Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Performing the Ecology of a Composition-Practice-In-Becoming

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posted on 2022-12-02, 09:37 authored by Alison Isadora

Performing the ecology of a composition-practice-in-becomingThe roles of five key actants—the composer, score, performer, audience and space—lie at the heart of performing the composition-practice-in-becoming. By focussing on their ecological, epistemic and social situatedness, as proposed by Coessens et al., modes of relations deriving from the historical western art music tradition are exposed which are often unwittingly adopted by practitioners of contemporary art music. Historical reification of the score as the ‘work’, the expectation of a ‘genius’ (male) composer, hierarchic and stultifying conditions for both musicians and audience members, and performance spaces that encourage these stratifications are revealed. In response to this, and extending on Isabelle Stengers’ work on the ecology of practices, modes of engagement are developed that might foster alternative roles for all actants (human and other-than-human agents), within a dynamic, co-constituting environment. 

For instance:

  • the entangled composer who co-ordinates, initiates, co-creates, hosts and acts as guardian;
  • the recontextualized score which operates as an adaptive (notation) environment;
  • the implicated musician whose role may be expanded to include co-creator, teacher, and organiser;
  • the agential audience who may be an attuned listener, participant, and co-creator; and
  • the situated performance space.

Integral to my practice-led thesis is discussion of a body of original compositions that generate expanded notions of the actants’ roles and shared compositional ‘response-ability’. Methods investigated include composing the situation, collective, embodied listening practices, audience scores, adaptive notations, feedback moments and situating the performance space.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Music; Musical Arts

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

130102 Music

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

4 Experimental research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

New Zealand School of Music


McKinnon, Dugal; Norris, Michael; Doruff, Sher