Practice-based research training

The Guildhall School, City of London, is one of the senior conservatories in the UK. As a leader in promoting integrated training for practice-based researchers, it offers doctoral students a range of ways to help them reach new intellectual understanding through creative work in the studio or on the platform - and to make that understanding available to the wider community through scholarship, teaching and music-making.

In 2013 and again in 2014 I presented a set of training seminars for performers and composers in this programme. These centred on locating one's 'contextual field' in practice and in the literature, and on engaging critically with relevant sources.

Students explored ways of demonstrating how both the performative element of their research and their complementary writing about it could be shown to grow out of existing practice and literature. For composers and performers used to regimes quite different from those of traditional text-based students, the challenge of reading critically, forming a new argument and finding the right register for personal yet academic writing can be considerable. An appeal to history, or even to historically informed performance, is not necessarily the way forward.

Being continually reflective about one's own playing or composing, recording rehearsals, trying out ways of distributing creativity among the members of a group, using models from music psychology or music therapy, developing a pedagogy for a particular repertory, collecting information from participants or listeners -- all these routes help stimulate ideas for how students might stretch their creative practice, evidence their experiential knowledge, and pass on their findings.

'It was really useful to have your wealth of knowledge from musicology brought to bear on our practice-based topics'

Dr. Biranda Ford, Research Staff, Guildhall School

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