Creative and performing practices

We have an outstanding record in creative music research, approached through both practical and intellectual projects.

Manchester has one of the largest concentrations of composers in any top-ranking UK Music department. Our flourishing research partnership with our quartet in residence, the Quatuor Danel, is also an important focus for our research in this area.

The combination of this with rigorous intellectual exploration of approaches to creativity and performance within different cultures and historical periods forms the foundation for our investigations of creative and performing practices.

We place particular emphasis on exploring three areas of this vast field.

  • We examine the collaborative nature of musical creativity through examples including the compositional 'workshop' of the 17th-century playhouse, the oral musical traditions of Europe and south Asia, and the contribution of game-audio music to the interactive experiences of contemporary gamers.
  • We conduct research into the functions and interpretation of musical notation within creative and performing practices. This can be seen not only in our studies of the sketches and preliminary materials of composers from Purcell to Beethoven and Schubert to Ferneyhough, but also in work focusing on the creative role of the performer in extending and surpassing notational limitations.
  • We explore the performer’s perspective on improvisation as an activity dependent as much on spatial navigation as on musical learning, with a particular focus on tuned percussion instruments (xylophone, vibraphone, marimba) as a test case of improvisatory navigation where the instruments being played impose significant constraints on the use of kinaesthetic feedback for the player.
  • We explore ways in which musical creativity interacts with and responds to the world around us, including in natural environments, urban spaces, and the world of modern technology.

Staff in this core research area

Chloe Alaghband-Zadeh

Vocal improvisation techniques in north-Indian classical music.

David Berezan

Applied research in live and interactive composition in the electroacoustic medium; creativity in collaboration with sport psychology.

Caroline Bithell

Vocal polyphony in oral traditions; creative interactions in community and participatory music.

Ricardo Climent

Applied research in interactive composition for game-audio; creativity applied in science and technology.

Barry Cooper

Beethoven’s creative processes; primary sources of Beethoven’s music, including sketches and autograph scores, first and early editions; musical codicology and descriptive bibliography; performance-practice issues of his period, especially as relating to notation.

David Fanning

Applied research in piano and piano-chamber performance; enabling performance of Soviet-era string quartets.

Alexander Gagatsis

Critical improvisation studies, interaction and spatial navigation in improvising jazz musicians.

Phil Grange

Applied research in composition for acoustic media.

Roddy Hawkins

The creative and collaborative role of the contemporary music ensemble; historiography of complex notation; representations and materialities of listening.

Rebecca Herissone

Interdisciplinary approaches to creativity in the early modern period; the creative role of the performer and collaborative creativity in early modern English music; relationships between notation, creativity and performance in 17th-century music; early modern manuscript and print cultures.

Anne Hyland

Schubert's compositional processes as seen through the compositional evolution of the sketches and autographs for his last three piano sonatas; analysis of Schubert’s customary revisions from the perspective of thematic construction, phrase structure, hypermetre and performance practice.

Kevin Malone

Applied research in composition for acoustic media; the creative role of performers and audiences in public arenas.

Camden Reeves

Applied research in composition for acoustic media; musical creativity and nature.

Richard Whalley

Applied research in composition for acoustic media; contemporary music performance.