Practice-based exploratory research can be hard to pin down and define. It may involve more than one established subject area, or even find itself ‘sitting in the cracks between disciplines’ as was very deftly articulated to me recently at an Edinburgh College of Art event by Chris Speed, Head of Design Informatics at Edinburgh University. Chris runs a very diverse team of academics and went on to propose that research in the contemporary creative field is becoming increasingly difficult to restrict to one subject area, and that perhaps the majority of people involved in such investigation are working collaboratively, and across disciplines.
In my own case, it’s going to take a while for the very precise nature of my questioning to emerge, for example. There is plenty to delve into from within from the fields of electroacoustic music, performative aesthetics, human-computer interaction, psychoacoustics and the neuroscience of music, which offers a formidably wide (not to mention potentially disheartening and unpropitious!) plain of enquiry. For the time being, I’m not overly worrying about it and am just setting up some already existing pieces and improvising systems in the studio, while learning by doing, reading, listening, asking questions and generally blundering about.
On which subject, I was relieved to hear composer/improvisor/multi-instrumentalist/writer Simon Waters assert, in a keynote talk at the recent ‘What is Sound Design?’ symposium here in Edinburgh, that creativity is inextricably bound to a sense of play. Thanking him after the talk for bringing this up and elaborating on it in an academic environment, he replied: “Yes, but I forgot to mention mess!”
In creative practice of all kinds, we need to play, and make a mess, thereby continuing an intuitive process of learning and discovery we began at a very early age.
So, it’s ok to not always know what you’re doing, and to have fun while you’re doing it?