both of us reading photograph histograms as graphic scores. The photographs represented the artists' notions of vulnerability.
Thank you to: my extraordinary Goldsmiths collaborators, Barnabas, Genevieve, Nour, Tim, and Rick; my advisor, Lisa Busby; Jay Hammond; Idan Brutman; and María Magnúsdóttir.