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Music as creative practice

Table of Contents

Project overview

It is commonplace to see both music and creativity as inherently mysterious. What is happening when a classical composer sits at a desk and unfolds new worlds of sound out of nothing? How do bands create songs through processes of negotiation resulting in something that is unforeseen and yet resonates with the innermost feelings and aspirations of listeners the world over? Where is the music coming from? Such questions cannot always be answered, generally because they have been formulated in the wrong way, but they lie at the heart of the curiosity and wonder that music evokes.

It is not so long since musicology was dominated by the figure of Ludwig van Beethoven, and thinking about creativity was dominated by his sketches – and by the image they convey of a solitary battle to achieve self-expression. Creativity was seen as an attribute of authorship condensed into texts. By contrast, this book presents creativity as inherently social, seeing solitary creation as a special case of collaborative creation rather than the other way round. While it avoids identifying creativity with any one process or phenomenon, the book stresses the emergence of outcomes that could not have been predicted: this is as much an attribute of good conversation, or of workplace brainstorming, as it is of a classical symphony or a performance by the late Amy Winehouse. Seen this way, traditional, solo composition involves the use of instruments, scores, or compositional systems to recreate patterns of interaction that are normative in the social domain. The overall aim of the book, which draws on a wide range of research conducted by CMPCP, is in this way to rethink traditional ideas of creative practice in music, and to extend the idea of creative practice into new areas.

As planned, the book falls into three sections. Following an introduction to the topic and to a range of established approaches to creativity, a group of chapters investigates creative practice in the contexts of the body, social collaboration, and networks of people and objects, in each case explored across a range of musical genres. A second group of chapters focuses on imagination, charting logics of representation and the translations between different forms of representation that act as a source of creative emergence: the approach ranges from comparisons with perfumery and archectural drawing to the compositional process of Beethoven and Roger Reynolds, and I show how ostensively solo imagination is conditioned by the structures and qualities of sociality. A final set of chapters explores a range of musical contexts within which creativity emerges: creative partnerships, including the crucial role of support networks; child prodigies, who raise puzzling issues of the relatonship between emotional depth and personal experience; creativity in education and performance; and issues of copyright and the creative industries. A concluding chapter reviews musical creativity within the context of everyday life.