Whilst at university I have been regularly encouraged to develop skills in working independently. Even when work is collaborative it still ends up being relatively independent (this module still has individual submissions). Due to its highly personal nature, independent thinking and working lends itself very well to the process of composition. However, the process of working in a collaborative setting is highly enriching and surprisingly lends itself very well to the process of composition. Here I will lay out what I found to be some of the pros and cons of working in collaboration for this project.
- Expanded knowledge base. – Perhaps the most obvious positive to collaborative work but definitely the most important. Working with the architects has been a fantastic experience, their approach to space has been truly enlightening to my compositional process. It is highly doubtful that I would/could have written something like the Untitled Suite without listening to and sharing ideas with the architects.
- Having my ideas and concepts deeply questioned on a daily basis. – Whilst composing it is very easy to make quick throwaway decisions that ultimately impact the piece in a massive way. When working with the group small details and decisions I had never considered as important were questioned and discussed, ultimately resulting in a significantly matured piece of work. This was particularly true of the architects who have a fantastic ability to focus on tiny details.
- Being able to focus on one aspect of the project. – As I mentioned in a previous post, I found it incredibly refreshing to be left alone to focus on designing the installation and having other people deal with other aspects of the project. Too often I will be working on a piece and find myself bogged down planning logistics, sourcing musicians or venues etc when I should be writing music.
- Company. – It may seem a little mawkish but composing is generally pretty lonely. Being able to work with people who are engaged and excited about the project really encourages me to put my best work into what I am writing.
- Giving up creative control. – Although I held a lot of the creative control over this project at times I had to step aside and let someone who knew better than me take the proverbial reins. Whilst I knew a fair bit and was able to help with filming, I know very little about editing. Giving someone else control, in particular over the final output, was incredibly difficult for me. But, the end result is significantly better than if I had attempted to edit it myself.
- Group politics. – People don’t always agree and for this reason it’s often easier to work alone. I was very fortunate and my small group were generally all on the same page from day one. However, there were times when we would have slightly differing opinions on where the project should go. I find it very difficult having to consider how someone else feels about something when I am so invested in the project. But, taking the time to listen and think about what the other person has to say does usually positively influence the piece in the end, even if its annoying.
- Focusing on one aspect of the project. – This is as much of a negative as it is a positive. As brilliant as it is not to have to concern yourself with the logistics of the project, you can’t help become frustrated with your lack of control when things don’t go to plan (like when someone leaves the piano you’re supposed to be using in an abandoned Co-op).
Despite the cons listed above I have found the experience of working on this project to be overwhelming positive. I have learnt a lot about working on large projects and architecture in general and am extremely keen to collaborate with some of the architects again in the future.
Music and Architecture
The interaction between music and architecture was an interesting starting point for this project. Initially there seemed to be little connection between music and architecture beyond acoustics. However, after discussing ideas and concepts with the architects it became clear that there were actually numerous parallels. Many of these linked to the physical attributes of architecture. An obvious example of this is the music of Xenakis; the structure of many of his works is based on or influenced by architectural structural drawings and concepts. However it quickly became apparent to me when working on this project that I was more interested in the metaphysical similarities between the two. Investigating how we experience spaces and creating music that interacts with this in some way is a very interesting approach to composition. I intend to continue working on this area of research and developing new pieces of music that explore the metaphysical properties of other spaces. A special thanks must be said again to Hugh, Alex and Chencheng; without their ideas and hard work this piece would not have happened.