Practice-Based Research in Music

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Performance and composition have emerged as strengths in the last 10 years with significant national and international outcomes. Practice-based research is now a vital new field led by staff and graduate successes.

The treatment of music as a creative practice as a well as a form of research requires a clear idea of practice-based research. Practice-based simply means doing it, whether in performance, improvisation, composition, production music in a studio, computer music, sound art, or any combination of these creative practices. ‘Practice-based’ is the umbrella term for all of these activities, all of which are concerned with creating music as distinct from writing about music.

Research is generally understood to involve some form of systematic investigation that leads to new observations and therefore to new knowledge. Thus, for practice to qualify as research, it would have to be (1) of an investigative nature, (2) the investigation would have to be systematic, and (3) the investigation would have to result in an original contribution to knowledge. The School’s approach to practice-based research is grounded in these three principles.  

Candidates have the option of undertaking practice-based degrees in the following programs.

  • 3063 Master of Arts (Music Composition)
  • 3059 Master of Arts (Music Performance)
  • 4067 Doctor of Philosophy (Music Composition)
  • 4088 Doctor of Philosophy (Music Performance)

Practice-based Staff Projects:

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Associate Professor Thomas Reiner‘Semblances’, an international composition and recording project comprising a CD release with the Italian label Ars Publica in 2014.

Conceptually, this project focuses on music’s semiotic properties. Musical analogies and semblances are explored in relation to their possible meanings (emotional states, psychological processes and concepts, places and their associated character and mood). A more specific concern of this project is music’s ability to articulate existential registers analogous to Jacques Lacan’s Real, Imaginary and Symbolic. Key performers in this recording project are Tristram Williams (widely known Australian performer on trumpet and Flugelhorn), Jessica Aszodi (a leading Australian soprano, now based in the US), Francesco Gesualdi and Luigi Attademo (two well-established virtuoso musicians from Italy: accordion and guitar), and pianist Kenji Fujimura (highly regarded chamber and concert pianist from Melbourne).

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Robert Burke‘Analysis and Observations of Pre-learnt and Idiosyncratic Elements in Improvisation: A Reflective Study in Jazz Performance’.

This study asks: How does practice-based research lead to a greater understanding and development of the art of musical improvisation in a jazz context? This exegesis is a supporting document to two CD recordings: ‘Here’ by Rob Burke (saxophone) and Tony Gould (piano) (recorded by Jazzhead, 2009) and ‘Live At Bennetts Lane’:  Rob Burke Quartet with Rob Burke (tenor and soprano saxophone), Tony Gould (piano), Nick Haywood (double bass) and Tony Floyd (drum-kit) (recorded by Jazzhead, 2011).

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Dr Kenji Fujimura‘William Hurlstone: Complete Solo Piano Music’.

Following on from his in-depth research into the piano music of English composer William Hurlstone (1876–1906), Kenji has tracked down autograph manuscripts and out-of-print editions to record all of Hurlstone’s piano music that remains in existence. This result will be a CD recording to be released by Toccata Classics in 2014.

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Professor Margaret Kartomi - Concepts and Methodology in Music Performativity Research

This research addresses the recent rise of thinking about performativity by interdisciplinary scholars, performers, music scholars, and performer-scholars, and proposes a comprehensive methodology for scholarly research into music performativity. After investigating some performative concepts, including persona, musicality, talent, giftedness, competence, interaction, improvisatory practices, and cueing, it discusses the factors of intersubjectivity (or group bonding), entrainment or groove, and reception. Finally a case study exemplifies how the members of a select Acehnese song-dance group communicate while performing, including how their bonding and physical contact affects the way they rehearse and perform their strenuous, compact body percussion, dance movements and songs in constantly changing tempi with near-perfectly synchronous entrainment, tone colour and intonation.

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David Griffiths‘Ensemble Interaction, Repertoire and Reception in the Development of an Innovative Chamber Music Performance Group in Melbourne’.

 This long-term project examines aspects of the development of Monash University’s Ensemble in Residence, Ensemble Liaison, from it inception in 2006 right through to its performances and operations in 2013. The project has produced a large variety of outcomes including three to four major performances at the Melbourne Recital Centre every year, several national radio broadcasts on ABC Classic FM, national and international tours, along with two critically acclaimed CD publications on the Tall Poppies and Melba Recordings labels. This topic also forms the basis of a PhD project aiming to be completed by late 2014.

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Elizabeth Sellars‘The Messiaen Nexus’ (Move CD)

This project charts the influence of Olivier Messiaen (1908–1902) on his students György Kurtág, George Benjamin and Pierre Boulez. It also considers the influence on Messiaen by his teacher, Paul Dukas. Through a recording of works for violin (Elizabeth Sellars) and piano (Kenji Fujimura) the project for the first time draws together a collection of works that demonstrate the extraordinary intellectual and creative output that arose from a particularly fertile period in the history of the Paris Conservatoire. The project explores the particular tonal characteristics and diversity of textures and gestures that arose from the Messiaen lineage. 

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Paul Williamson, ‘Developing Physiological Control, Ensemble Interaction, and Flow within jazz performance’
This research examines the importance of developing physiological control, flow, and shaping improvisations to the real-time musical context in order to facilitate interactive jazz ensemble performance. The exegesis is a supporting document providing critical commentary to performance recitals, original compositions and three CD recordings: ‘Connect Four’: Paul Williamson (trumpet) and Tony Gould, Paul Grabowsky, Andrea Keller, Marc Hannaford (piano) (released by Jazzhead, 2013), ‘Four in One’:  Paul Williamson (trumpet), Marc Hannaford (piano), Sam Pankhurst (double bass) and Allan Browne (drums), (released by Jazzhead, 2013) and The Paul Williamson Quartet ‘The Beginning of the End of the Beginning’: Paul Williamson (trumpet) and Paul Grabowsky (piano), Frank Disario (double bass) and Niko Schauble (drums) (to be released in 2014).

A sample of student completions:

2013                      Tony Toppi, MA (Music Composition) (100% research), Folio of Compositions and Critical Commentary: “An Investigation into Narrative as a Compositional Approach.”

2013                    Chris Broomhead, MA (Music Performance) “The Creative Contributions of Successive Drummers to the Evolution of Guitarist Wayne Krantz’s Music.”

2013                     Lionel Bailey,  MA (Music Performance) “The improvisational styles of Australian saxophonist Jamie Oehlers and Julien Wilson.”

 2013                    Yitzhak Yedid, PhD (100% research), Folio of Compositions and Critical Commentary: “Methods of integrating elements of classical Arabic music and Arabic-influenced Jewish music with contemporary Western classical music.”

2012                    Glenn Cannon, MA (Music Performance) “Functional and Non-Functional Progressions in Improvised Music: A Method of Facilitating Linear and Harmonic Flow.”

2009                   Michael Wallace, MA (Music Performance) “Unifying Composition and Improvisation: Applying Bob Brookmeyer’s Pitch Module Concept to Composition and Improvisation.” 

 2009                    Gregory Wernert, MA (Music Composition) (100% research), Folio of Compositions and Critical Commentary: “Music and emotions: an investigation into the musical representation of the identified emotional content  of poetic text.”

 2008                    Anthony Pateras, PhD in Music Composition (100% research), Folio of Compositions and Critical Commentary: “Exploratory combinations of composition, improvisation and electronics based on relationships between  form and timbre.”

 2007                    Russell Goodwin, PhD in Music Composition (100% research), Folio of Compositions and Critical Commentary: “Furthering the understanding of indeterminacy in music composition.”

 2007                    Peter Joseph Myers, PhD in Music Composition (100% research Folio of Compositions and Critical Commentary:  “Directed harmonic and melodic motion, pitch structures and compositional determinants: a folio of   original compositions and a critical commentary.”

 2007                    Philip Czaplowski, PhD in Music Composition (100% research), folio of compositions: “The use of multiple styles as a compositional approach.”

 2007                    Robin Fox, PhD in Music Composition (100% research), Folio of Compositions and Critical Commentary: “Contingency and space as structural concerns in a folio of interactive electroacoustic compositions.”

This completion is significant in that it is the first PhD completion in the field of music composition at Monash University.

 2007                    Jane Hammond, MA (Music Composition) (100% research), Folio of Compositions and Critical Commentary: “An Exploration of the Possibilities of Generating Music from Text.”