• Saison 2015-2016 - None - None > TCPM 2015 : Analyser les processus de création musicale / Tracking the Creative Process in Music
  • Oct. 9, 2015
  • Program note: TCPM 2015

Collaboration has been a constant feature of electroacoustic music, due to the complexity of the technology. Since the beginning, all laboratories and electronic music studios have involved the presence of different individuals with diverse but intertwined competencies. This is true for the Milan, Cologne, Paris and San Francisco centres during the first analogue generation and has continued with the digital revolution and in New Media productions. Yet, the notion of collaborative composition or distributed creativity, has been unreasonably neglected up to now, both in the literature and by music listeners, with the exception of few ground-breaking projects [Donin-Goldszmidt-Theureau 2009]; [Fourmentraux 2011]; [the project ‘Music, Digitisation, Mediation: Towards Interdisciplinary Music Studies’ http://musdig.music.ox.ac.uk/, funded since 2010 by the European Research Council’s Advanced Grants scheme, principal investigator: Professor Georgina Born].

In 2012, I undertook a research project funded by French CNRS (chercheuse invitée CNRS INS2I) within the APM-IRCAM research group in Paris, from June to October 2012, which is still in progress. The object of this project is to assess the infrequently studied network of agents and processes involved in music making with New Media, the implications of Musical Mediation and the music’s changing ontology [this reflection is based on Born 2005].

In particular, the embedding of technological tools into the process of musical creation, has resulted in the emergence of a new “agent” with new expertise, whom I am specifically considering. This is called the Musical Assistant, the technician, the tutor, the computer music designer, the Music mediator (a profession that has been described and defined in different ways over the years) – who can work in the phase of writing, creating new instruments, recording and/or performance. Previous results have allowed me to trace the history of the name of this profession as it developed at IRCAM (Musical Assistant and RIM, Réalisateur en Informatique Musicale) [Zattra 2013a] and to outline the analysis of an anonymous survey submitted to different musical assistants [Zattra 2013b].

In this communication I will report findings from semi-structured interviews held in two stages, at different times. I will report a qualitative investigation of the Musical Assistants’ self-knowledge, role and visibility.
In the first methodological stage I interviewed 10 Musical Assistants. I conducted 8 face-to-face and two online interviews throughout the course of this period. The first group of interviews were held at IRCAM in Paris, in October 2012 (8 interviews: most of the interviewees, not surprisingly, were French), and then two other online interviews in February and March 2014 (French and German). Individual interviews focused on the temporal/chronological perspective in self-describing themselves (autobiographical narrative history), and their own career, their skills, how they handle the assistant/composer collaboration, their perception of this emerging profession, the future of this profession, how they describe themselves to non-insiders.

In this section of my communication I will present the main findings in this regard, clustered according to different concepts rather than in strict chronological order: their perception of necessity to obtain parallel musical/scientific education, their relationship and perception of the assistant/composer collaboration (composers’ expertise, the Musical Assistant as an “investigator” of choices and aesthetical paths, ...), their role in the musical research process, realisation and performance (and the stress involved in this role), their common double identity Musical Assistant / artist. In this scenario, some interviewees saw their career as a “vocation”, others as a natural evolution of their career (the result of repetition), some interviewees are living their present situation as a rupture (this model extends from [Demazière, 84]).

The second part of my communication deals with a new series of interviews I am conducting. As such, I am using the findings from the first group of interviews to refine the interview protocol questions and probes and, especially, I am developing a new set of concepts derived from the analysis of the anonymous survey (Zattra 2013b). The questionnaire gave rise to specific trends in this profession such as the deep liason between the evolution of the technology and the specific tasks of the different generation of Musical Assistants; the temporary nature of this professions; the somewhat unclear legal statutory definition of the musical assistant, the oral nature of this profession, the diversified quality of recognition they receive; the combination of artistic, scientific and technological skills.

This conceptual framework gives rise to the following research questions: is it possible to finally identify the Musical Assistant profession? Is there a new generation of Musical Assistants? If there is, does this new generation lead to a new breed of Computer Music Designer or mediators, who are different from their predecessors?

These questions arise from two considerations. First, that the Musical assistant career is now widely distributed. I will interview students and the founder of the RIM course (Musical Assistant course) at Université Jean-Monnet, Laurent Pottier. This is going to provide my research a more focused vision on the perception of the necessity of this professional figure, the outcoming profile for future jobs, the types of collaboration engendered (contacts have already been established). I will also interview other young Musical Assistants (four from Italy, USA, Great Britain have already agreed to be contacted after some initial messages).
The second consideration is the presence of this profession in New Media productions, where the introduction of electronic instruments and software has improved massively, and the ubiquity of electronics is a major factor driving change in live performances and instrumental improvising. I will interview alternative electronic music assistants (electronica and live sets) where technology is involved and needs the collaboration between musicians- composers-assistants, some students and new graduate assistants at the University of Applied Science St.Pölten in Austria, one of the new schools where young musical assistants become contributors to the international music scene. Contacts with students and professionals have already been established with the aim of studying this professional figure.

TCPM 2015 : Analyser les processus de création musicale / Tracking the Creative Process in Music

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