Creative learning and 'original' music performance

(John Rink – Cambridge)

Project overview | Project narrative | Workshops | Questionnaires | Fieldwork |Outputs

Project overview

This project is exploring the means by which creativity and originality in musical performance are fostered in the teaching studio and practice room. Focusing on advanced students at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and the Royal College of Music, the research is interrogating conceptual constructions of creativity and originality in relation to performance, both of which are diversely defined in both practical and theoretical contexts.

The project is addressing six research questions:

  • What qualities are thought to connote originality in given types of performance?
  • How do notions of originality vary across different performance traditions, instruments, and teachers or learners?
  • What teaching and learning techniques are most conducive to transmitting the musical skills and knowledge required to surpass the routine and predictable in musical performance?
  • Should originality necessarily be considered the most important artistic goal for each and every performer?
  • Is originality compatible with the interpretative traditions that many musicians feel inspired or obliged to perpetuate?
  • How can the knowledge and skill acquired in the teaching studio, practice room and classroom be used to maximum benefit in performance?

To address these questions, two postdoctoral Research Fellows - Dr Mirjam James and Dr Karen Wise - have carried out fieldwork at the Guildhall School and RCM using a range of methods such as questionnaires, interviews, focus-group discussions, practice diaries, observations of teachers and their students, and 'video recall'. Their work during the three-year project has produced longitudinal data on teaching practices and rehearsal, in an attempt to shed light on the outcomes of given techniques as against intended purpose.

The aims, then, are to describe current practices, the values and assumptions that underlie them, and their outcomes and perceived effectiveness, and to work towards the development of a performance curriculum in which students may aspire to, and attain, a heightened sense of musical inspiration as well as greater expertise. The three project workshops have been designed to involve not only scholarly experts but also teachers and students at the RCM and Guildhall School as well as select specialists working in different environments and/or performance traditions. Two of them also involved practitioners outside the Western classical sphere.

An AHRC case study focusing on this project is available here. The project is prominently featured in the CMPCP film, and a case study based on it appears on the AHRC website.