Musician, friend and muse: an ethnographic exploration of emerging practices of musicians devising co-creative musicking with elderly people

    Research output: Ph.D. ThesisPhD Research external, graduation external

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    In leaving the more traditional territories of the concert performance for broader societal contexts, professional musicians increasingly devise music in closer collaboration with their audience rather than present it on a stage. Although the interest for such forms of devising co-creative musicking within the (elderly) health care sector is growing, the work can be considered relatively new. In terms of research, multiple studies have sought to understand the impact of such work on musicians and participants, however little is known about what underpins the musicians’ actions in these settings. With this study, I sought to address this gap by investigating professional musicians’ emerging practices when devising co-creative musicking with elderly people. Three broad concepts were used as a theoretical background to the study: Theory of Practice, co-creative musicking, and Praxialism. Firstly, I used Theory of Practice to help understand the nature of emerging practices in a wider context of change in the field of music and habitus of musicians and participants. Theory of Practice enabled me to consider a practice as “a routinized type of behaviour which consists of several elements, interconnected to one another: forms of bodily activities, forms of mental activities, ‘things’ and their use, a background knowledge in the form of understanding, know-how, states of emotion, and motivational knowledge” (Reckwitz, 2002, p. 249). Secondly, I drew the knowledge from co-creative musicking, which is a concept I gathered from two existing concepts: co-creation and musicking. Musicking (Small, 1998), which considers music as something we do (including any mode of engagement with music), provided a holistic and inclusive way of looking at participation in music-making. The co-creation paradigm encompasses a view on enterprise that consists of bringing together parties to jointly create an outcome that is meaningful to all (Prahalad & Ramaswamy, 2004; Ramaswamy & Ozcan, 2014). The concept served as a lens to specify the jointness of the musicking and challenge issues of power in the engagement of participants in the creative-productive process. Thirdly, Praxialism considers musicking as an activity that encompasses “musical doers, musical doing, something done and contexts in which the former take place” (Elliott, 1995). Praxialism sets out a vision on music that goes beyond the musical work and includes the meanings and values of those involved (Silverman, Davis & Elliott, 2014). The concept allowed me to examine the work and emerging relationships as a result of devising co-creative musicking from an ethical perspective. Given the subject’s relative newness and rather unexplored status, I examined existing work empirically through an ethnographic approach (Hammersley & Atkinson, 2007). Four cases were selected where data was gathered through episodic interviewing (Flick, 2009) and participant observation. Elements of a constructivist Grounded Theory (Charmaz, 2014) were used for performing an abductive analysis. The analysis included initial coding, focused coding, the use of sensitizing concepts (Blumer 1969 in Hammersley, 2013) and memoing. I wrote a thick description (Geertz, 1973) for each case portraying the work from my personal experience. The descriptions are included in the dissertation as one separate chapter and foreshadow the exposition of the analysis in a next chapter. In-depth study of the creative-productive processes of the cases showed the involvement of multiple co-creative elements, such as a dialogical interaction between musicians and audience. However, participants’ contributions were often adopted implicitly, through the musicians interpreting behaviour and situations. This created a particular power dynamic and challenges as to what extent the negotiation can be considered co-creative. The implicitness of ‘making use’ of another person’s behaviour with the other not (always) being aware of this also triggered an ethical perspective, especially because some of the cases involved participants that were vulnerable. The imbalance in power made me examine the relationship that emerges between musicians and participants. As a result of a closer contact in the co-creative negotiation, I witnessed a contact of a highly personal, sometimes intimate, nature. I recognized elements of two types of connections. One type could be called ‘humanistic’, as a friendship in which there is reciprocal care and interest for the other. The other could be seen as ‘functional’, which means that the relationship is used as a resource for providing input for the creative musicking process. From this angle, I have compared the relationship with that of a relationship of an artist with a muse. After having examined the co-creative and relational sides of the interaction in the four cases, I tuned in to the musicians’ contribution to these processes and relationships. I discovered that their devising in practice consisted of a continuous double balancing act on two axes: one axis considers the other and oneself as its two ends. Another axis concerns the preparedness and unpredictability at its ends. Situated at the intersection of the two axes are the musicians’ intentionality, which is fed by their intentions, values and ethics. The implicitness of the co-creation, the two-sided relationship, the potential vulnerability of participants, and the musicians’ freedom in navigating and negotiation, together, make the devising of co-creative musicking with elderly people an activity that involves ethical challenges that are centred around a tension between prioritizing doing good for the other, associated with a eudaimonic intention, and prioritizing values of the musical art form, resembling a musicianist intention. The results therefore call for a musicianship that involves acting reflectively from an ethical perspective.
    Translated title of the contributionMusician, friend and muse: an ethnographic exploration of emerging practices of musicians devising co-creative musicking with elderly people
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Guildhall School of Music & Drama
    • City University London
    • Bisschop Boele, Evert, Supervisor
    • Gaunt, Helena, Supervisor, External person
    • Sloboda, John, Supervisor, External person
    • Wise, Karen, Supervisor, External person
    Award date31 Jul 2019
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


    • music
    • musicking
    • healthy ageing
    • professional musicians
    • professional development
    • wellbeing
    • elderly people

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