Researcher

Research for CW+ – Music and Health

In January 2016, Andrew was appointed ‘Musician in Residence’ for CW+, where he worked with staff and patients to develop new musical tools for use in the hospital.  Andrew and CW+ began this project by identifying several areas of older people care in which interventions based on interactive music technology might help to address specific clinical needs: these included the exercising of fine motor skills and upper limb movement, stimulating cognitive processes associated with pattern identification and rhythm, and redeveloping visual scanning and communicative ability, particularly in stroke patients. On top of this, however, was the desire to also give patients a sense of musicality, allowing them to assert their own creative identity amidst a potentially alienating environment.

From these starting points a series of interactive touch-screen musical tools were developed, using rhythm, pitch and colour, in combination with a simple accessible design, to create engaging musical interactions at the bedside. Subsequent testing and collaboration with staff allowed for a detailed refining of these tools to even further address specific conditions: for example, following a discussion with the stroke-specialist occupational therapists regarding the condition of left-side ‘neglect’, in which the left side of someone’s field of vision is neglected by the brain, two of the tools were redesigned to include bright focal points on the left of the screen to aid visual scanning. This is just one example of how the input of staff has directly influenced the design of these tools, which remain, at their core, expressive musical instruments.

Andrew is now working as ‘Music and Sound Research Lead’ for CW+, and has written two blog posts on his experiences in the hospital (Part One, Part Two).  Below is a video showcasing some of the touchscreen tools built for hospital use:

 

PhD Research – Improvisation and Composition

‘Free improvisation is not an action resulting from freedom; it is an action directed towards freedom.’ – Davey Williams

In 2015 Andrew completed PhD research investigating the meetings point between composition and improvisation, studying with Peter Wiegold and Colin Riley at Brunel University.  His key research interests focus around the meeting points between the composed, the improvised and the interpreted, with the resulting projects including work with big bands, leadership in school and community settings, and electronic real-time improvisation scores.

‘Actions Towards Freedom’ – Theoretical and Practical Perspectives on Improvisation and Composition

Andrew’s PhD research is concerned with investigating practical and theoretical meeting points between improvisation and composition. Such meeting points are evaluated alongside a consideration of ‘freedom’ in improvised music, for which a frame is provided by George Lewis’s concepts of the ‘Afrological’ (placing emphasis on expression of the ‘self’) and ‘Eurological’ (in which the ‘self’ is explicitly avoided).

In Andrew’s thesis he suggests that a reconciliation of these two extremes might be found in a compositional ‘creative displacement’, which might change an improviser’s environment in unforeseen ways and thus require them to explore novel expressive approaches. Three different compositional approaches to ‘creative displacement’ were investigated: through fixed notation, through electronic real-time notation, and through leadership in a collaborative workshop setting. In each case compositional experiments were undertaken and documented, detailing the different methods used in the creation and realisation of the pieces that formed the bulk of the research. A terminology for the theoretical consideration of these approaches was established drawing on theories of complex systems, the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, and various socio-musicological models such as those of Steven Feld and Charles Keil.

The slide show below illustrates some of the pieces, research methods and ensembles that grew from this research.

Workshops

Ensemble workshops proved essential in researching the emergent dynamics and interaction of improvising musicians, and helped shaped the approach taken in the finished research pieces.

The M-Word Engine

The M-Word Engine was born from an attempt to create a kind of score that could balance fixity of structure with continuous variation for the interpreter. It uses Max MSP to semi-randomly create instructions from within precomposed parameters, before sending them to performers' smartphones.

Volcanicity

Various approaches to the score were investigated. Volcanicity was a combination of a graphic score and a process-based performance, utilising ideas of colour and metaphor in order to stimulate improvisational exploration and interaction.

School Workshops

School workshops formed one of the key parts of the research, exploring the role of leadership within an improvising setting. It was found that a leader's ability to negotiate a frame for creativity with the performer could yield rich new avenues for investigation.

The Mirrors of Hall Big Band

The ability of the 'backing figure' in big band music, and how it might represent a compositional influence on an improvisation, was one of the starting points of interest for Andrew's research. The formation of the Mirrors of Hall enabled compositional research into the effect different kinds of backings might have.