— Editors' Introduction —

Creativity in Process

Mads Haahr
Department of Computer Science
Trinity College, Dublin

Elizabeth Drew
School of English
Trinity College, Dublin

While most of the offerings in the present issue of Crossings address the art/technology interface in the experience of musicians and their listening audience, the themes raised generalise well beyond the musical domain. A particularly prominent theme that will be familiar to regular Crossings readers is collaboration in the creative process. Many of the contributions in the present issue explore the way that technological changes are prompting shifts in the distribution of roles in the creative processes. In the context of music, it is possible to map out four distinct creative processes: instrument (tool) making, composition, performance and listening. In some cases, traditionally distinct roles, such as instrument maker, composer and performer are merging with unknown results for the status of musical production in the future, as Sile O'Modhráin observes in her commentary. The merging of these roles constitutes a different type of interaction between the four creative processes: an intra-personal rather than inter-personal interaction. At the same time, incorporating multiple disciplines into one artistic practice requires either polymathic abilities or close communication between people of widely different technical and artistic backgrounds, as Helen Mitchell outlines in her discussion of music education. Artists must either master a broader range of skills or collaborate with others in order to realise their vision.

Such challenges aside, technology also facilitates the expansion of creative practice by allowing for collective creation of artworks, thus blurring the roles of artist/performer and audience member. Dante Tanzi explores how online communicative processes (facilitated by new Internet-based tools for music exchange and collaboration) affect practices of composition and reception. Tanzi takes his starting point in two recent technological developments: the digitisation of audio, and the ability to exchange it over the Internet. He observes that multiple forms of access to a huge body of material allow users to participate in the creation of musical content (and hence take on the roles of composer and performer) and also to improve their interpretative skills. However, there is also a risk of losing the context that would make such musical experiences meaningful.

Frank Pecquet focuses on changes in the creative process of music composition using electronic tools. Pecquet shows how the availability of digitised music combined with the increased adoption and sophistication of such tools allow even highly complex scores under composition to be immediately performed (using electronic tools rather than human performers), resulting in a more interactive process of composition than when the composer uses his or her ‘inner ear’ for the purposes of realisation. Tightening the perception/creation feedback loop in composition in this manner alters the listening component in the process, casting the composer also as audience member.

This issue's featured exhibition by Doyle Dean is also concerned with an exploration of the process of musical composition, but from a dramatically different angle than Pecquet and Tanzi. Dean's work gives up control of the creative process by leaving key compositional decisions to the roll of a die. Instead of creating the score itself, Dean's team of musicians defines the rules within which possible scores can abound. While Dean finds that distancing the composer from the work in this way results in a certain ego detachment from the piece, he also finds that the process (perhaps because of the lack of attachment and need to control the process) yields a much more personal result than a more deliberate (and therefore more attached) act of creation. Dean's work raises questions about human creativity. When we deliberately set out to compose, we are governed implicitly by rules about the form that the music must take. The process employed by Dean and his team shifts the creative focus to those very rules and away from the content that is created within the boundaries of the rules. By making the rules explicit (rather than implicit) and replacing the creative play within the boundaries of the rules with pure randomness, Dean's work raises the question about our own creative and thought processes: How much of human consciousness is really random? How and where is meaning constructed?

Tanya DiTommaso's paper subjects a familiar object – the television set – to aesthetic inquiry. DiTommaso's analysis is not concerned with television programming but with the set itself and its abilities to project moving light. She demonstrates that the practice of artist Nam June Paik, who uses the television as art object, allows the audience to focus on the set as sculpture and see in its evanescent play of light an open potential for hermeneutic response. Quite contrary to the way we usually think of television, placing the medium and artefact of television into an aesthetic framework enforces the creative role of the audience.

Despite its prominence, the creative process is merely one of many themes raised by the contributors to this issue of Crossings. Other themes include the accelerating feedback loop (raised for example by Tanzi and Pecquet), the importance of preservation of musical content (raised by O'Modhráin and Tanzi) and the discussion of rules vs. content as subjects for creativity (raised for example by Tanzi and Dean). As with any creative process, Crossings is only fully realised in the mind of the audience. We expect each reader will find a unique constellation of themes in the present issue.

As always, we are first and foremost grateful to our authors for submitting their work to Crossings and to our editorial board and guest reviewers for the high quality of feedback they supply to the authors. We are also very grateful to our advisory board for guidance and encouragement and to Trinity College for the funding that is continuing to make the journal possible.

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