Melbourne Conservatorium of Music - Theses

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    Capturing Transience: Modelling Relationships Between Improvised Music Practice and Recording Processes
    McLean, Alistair James ( 2022)
    This research examines the relationship between improvised music practice and recording processes, and in doing so develops and tests new analytical models to better understand how improvised music practitioners undertake recording projects. Prior analytical models of music recording demonstrate multiple ways that recordings may be created and considered, but fail to take into account the diversity of practice in improvised music. By considering the varied nature of contemporary improvised music practise, these existing models are synthesised into a new Documentarian/Idealised model, which asks whether improvised music recordings are best considered as documents of performance events, discrete artistic objects, or a combination of both. Findings from interviews with improvised music practitioners are used to test and further develop the Documentarian/Idealised model, resulting in an expanded model better able to represent the diversity of practice found within improvising music recording projects, referred to as the Intention/Process model. Case studies of two improvised music recording projects are conducted as part of this research project, contributing ninety minutes of new improvised music recordings to be considered alongside the written thesis. These two projects reflect markedly different approaches to recording improvised music, and analysis of their creation examines the wide range of practice that occurs within improvised music recording situations. This research demonstrates that while improvised music recording practise is diverse, a number of commonalities are present, and that the intention and motivation of practitioners may be fluid and change during recording projects, as evidenced by a Multi-stage recording model for examining recording projects. In addition to providing multiple analytical models for use in further research, this study significantly informs both our understanding of how improvised music recording projects are undertaken and how they are perceived by practitioners of improvised music. It further contributes to the ontological understanding of improvised music recordings by arguing that improvisational music practice should not be viewed in opposition to composition or recording, but rather as a generative creative practice that can be utilised in tandem with other activities, and by showing that recordings of improvised music do not possess less improvisational qualities due to their fixed and reproduceable nature.
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    Accessible therapeutic music-making for stroke survivors with significant arm and hand weakness: A mixed-methods study
    Silveira, Tanya Marie ( 2022)
    This thesis with publication presents the results of the mixed methods study exploring a novel music therapy intervention for stroke survivors with significant weakness to their arm and hand. Using a mixed methods experimental design, with an explanatory sequential core, this randomised controlled trial sought to examine the holistic impact of a 4-week intervention protocol using functional electrical stimulation (FES) together with an iPad-based instrument (ThumbJam) on stroke survivors’ upper limb function and wellbeing outcomes. Recognising the need for more accessible approaches to music-making with this subset of stroke survivors, the intervention protocol was developed using collaborative processes drawing on knowledge from the disciplines of physiotherapy, occupational therapy and music therapy. After securing ethics clearances, recruitment commenced across five hospitals in Sydney, Australia, aiming to recruit a target sample of 40. Fourteen participants were recruited and randomised to receive usual treatment (n=8) or the daily FES+iPad-based music therapy intervention as an addition to usual treatment (n=6) for four weeks (20 sessions). Masked assessors administered the standardised measures of upper limb function and self-report wellbeing questionnaires at three time points (pre- and post- the intervention period, and at three months follow up). All participants were also interviewed at the post-intervention period regarding their perception of how their received treatment supported their overall recovery. The Motor Assessment Scale (MAS-UL) was the primary outcome for arm/hand function. The other measures of arm/hand function included the Manual Muscle Test (MMT-UL), 9-hole-peg test (9HPT) and grip dynamometry. The Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21), and the Stroke Self-efficacy Questionnaire (SSEQ) were used to measure wellbeing. As this study was underpowered, mean change scores, confidence intervals and effect sizes (Hedges’ g) were calculated and reported. The intervention group showed greater improvements than control on all upper limb measures, with between group differences on the MAS-UL change score of 2.08 (95% CI -2.08, 6.96; g = 0.5), 0.05 for the 9HPT (95% CI -0.13, 0.23; g = 0.32), 3.33 for the MMT-UL (95% CI -1.26, 7.93; g = 0.85), and 3.68 for grip dynamometer (95% CI -0.70, 8.07; g = 0.99). The intervention group also showed greater decreases in anxiety (between group difference: -1.83; 95% CI -7.63, 3.97; g = 0.37), but lesser reductions in depression (2.25; 95% CI -7.71, 12.21, g = 0.27). There were no notable differences between groups for stress and self-efficacy. Reflexive thematic analysis of the qualitative interview data revealed different reflections about the treatment received by each group, with intervention participant themes focusing on their perceived improvement in upper limb function and strength, as well as the motivating and relaxing aspects of musical engagement. These integrated findings suggest that FES+iPad-based music therapy has the potential to simultaneously improve post-stroke upper limb function and wellbeing. Therefore, this pilot study supports the need for future research that is adequately powered for efficacy testing.
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    Performing the undiscovered solo piano works of Italian composer Lucia Contini Anselmi (1876-1913)
    Nelson, Quilby ( 2022)
    Lucia Contini Anselmi (b.1876-d.? after 1913) was an Italian composer and pianist. Born in Vercelli, Italy, Contini Anselmi wrote over thirty works, mainly for solo piano. Despite the current surge of research into women composers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, there is little known about Contini Anselmi with no major research to date, compounded by the lack of research into Italian female composers of this time period. Therefore, this study will serve to fill both these gaps in the literature. The goal of this research is to present a performance approach to two of Contini Anselmi’s works, Ludentia Op. 11 (1913) and Sibylla Cumaea Op. 15 (1916) through a practice-led research orientation. This will be realised through the application of the writings in Contini Anselmi’s treatise, Della tecnica per l’esecuzione della musica sul pianoforte e sua interpretazione, a previously unknown document published in 1908.
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    The Performer/Curator: Expanding the Parameters of Artistic Expression and Creativity in a Concert
    Lallo, Joseph ( 2022)
    The focus of this research is the performer/curator, and the search to reimagine the presentation of the musical and extra-musical elements of a concert. Five live concerts, designed and presented using a range of conceptual methods, serve to provide insight into the creative processes of the performer/curator. An examination of the concert frame – the parameters within which a concert is organised and experienced – reveals the factors that most influence concert design and presentation. Identifying these factors gives performers a structured way of recognising their creative freedoms and identifying the aspects of the concert experience they can shape as part of their artistic expression and creativity. The process of using a meta-narrative to guide the curation of the concert frame is shown to expand the performer’s potential to create innovative and personal musical experiences and provides a coherent and unifying method to curate a concert.
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    Thinking About Syncing. Examining the impact of 21st century DJ technology on the production and performance of Electronic Dance Music
    Callander, Michael ( 2022)
    The introduction of synchronisation (sync) to the DJ’s professional toolkit in the early 2000s proved to be controversial and divisive. Until that point, DJs had been so focused on beatmatching – the manual process of tempo-setting and alignment of tracks – that many dismissed sync as ‘cheating’. Concern over technology-assisted creative output is not unique to Electronic Dance Music (EDM); David Hockney’s investigation into the use of optical aids by the Old Masters highlighted similar perspectives in visual art. As sync has simplified some of the mechanical aspects of DJing, DJs have shifted away from building sets by sequencing pre-recorded audio – often made by other music producers – towards an approach that incorporates improvisatory composition and production. This thesis, comprised of a creative folio of performance works and a contextual review of their execution, is the result of a practice-led enquiry into 21st century DJing, distinct from the tradition of selecting and playing records on turntables. For my major work, Real Time, Online, I utilised the Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) Ableton Live to arrange original works in real-time, and moved beyond audio to incorporate video synthesis and video mixing. For Locked Groove Mix 2, a developmental work, I arranged fifty-one loops, each representing only 1.8 seconds of original audio, in real-time as part of a long-form DJ performance. Through a process of reflective practice and critical review of technique and repertoire both pre- and post-sync, this thesis discusses how technology shapes and informs the realisation of a DJ set, highlighting how sync has catalysed a disconnect between the performer, their gestures, the source material and audiences, necessitating a rethink on how we demonstrate and recognise technical virtuosity in performance. It concludes by arguing that virtuosity in modern DJing is primarily a product of instrument configuration and pre-production, an amalgamation of formerly distinct production and performance techniques, and it identifies how sync’s affordances might inform future views on DJ practice and the presentation of EDM.
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    The Song of the Sibyl: from pagan prophecy to contemporary liturgical drama.
    Watters-Cowan, Asher Peter ( 2022)
    The Song of the Sibyl presents an intriguing case of the preservation and restoration of a medieval Spanish liturgical drama in contemporary society. Listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO (2010), this ancient pagan prophecy of damnation – performed by a vocalist impersonating a Sibyl – was once widespread across Christmas liturgies in Europe. Despite suppression from the Tridentine Council (1545-1563), it was sustained by small communities in Mallorca and Sardinia through rote traditions, and from the 1990s onward, the number of performances across the Catalan regions on the Spanish mainland has flourished. My thesis seeks to understand the many ways this drama can be presented, which results in its preservation and revival. I achieve this through a comparison and analysis of audio and visual source materials, manuscripts, and transcriptions. The manifold reasons for revival include: recovery of primary source documents and reconstructions of manuscripts by 20th century musicologists; the reanimation of Catalan heritage; and a contemporary attraction to the pagan personality of the Sibyl. My research will assist future scholars in understanding the present reception and restoration of this liturgical drama.
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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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    Super Flat, Composition for Screen, and the Aesthetics of Electronic Dance Music
    Keddie, Joshua Thomas ( 2021)
    This creative work thesis investigates the application of electronic dance music approaches in interactive compositional contexts. The body of creative work consists of an album, Super Flat Music, reacting to Takashi Murakami’s “Theory of Super Flat Japanese Art” (2001), and two documentary film scores. Super Flat Music investigates the connection between Super Flat and Shibuya-kei, focusing on the application of electronic dance music practice in this context. The two documentary works, Cryptopia: Bitcoin, Blockchains and the Future of the Internet and Malaysia’s Last Tigers, investigate how electronic dance music can both react to and enhance location, energy, and narrative in a moving image collaborative context. The resulting creative work thesis demonstrates ways in which electronic dance music can interact with external media elements.
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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.