Margaret Barrett

Learning collaborative creativity in Chamber Music: perspectives from eminent and emerging chamber musicians

Chamber music practice as a collaborative creative practice draws on the individual and collective procedures, techniques, knowledge and know-how necessary to create a unique collective sound and interpretation of musical works. Whilst there is an emerging literature around collaborative creativity in chamber music practice including the affordances and constraints of emergent collaborative creativity (Barrett et al., 2014) and modes of communication (Seddon & Biasutti, 2009), less is known of the “pedagogy” of collaborative creativity. Recent studies of masterclass practice in Conservatoire settings (Creech et al., 2009;) have provided some insights into masterclass structures (Long et al, 2011) and student perceptions of this pedagogical approach (Long et al., 2012, 2014). This study seeks to expand on this literature through a focus on the pedagogy of collaborative creativity in chamber music practice drawing on the perceptions and observations of both eminent and emergent chamber musicians.

Studies of creativity that emerge from cultural psychological perspectives (Barrett et al., 2014; Glaveanu, 2010a; 2010b; Glaveanu, Gillespie, & Valsiner, 2014)) investigate the social and relational nature of creativity, including those relationships that link creator(s), disciplinary innovation, and audience within and across time and place. Glaveanu challenges ‘individualist and mentalist (“Inside the head”) conceptions’ of creativity (2015, 2) arguing that social interaction, communication and collaboration are key elements in creativity. For Glaveanu creativity is “distributed” (2014), a ‘psycho-socio-material process’ (2015, 167) which involves five inter-related components, those of actor-audience-action-artifact- affordance. He argues ‘…the path of creative action is contingent on both interactions with different audiences (e.g., collaborators, critics, colleagues) and with the material environment’ (2015, 167). Key to these interactions and creative thought and action is “perspective taking”.

“Perspective taking” is underpinned by four principles. Perspectives are: 1. action orientations that move us from the conventional to the novel 2. located in the social and material world, and that of the creator; 3. involve ‘becoming an audience to one’s own action’ (2015, 171) taking an ‘imaginative leap’; and, 4. reflective action. Paradoxically, whilst mounting the argument that creativity is social in nature the focus of his study is still primarily on the individual creator with the social component limited to investigating the ways in which other elements (audiences, environments, critics, etc) impact upon individual creative thought and action.

This paper reports the findings of a case study investigation of the pedagogy of chamber music in eminent masterclass settings in a tertiary music school. The research design of collective case study generated interview and observation data with members of 5 internationally eminent chamber music ensembles and 7 undergraduate student ensembles. Data were analysed to identify the ways in which “perspective taking” might be operationalised in this setting and inform current understandings of the pedagogy of creative collaboration. Findings of the study extend Glaveanu’s distributive theory through its focus on collaborators, the non-materiality of musical practice, and dual eminence and emergent chamber musician perspectives.



Barrett, M.S., Ford, A., Murphy, P., Pollett, P., Sellars, E., & Viney, L. (2014). The scattering of light: Chared insights into the collaborative and cooperative processes that underpin the development and performance of a commissioned work. In M.S. Barrett (Ed.), Collaborative creative thought and practice in and through music. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate Publishing.

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Glaveanu, V.P. (2015). Creativity as a socio-cultural act. The Journal of Creative Behaviour, 45 (3), 165 – 180.

Glaveanu, V.P., & Gillespie, A. (2014). Creativity out of difference: Theorising the semiotic, social and temporal origin of creative acts. In V.P. Gl!aveanu, A. Gillespie & J. Valsiner (Eds.), Rethinking creativity: Contributions from social and cultural psychology (pp. 1–15). Hove/New York: Routledge.

Glaveanu, V.P., Gillespie, A., & Valsiner, J. (Eds.) (2014). Rethinking creativity: Contributions from social and cultural psychology. Hove/New York: Routledge.

Long, M., Gaunt, H., Hallam, S., & Creech, A. (2011). Mapping masterclasses: Format, content & style. London: Guildhall School of Music & Drama with Institute of Education.

Long, M., Hallam, S., Creech, A., Gaunt, H., & Robertson, L. (2012). Do prior experience, gender, or level of study influence music students’ perspectives on master classes? Psychology of Music, 40(6), 683-699.

Long, M., Creech, A., Gaunt, H., & Hallam, S. (2014). Conservatoire students’ experiences and perceptions of instrument-specific master classes. Music Education Research, 16(2), 176-192.

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University of Queensland, Australia

Is Founding Director of the Creative Collaboratorium (2010 – present) and Head of School (Music, 2008 – 2018) at The University of Queensland. She has served as President of the International Society for Music Education (2012 – 2014), Chair of the World Alliance for Arts Education (2013 – 2015) and Chair of the Asia- Pacific Symposium for Music Education (2009 – 2011). Her research (supported by funding from the Australian Research Council, the Australian Council for the Arts, the Australian Youth Orchestra, the Australian Children’s Music Foundation, the British Council, Musica Viva, NAMM, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada) investigates children’s music early learning and development, pedagogies of creativity and expertise, cultural psychology, and narrative research methods. Recent awards include Beaufort Visiting Fellow at St Johns College, University of Cambridge (2019), Fulbright Senior Research Scholar (2018), and UQ Award for Excellence in HDR Supervision (2016).