Changing Our Tune: Exploring Collaborative Songwriting with Choirs as a Process for Disrupting Traditional Eurocentric Compositional Practice, Increasing Participation in Music Creation, and Supporting Well-Being
collaborative songwriting , collaborative composition , therapeutic songwriting , choral music , choral repertoire , choir well-being
Western classical music institutions have, in recent years, been forced to contend with the weight of their long traditions of white hegemony, patriarchy, and ableism (see Kajikawa 2019; Nettl 1992; Younker 2014). While there have been discussions about the ways in which repertoire might be broadened to reflect a sense of inclusion and diversity, less has been explored vis-à-vis what a movement away from Eurocentric musical processes might look like. This thesis reports on a research-creation project designed to reimagine the relationship between composers and singers in choirs. Whereas traditional models of choral performance focus on the reproduction of existing work, the alternative model that I designed and implemented explores the possibility that choirs can, with the help of a facilitator, self-compose music. With much choral repertoire currently reflecting its colonial, hierarchical, and Eurocentric roots, this project also aims to rethink the kind of music that choirs can sing, placing the narrative in the hands of the choir itself. My “creation-facilitator model” reveals ways that this process of shared artistic leadership has the potential to disrupt traditional Eurocentric compositional and performance practices by dissolving the hierarchical structure usually observed between composer and performer. An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) of participant interviews, along with composition session observations, and e-journal entries reveal insights into participants’ perceptions of composition and creativity, along with the ways in which my creation-facilitator model may challenge traditional compositional practices. The benefits to participants of engaging in collaborative creation vis-à-vis well-being is explored, along with best practices for facilitating collaborative songwriting. Additionally, I discuss the potential of this model to create dynamic, accessible environments that encourage musical play. Finally, I present significant challenges and limitations of this work, suggesting areas of future research.