Researchers at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) have run a series of events exploring interdisciplinary improvisation with leading practitioners. Dr Graeme Wilson & Prof Raymond MacDonald in the Reid School of Music are behind the Concurrent research network which, through public events and online dissemination, aims to apply psychological understandings to collaborative performance. The network is funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
In January 2017, audiences gathered in Reid Concert Hall for two days of talks,workshops and performances pushing the boundaries of creative interaction through improvisation. Undergraduate and postgraduate students took an active part throughout, with PhD student Christian Ferlaino’s recent work Into the Pipe for saxophone quartet and dancer receiving its UK premiere. Graeme and Raymond brought their saxophone collaboration Cast of Thousands on stage in a free improvisation with video artist Emma Bowen (Garage Gallery). Arts therapists from Queen Margaret and Edge Hill Universities also worked with renowned performers Su-a Lee and Mairi Campbell to query expectations of performative and clinical improvisation. And alumnus Dr Franziska Schroeder (Queens University Belfast) premiered a new collaboration with ECA’s Dr Jules Rawlinson and Dara Etefaghi, Re-breather (2017), integrating live transformation of digital imagery with muted saxophone excursions informed by breath and breathlessness.
In February 2017, there was a week-long Tate Exchange residency for the network with Edge Hill University. Visitors to the Albert Dock galleries of Tate Liverpool witnessed work by ECA staff and students in the extended interaction of Dr Sophia Lycouris’ (ECA) new piece Waterscapes Across. There was also a talk from theorist Dr Adam Linson (University of Dundee), who discussed expression in spontaneous performance. Prof PA Tremblay (University of Huddersfield) applied the innovative music improvisation software dfscore to dance, and participants in Dr Ana Almeida (ECA) and Dr Tara French’s (Glasgow School of Art) workshop sang and danced together to overcome apprehension around improvisation.
At both events, Graeme and Raymond ran workshops with Dr Cath Keay (School of Design), Dr Sophia Lycouris, Emma Bowen, and fellow alumnus Rebecca Key, comparing strategies of spontaneous response between musicians and dancers or artists. The sessions expanded on an event at GIOFest IX held in November 2016 at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow, where the visual score Stones Clouds was discussed with the audience by vibraphone maestro Corey Mwamba. This ongoing project derives new creative practice from psychological research by translating insights from the investigators’ research, which has just been published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts.