Melbourne Conservatorium of Music - Theses

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    Melodic Excursions: The Brazilian cavaquinho’s global journey
    May, Adam John ( 2021)
    This research project explores the long and diverse history of the cavaquinho through a combination of practical performance and archival research. This four-string soprano guitar is a ubiquitous instrument in several musical cultures and its origins may be traced to Portugal where very similar instruments have been in use since the seventeenth century. The cavaquinho, and closely related instruments, spread across the globe along routes of migration and this study will focus on four key traditions, those of Brazil, Portugal, Indonesia, and Hawaii. These historical links will be investigated through recorded performances played on the modern Brazilian cavaquinho, together with written analysis of historical and performance contexts. A diverse portfolio of recordings showcases performance practices and repertoires from the nineteenth century, through to the flourishing tradition of the twentieth century and new and emerging contemporary genres. The Brazilian cavaquinho is the instrument through which I engage with these contrasting repertoires, drawing on the richness of the instrument’s technique and performance style. The recordings are not presented as historical recreations, but as extensions of the distinct evolving traditions through the application of contemporary practices. Collaborations with renowned international practitioners feature on many of the recordings, and the creative element of this thesis extends to original arrangements and compositions. Through a combination of performance recordings, research, analysis and original arrangements and compositions, this project demonstrates how the cavaquinho is the perfect vehicle to illuminate and reinvigorate historically linked traditions and styles.
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    'How I wonder what you are': Interpreting the child's early experiences of learning to play the cello
    MacArthur, Stephanie Louise Ryan ( 2022)
    This thesis investigates and interprets the lived experiences of 14 beginner cello students studied between the ages of 7 - 9 years of age as they encounter the instrument and one-to-one lessons. It examines how personal factors and relationships with others contribute to their musical skill development and influences longer-term future engagement. Studied from the children’s perspective, this research offers rare and novel insight into children’s deep and rich thought processes and actions in relation to their musical development and considers how these can shift over time to reflect the changing scope of their musical investment. Throughout the study, I worked with the children as the cello teacher, thereby occupying an insider’s position as the researcher. This opportunity enabled me to investigate how my reflexive responses to the children, evolving with their fluctuating idiosyncratic learning needs, impacted their ongoing musical engagement. To capture the student and teacher experiences, the research employed two qualitative research methodologies, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis and Participatory Action Research. This unique pairing of methodological approaches provided complementary data sets that, taken together, offer meaningful interwoven perspectives on instrumental music learning and teaching with implications for sustaining learner engagement and innovating teaching practice. The findings indicate that participants’ initial reasons for learning were motivated by a range of intrapersonal factors and interpersonal relationships, and when these were sustained and broadened, the children were more likely to invest in future engagement. Musical practice occurred as a six-phase process that was affected by the quality of children’s thought, actions, and response. Musical performance was experienced in four environments and perceived by the children as optimal when it was underpinned by positive emotional valence and feelings of competency. The investigation reveals that seven of the students experienced diverse learning needs that extended beyond individual difference and led to difficulty in skill acquisition. Key adults were vital to engagement, with parents playing a central role in supporting the children’s ability to persist with the range of challenges that presented during skill development. Further, a teacher-student dyad built on trust, rapport and adaptability importantly supported the children’s sense of emotional safety and creative freedom in learning. Teacher-learner shared enthusiasm for the cello and a collaborative approach to skill development was found to further galvanise children’s ongoing interest. Critically, from an early stage of learning, the children were found to experience significant transformational internal effects during their musical skill development. These were characterised by the interaction of the children’s imagination, curiosity, and emotional response, and were found to contribute to profound immersive experiences of creative musical play that generated intrinsic motivation for continued engagement. This investigation of children’s early experiences in musical development offers important new knowledge in how children perceive and interact with musical development, how their individual needs can be met through flexible teaching and learning processes, and one that advocates for children by recognising that their desires to be active agents in creative engagement and ongoing musicianship are present and require support from the very beginning of their learning.
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    Louise Hanson-Dyer (1884–1962): Supporter of Women in the Arts
    Laughlin, Thalia Samantha ( 2022)
    Louise Hanson-Dyer’s (1884–1962) contribution to twentieth-century culture was remarkable and made a significant impact on the arts. From her early days as an energetic organiser of artistic events in Melbourne to her founding and running of the Editions de l’Oiseau-Lyre in Paris and Monaco, she worked tirelessly to advance the careers of composers, performers, visual artists, and musicologists—many of whom were women. She provided employment and support to women during a time when they were hindered by patriarchal social structures and created opportunities for them by publishing and recording their work, including them in concerts, and promoting them throughout her widespread, artistic networks. This thesis examines Hanson-Dyer’s multifaceted support of women in the arts in the first half of the twentieth century and traces the ways in which she used her time, money, and connections to elevate their work. The wealth of extant archival materials, such as her letters, press articles, and contracts, indicate that she was aware of the political and social disadvantages faced by women and provided them ongoing support and employment, paying them equally to men. I argue that Hanson-Dyer’s support of women can today be understood as a feminist undertaking. This thesis incorporates modern scholarly literature on women’s patronage and women’s history, alongside extensive archival research in Australia, France, England, and Switzerland, to shed new light on notable yet little-known, artistic collaborations. It provides a contextual and historical re-evaluation of Hanson-Dyer’s work with women, contributing not only to the existing scholarship on her, but also to the broader field of women’s work in the twentieth century. This thesis is ordered thematically rather than chronologically and each chapter details Hanson-Dyer’s work with women of the same profession: the musicologists Yvonne Rokseth, Jeanne Marix, and Imogen Holst; composers Margaret Sutherland and Peggy Glanville-Hicks; visual artists Rose Adler and Marie Laurencin; and harpsichordist Isabelle Nef.
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    Allan Holdsworth: Principles of Harmonic Organisation in Selected Compositions
    Freer, Nicholas ( 2021)
    This thesis analyses selected post-tonal compositions by contemporary guitarist Allan Holdsworth. This thesis uses the pitch-class set-theory model as a basis of analysis. It also engages contemporary post-tonal extensions to existing tonal concepts such as voice leading in set-class space, consonance and dissonance measures, transposition and symmetry. Within the thesis and the Holdsworth compositions selected, various levels of connections are explicated through harmonic analysis of surface level transformations, succession analysis from individual simultaneities up to macro-organisational structures and formal processes. Holdsworth consciously eschews the harmonically prescriptive functionality and acculturated melodic syntax of traditional tonal jazz (often replicated through imitation), purposely manifesting his own paradigm. This paradigm has several key components: an expansion of chord-scale principles, a wide range of referential sets utilised as linear and vertical sources of pitch-class grouping, the employment of non-tertian harmony, and the utilisation of non-functional harmonic succession(s).
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    Understanding the role of therapeutic choirs in the lives of people living with dementia and their family and friends who support them.
    Thompson, Zara Elizabeth ( 2021)
    This thesis includes a series of four research projects which aimed to further understanding of how participating in therapeutic, community-based choirs can support people who are living with dementia and their family members and friends who support them with care. These projects aimed to centre the perspectives of people living with dementia and those caring for a family member or close friend with dementia, and as such, a qualitative approach was adopted in all studies. A mixed studies systematic review of the literature relating to singing for people living with dementia and care-partners was conducted to explore the current understanding of how singing can provide support. Findings revealed that people living with dementia and care-partners perceive in-the-moment and longer-term benefits from group singing, but measuring the specific benefits using quantitative outcome measures is challenging due to complex variables, evidenced through high prevalence of floor and ceiling effects in many quantitative outcomes. The second project sought the perspectives of music therapy researchers and past research participants regarding how accessibility of qualitative interviews could be optimised for people living with dementia. Four care-partners and three music therapy researchers were interviewed, and data was analysed using an inductive thematic analysis method. Findings revealed that familiarity and rapport between researcher and participants is important for comfort and accessibility, and that flexibility during the interview, including using music or other art-based approaches may also enhance accessibility. These findings were used to inform the data collection procedure for the third and fourth studies. The third study adopted a phenomenological approach to understand the perspectives of participants with dementia and care-partners who participated in two community-based, therapeutic choirs that were formed as part of the Remini-Sing project – a randomised controlled trial led by two supervisors of this thesis. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was used to analyse interview data from 14 dyads. Findings revealed perceived benefits of participating in the choirs, including fostering positive feelings, enhancing social connection, and supporting identity. Participants highlighted how aspects of the choir and the research project more broadly impacted their experience of the choirs, and provided some important insights regarding future research design and sustainability of programs beyond the research project. The final project is an arts-based, phenomenologically informed study in which members of a long-running community-based, therapeutic choir for people living with dementia and care-partners reflected on their experience of transitioning to an online format during the COVID19 pandemic. A combination of songwriting and traditional interviews were used to collect data, and an adapted form of IPA, integrated with arts-based methods of songwriting, poetry, and improvisation, were used to analyse data. Findings are presented in the form of an 18-part song cycle, in which participant perspectives on living with dementia, the COVID19 pandemic, and singing in the choir (both in-person and on line) are shared. The thesis concludes with a discussion of how the four projects contribute to an understanding of the perceived benefits of choir singing for people with dementia and care-partners, potential mechanisms that may influence these benefits, and factors that can enhance accessibility of therapeutic choirs.
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    Finding flow: constraint and the creative process
    Humphries, Alice Miranda ( 2021)
    The application of constraints during the process of music composition can be creatively stimulating and directive. However, constraint is potentially restrictive when acting as restraint, stifling the spontaneity of musical idea or the instinctual flow of creative process. A creative folio at its core, this research examines how the application and consequent dissolution of constraints during the compositional process affect musical outcome. The dissertation presents an in-depth analysis of select folio works to illuminate how constraints were constructed and implemented, when and why rules were broken, and how this influenced musical outcome. The thesis then examines how use of constraints evolved over the course of the folio, reflecting on the concept of flow and creative process. The work evaluates how the application of constraints aides in resolving compositional problems as well as facilitating a state of flow during the creative act.
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    Helen Gifford’s Fable (1967) for solo harp: A multivalent analysis
    Dennett, Jacinta Irene ( 2021)
    My research presents performance and recordings of solo harp compositions by Australian composers. The following composers are included in my performance portfolio: Eve Duncan, Jennifer Fowler, Helen Gifford, Peggy Glanville-Hicks, Alicia Grant, Miriam Hyde, Elena Kats-Chernin, and Johanna Selleck. There are three components to my research, the written dissertation, the performance portfolio, and a critical edition for publication. The focus of the written component of my portfolio is a comprehensive critical and analytical study of Helen Gifford’s "Fable," a significant work in the repertoire of Australian harp music that has not been studied before. I document Gifford’s compositional process in the creation of the harp solo and reveal her use of Walter Piston’s "Orchestration" as a guide. Study and performances of "Fable" have additionally created an original performance analysis that fuses Carlos Salzedo’s Instrumental Esthetics, and Rudolf Steiner’s eurythmy. A 60-minute audio recording of harp solos by eight Australian composers, including a new work I commissioned from Alicia Grant makes up my performance portfolio. Two of the compositions, have accompanying video recording (a total of 20-minutes), "Threaded Stars 2" (2006) by Jennifer Fowler and "Three pieces" (2017) by Alicia Grant. Two world-premiere public performances (and recording) of works for solo harp by Australian composers were also given: "Threaded Stars 2" (2006) by Jennifer Fowler, July 17, 2016, Brighton Town Hall, Brighton, VIC; and "Three Pieces" for harp (2017) by Alicia Grant, June 8, 2017, The Chapel, Bunbury Regional Art Gallery, Bunbury, WA. A further research outcome includes the creation of a new, annotated critical edition of Fable for publication. This undertaking has been supported by interviews and workshops with Gifford.
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    Beyond barriers: Creating a space for deeper connection between individuals from diverse religious traditions through a dialogic group music therapy process
    Notarangelo, Astrid Danielle ( 2021)
    This project has emerged in response to a community need to create further platforms for interfaith dialogue in Bendigo, a regional city in Victoria, Australia. Community tensions about a new mosque highlighted a need to build stronger relationships amongst the interfaith and wider community. These tensions were at odds with my experiences of creating musical spaces for the expression and exploration of diverse spiritual and religious identity as a music therapist at the local hospital. In these spaces, listening and respect mattered. My close proximity to people with diverse religious perspectives helped me to be more aware of diverse others in the community and of the current tensions. I wanted to see how music could help. An ethnographic approach captured the journey from the institutional context out into the community to engage in a community-based research project, a collaboration with the interfaith community in Bendigo. A cyclic, emergent action research process evolved into a series of focus groups where individual lived experiences of religion and religious rituals were shared, using music as a focus and a support for communication. Eleven collaborators from six different religious traditions in Bendigo came together to take part in a dialogic group music therapy process – musical presentation (Amir, 2012). This process offers a model for listening and engaging in a group. From this process, music playlists, drawings, focus group dialogue and phone interview feedback were generated. This material revealed the strong sense of connection that collaborators felt with others in the group and their enjoyment of coming together to share diverse faith identities in this creative space. The process also highlighted that the vulnerability and challenges that come from engaging in creative processes were valuable and brought new perspectives and growth. The vitality of music as a mode of communication, through which identity, feelings, memory and culture can be explored was highlighted. Collaborators commented on the depth of the experience and the connection to others within a short space of time. Despite the different associations collaborators each had with music, they saw it as helpful in communicating religious identity. Music supported the group to remove some of the usual barriers that existed between them in this new creative space. One of the key statements developed through collaborator feedback was that “This process has the potential to increase understanding, knowledge, and connection in our community”. The project highlights the importance of creating spaces for the exploration and sharing of diverse religious identity. Possibilities for music therapists as advocates, negotiators and community-builders in these kinds of processes are also raised. Engaging in a dialogic group music process highlighted a form of ‘attunement’ between collaborators that related to musical concepts and processes. Music’s capacity to re-conceptualise broader processes and relationships was also highlighted through connecting this project to the concept of ‘community as a harmonic landscape’, as a way of sharing the project with the wider community. Collaborators felt that the process they experienced could act as a ‘stepping stone’ into further creative community action.
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    Exploring Experiences of Chaos as a Resource Within Short-Term Music Therapy Groups With Young South Africans Who Have Committed Offences
    Oosthuizen, Helen Brenda ( 2020)
    This thesis presents a theoretical argument and practical possibilities for engaging with chaos as a resource in short-term music therapy groups with young people, based on my work with young South Africans who have committed offences. Chaotic experiences of confusion, destructiveness and disintegration I experienced with groups of young people were regularly accentuated through musicking and left me feeling despondent. Many therapists anecdotally report that the chaotic nature of groups with adolescents is challenging, yet this has rarely been explored in the music therapy literature. Authors who have described chaotic experiences with groups predominantly considered that these experiences required minimisation, modification or resolution. In my work I experienced moments where the chaos in groups was a necessary expression of young people’s lives, reflecting the chaos of a country struggling with racism, inequality and violence. It did not feel appropriate to attempt to resolve or minimise this chaos. In the first part of my research, I explored how a music therapist could understand chaos as a resource in short-term music therapy groups with young South Africans attending a diversion programme for committing sexual offences. I utilised crystallisation, drawing from different research methods to make meaning of my field notes documenting my work in this context over time. My analysis suggested that chaotic experiences sometimes preceded group transformation and were interconnected with moments of order required for group formation. This aligned with a paradoxical approach to group work explicated primarily in literature published within the fields of drama therapy, psychoanalysis and organisational studies. I integrated this literature with my research to propose that chaotic experiences could be welcomed into music therapy groups and harnessed to support young people’s engagement with the paradoxes of creativity and destructiveness. In this way, chaos could support young people to recreate their lives within complex contexts. In the second part of my research, I expanded on the practical applications of a paradoxical approach to music therapy practice. I explored how a music therapist and group members could engage with chaos as a resource, together with members of two short-term music therapy groups with young South Africans referred to diversion programmes for committing drug-related or general offences. I drew upon methods from constructivist grounded theory to analyse video material, group member feedback and my session notes. I presented my findings in the form of a group matrix. The matrix illustrated how engaging with chaos as a resource both freed and pressured each group member to explore group activities, musicking and relationships through a unique variety of active and observational, integrative and disintegrative styles. Those focused on participating in and opposing group activities tried on roles that might influence their engagement in their communities beyond the group. Group members focused on musicking embodied personal and social expressions through dissonant and resonant, tentative and versatile music creations. The communicative nature of musical expressions supported some group members to connect and conflict as they recreated their identity in relationship to others. Group members who remained static in their group interactions appeared to struggle to access the transformative potential of chaotic experiences. My role as the music therapist was to accompany the movement of group members across the landscape of possibilities I observed in the matrix. I provided a holding environment (offering a safe space and waiting before intervening); resourced group members (offering support and challenge); intervened (taking a directive lead or initiating chaos); or co-explored through partnering or witnessing the group. The theory developed through this research illuminates and legitimises a paradoxical approach to group music therapy theory and practice with young people. The matrix serves as a tool that may support music therapists to maximise possibilities for engaging with chaos as a resource.
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    Exploring the possibilities of dance movement therapy with women in the criminal justice system and their supporting communities
    Dumaresq, Ella ( 2020)
    My PhD project sought to explore the possible ways in which dance movement therapy (DMT) might be used by women in the criminal justice system for health and wellbeing purposes. My thesis presents findings from a participatory, feminist-informed research study that was based in the regional city of Geelong, Australia. As part of this research, I invited two professional women from the Department of Justice - Susan and Alyce - to become “co-researchers” in the study. As co-researchers, Susan and Alyce helped to develop access pathways for criminalised women to participate in the project. Women serving time on community correctional orders were invited to participate in a series of community based, drop-in DMT workshops as part of an emergent research design. The intention was to centre women’s experiences of using DMT to learn more about how individuals might choose to engage in this service in a criminal justice context, and why. The centring of women’s direct experiences in this study aligns with calls for more participatory, women-centred studies that are guided by the lived realities of those directly experiencing criminalisation processes (Carlton & Segrave, 2013). From an activist perspective, this includes acknowledging the social and political contexts in which criminalisation and therapy take place, and challenging dominant norms and assumptions in both criminal justice and DMT (also referred to as dance movement psychotherapy, or DMP). The theoretical influences informing this work draw on a mix of feminisms, including intersectional theory, feminist new materialism, corporeal feminism, and Barad’s (2008) “material-discursive” framework. Also instrumental to my process were theoretical concepts from my previous academic training in cultural anthropology, such as Geertz’s (1973) ethnographic method of “thick description” which I expand on in this thesis from a more ‘embodied’ and ‘embedded’ perspective. The importance of bodily-led approaches to research is therefore central to my thesis, and my doctorial study combines somatic modes of inquiry with more traditional modes of qualitative analysis. Methodologically, my project followed a participatory research design and employed ethnographic methods to document, analyse and communicate my fieldwork experience and the data arising through these interactions. Principles of action research and feminist-informed participatory research are articulated in my thesis, and processes of collaboration are reflexively presented in the form of poems, movement videos and photographs. Challenges and barriers to authentic collaboration are discussed and the ethical, political and moral dimensions of fieldwork are critically examined in this study. Structural and systemic imbalances are critiqued and issues to do with power, privilege and oppression are reflexively worked through as part of the overall knowledge production process. The research findings are based on what I learned from each of the women participating in this study. I explored the following themes as they emerged from the data: fun, fitness and relaxation. These findings are used to voice a rationale for a renewed focus on dancing in DMT/P. A theoretical model, which I refer to as an exercisePLUS+ approach, was developed out of the findings and discussed in my final chapter. This model emphasises the concept of physical fitness/exercise in DMT/P and describes how fitness goals, combined with a phrase-based dance teaching, can provide an alternative framework to that of the dominant psychoanalytical application of DMT/P. Practitioners wishing to work outside of the biomedical mental health treatment model may find this theoretical model useful. My model challenges dualistic notions of healthy/unhealthy and locates the notion of ‘health’ within a broader framework of social equity and inclusion. As such, the theoretical developments presented in my thesis focus more generally on social participation, fitness and wellbeing, yet also include more internal, psychological approaches to DMT. The model includes reference to neurophysiological understandings of trauma, yet problematises the over-reliance on medical discourse in trauma treatment, DMT/P and mental health. An alternative approach is therefore presented with a renewed focus on social equity and inclusivity, community participation, and access to health promoting activities, such as non-institutionalised forms of dance therapy. As well as critiquing the dominance of psychoanalytical frameworks and arguing for a more interdisciplinary focus, I also position my study as a further development of social justice DMT (Cantrick et al., 2018). I argue that DMT/P is a flexible modality which has the capacity to dance across the full spectrum of healthcare: from preventative health, through to acute illness, within rehabilitation contexts, and in alignment with social justice principles. My contribution to knowledge is a critique of dominant models, as well an example of what DMT might achieve outside of the shadows of the biomedical model. My thesis can therefore be read as call to diversify DMT/P theory and practice, including the further development of critical and feminist approaches to therapy. Recommendations for practice and further research include the following: a) the need for continued discourse regarding power and oppression in therapy, specifically in relation to “body politics” in DMT/P (Allegranti, 2011; 2013); b) ongoing critical engagement with Eurocentrism and the legacy of colonialism and imperialism in healthcare, including DMT/P; c) the further development of critical trauma discourse/s in DMT/P which challenge and expand on the existing theories of trauma and the body, and d) a renewed focus on dancing in DMT/P which combines exercise and fitness with a psychosocial approach as per the exercisePLUS+ theories presented in this thesis.