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Strung Together: A Practical Exploration of Music-Cultural Hybridity, Interaction, and Collaboration

Perks, Richard (2020) Strung Together: A Practical Exploration of Music-Cultural Hybridity, Interaction, and Collaboration. Music & Practice, . ISSN 1893-9562. (Submitted) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:80761)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided. (Contact us about this Publication)


This article considers the creative practice behind Strung Together, an intercultural collaboration combining three non-congruent improvisation-based music(s). An account of my experience as ‘musical-facilitator’ is framed with reference to theoretical constructs of cultural integration, compositional practice, and collaborative creativity. By focusing on the process (comprising rehearsals, continual dialogue, co-composition, and coalesced methods of improvisation) and the development of an effective working methodology (using notated ‘vantage points’ as initial musical stimuli), this practice-led case study illustrates that by inaugurating a democratic environment – where manifold approaches to music-making are considered and respected at a structural level – music-cultural hybridity is achievable within a limited time-frame. The notion is posited that music-cultural hybridity may assume and traverse various forms; and furthermore, that these ‘hybridity-strains’ are likely to be in constant flux throughout intercultural–improvisatory collaborations.

In September 2017, I was commissioned by Diaspora Arts Connection to lead a collaborative performance project entitled Strung Together in San Francisco, US. Four professional musicians from the San Francisco Bay area were sourced to form the quintet, each with a background in different traditions of improvisatory music(s): Sirvan Manhoobi (Oud) and Faraz Minooei (Santour) were originally from Iran with a background in Dastgāh (traditional Persian classical) music; Raman Osman (Saz) and Faisal Zedan (Percussion) were originally from Syria, with vast experience in Kurdish and Arabic folk music(s). I acted as ‘musical director’/performer (Fretless Electric Guitar); provided the preliminary musical material; and was ultimately responsible for the project’s curation and delivery. We gathered together daily for one week, and during this time collectively developed, arranged, and rehearsed a complete performance programme of new music; a live performance of the show took place on the evening of the final day. The basis of the musical content was improvisation – in its broadest sense (Nettl: 1974) – combined with various ‘pre-composed’ musical stimuli, each of which incorporated influences from the performers’ respective music traditions and served as initial platforms (or ‘vantage points’) for the development of the final pieces. The performance was broadcast live via online social media and reached an international audience.

This case study facilitated the development of a practical methodology through which the improvisatory approaches of non-congruent music-cultures might be combined to create a programme of original, eclectic works, within a limited time frame. Considering the subtle boundaries which lie between coexistence, assimilation, and synthesis within intercultural collaborations, Strung Together explored how different initial musical stimuli might alter the balance, whilst maintaining contextually-relative improvisatory freedom(s); and optimising productivity. Here the blending of three improvisation-based music traditions was investigated through a multifaceted process comprising: continual dialogue; collective composition; coalesced methods of improvisation; rearrangement and refinement; rehearsals; and live performance. My point of departure is that of a professional guitarist (of some 20 years) with an extensive understanding of different approaches to improvisation; and a performer–composer with considerable experience of engaging in collaborations with musicians from the Middle-East.

The article proposes the idea that in forging a creative ‘third space’ (Bhabha: 1988; Bayley: 2017), an intercultural–improvisatory ensemble of this kind will inevitably negotiate various ‘states’ of interaction at different junctures throughout the collaborative process, and in turn yield different forms of music-cultural hybridity. Whilst some aspects of the musics may well combine to form the foundations of a ‘new’ musical language, others may not, and instead recurrently collide, interweave and interchange across different pieces and realisations. This work suggests therefore, that in fusing music-cultures through the aforementioned means, the search for a ‘third space’ unveils not one, but multiple hybrid derivatives: hybridity-strains. Counterpart notions presented in other disciplines are used to help categorise – and thus differentiate between – the various hybridity-strains encountered and explored throughout this project; together they form an illustrative model and critical framework – used here to analyse the effectiveness of the aesthetic principles underlying each work developed in Strung Together – which may be applied by others to evaluate future work(s), and thus contribute to the wider discourse surrounding music-cultural hybridity.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
M Music and Books on Music > MT Musical instruction and study
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of Arts > Music and Audio Arts
Faculties > Humanities > School of Music and Fine Art
Depositing User: Richard Perks
Date Deposited: 06 Apr 2020 14:20 UTC
Last Modified: 07 Apr 2020 09:36 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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