About the Project Updated


‘Creative Practice in Contemporary Concert Music’ is a three year study at the University of Oxford – one of the four project strands that make up the AHRC Research Centre for Musical Performance as Creative Practice.  The Oxford strand of the project focuses on the creative practices that emerge in the collaborative work between composers and performers. Despite the sharp division of labour between these roles that traditional concert culture often presents, much contemporary music is produced through creative processes that are highly distributed and interactive.  This project investigates these creative interactions through the specific circumstances of

  • 1) the preparation, and delivery, of first performances of newly commissioned works; and
  • 2) the creative dynamics of improvisation/collaborative composition – both kinds of circumstance conceptualised within the framework of distributed creativity.

Aims and Methods


  • to study in detail the creative interactions of performers with composers in the specific context of preparing and presenting performances of new works
  • to examine a range of notation, preparation and performance practices in contemporary music
  • to investigate and interrogate the distributed creativity between composer and performer in contemporary performance, and in so doing to revive a broad notion of improvisation that has been sidelined in the history of performance.

By the end of the project, new understanding will have been gained of the different ways in which composers and performers engage with one another in the creative negotiation that goes into the complex and interestingly ill-defined interface between compositional, interpretative and performative creativity.


The project uses a variety of methods for investigating distributed creativity:

  • qualitative analyses of diary data, interviews and recorded discussions/rehearsals featuring a number of composer/performer/ensemble interactions
  • quantitative analyses of practice and performance data (from MIDI and/or sound recordings)

Primary material for the project will be a number of new works for specific performers commissioned from composers working in associated university music departments around the country.


The project team is:

Professor Eric Clarke (Principal Investigator)

Dr Mark Doffman (Research Fellow)