“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring” [David Bowie].
Observations of my practice
Since commencing my Doctorate in January 2015, I have immersed my self in researching the industry and field of my practice, attempting to better understand how my practice sits within the very broad fields of music and sound. As I drilled down further, I defined a number of divergent disciplines within the field of music and sound that had emerged as technologies developed (Théberge 1997, in Page 2015a). Reflecting on the path my music practice had taken over a number of decades, I noticed that my path had taken what could only be described as a diagonal trajectory, across a number of the disciplines of music practice, as technologies were developed. Like many of my peers, I seemed to be attracted to new technologies and attempts to apply these, like to a moth to a lamp, I was passionate about analogue technologies; but I was also curious as to the opportunities that digital technologies brought to practice: the multiple array of sound options within a small device, relative to the multiple analogue devices that would be needed to produce a similar array of sounds. Then as virtual environments became possible with the development of computer technologies, my curiosity was again attracted to the possibilities: the exponential array of sound options, within a relatively small device such as a desktop computer, relative to the multiple digital devices that would be needed to produce a similar array of sounds (see History Music Production Part 5a). As I delved deeper into my past, I accepted that I did not see my self as an innovator, just curious. A music practitioner who was attracted by new sounds and approaches to music production and performance. I began to recognise that I naturally took a multi-disciplinary approach in not only my music practice, but in my life in general. I recall few times in my life where I was content to focus on one discipline for an extended period of time. I have accepted that my practice now covers three broad disciplines: a broad definition of music practice (Small 1998), education and learning practice, and my most recent engagement, research practice.
Continuing on from my previous blogs in this series; I have actively engaged in research practice investigating various research methodologies, I started to define my view of what my practice was. Whilst I have not formally studied Reflective Practice at a tertiary level, I have been presented a number of formal tertiary milestone opportunities where I was required to reflect on my practice. As a post-graduate research student, I am reading broadly about this particular methodological practice in order to improve my understanding. Whilst reading, I have found my self reflecting on each of my various forms of practice, and speculating how the particular methodological practice may apply to any of these forms.
Questions arising in my mind over the past several months have included:
What is the range of opinions about the process of reflecting within academic literature?
What of these opinions have been related to the context of creative practice?
What benefits might I expect as result of my reflecting on my own creative practice?
Should I expect these benefits to be of a tangible or non-tangible form?
If of a non-tangible form, how will I know that I have received the benefit?
Does the current literature differentiate between the process of reflecting, and what is referred to as reflective practice?
What are there different models of reflective practice, and how could they be applied?
Could different models of reflective practice be more appropriate to different forms of practice?
Is the act of reflective process in itself expected to bring benefit to my practice?
As I have progressed my Project 1’s creative process over the past several months – particularly in terms of the collection of data and accompanying documentation process – I have found myself considering:
if I reflect in my music practice?; and if so,
how do I reflect in my music practice?
Further questions have arisen:
assuming I reflect, at what point in my practice – ie when – did I engage in reflective practice?
were there any observations in regard to the timing of my reflective practice? (ie: positive, neutral or negative implications);
had I observed that my reflective practice occured as a planned or unplanned process?
what did my reflective practice process look like? (ie: site, time relative to my practice, did I collect evidence of these reflections? and if so, how did I collect this data/by what mediums did I collect this reflection data)?
had I observed any benefits from engaging in reflective practice?
to what degree would I classify these benefits as being tangible or non-tangible?
how did I engage in the act of reflection or reflective practice?
Given that I nominated a number of authors in my project brief who I had thought I would align myself to their approaches to reflective practice, have I found any of these models useful in the process of investigating my practice?
If so, which particular model or models have I found to be useful at which stage of my practice?
If not, are there other reflective practice models defined in academic literature that may better apply to my practice?
If so, which model or models may these be?
Reflective versus Reflexive Practice
The other side of the discussion practitioners may have with fellow reflective practitioner models is: when does creative practice move from one of reflection, to that of reflexive practice? Reflexive practice is referred to when practice is reflected upon, and choices of improvements are determined to trial and integrate into one’s practice moving forward. There is a sequence to the two forms of practice merely by definition, but as to how I can use or integrate these into my practice is still unclear to myself.
For me as a songwriter, I have for many years acknowledged that I intuitively use a writing technique called stream of consciousness – writing commenced from a specific stimuli (visual or other), writing continuously, pursuing a thought process without stopping for contemplation, narrowing ones’ focus in on a central theme, until the point of a specific topic and line of thought is illuminated and committed to the document (paper of electronic). I find as part of the process I actually move into a semi-conscious state. It is as Ryan describes Archer’s model in “Reflective Practice in the Arts”. Whilst not music practice specific, Ryan talks about performative practice which applies very well to this experience of this creative stage of my music practice. Archer’s model terms this type of reflective practice as [bottom right point] “Expressivity – reflecting as performer to improve/change in the moment” (Ryan 2014, 80).
Figure I – Archer’s Reflective Practice model (Ryan 2014)
At the moment of time within my stream of consciousness writing, I am performing – improvising within my mind, considering and expressing, and then responding to my prior thought/s. It is much the same way I respond when I am performing music, and improvising. I am reflecting in the moment, and within a slit second responding with another melodic, harmonic and rhythmic line. I think the key aspect of this type of reflection is ‘in the moment’. The reflective practice is on-site, in the moment. As noted in a previous blog, Schon (1983) refers to this reflective practice as being “reflection-in-action”. As a music practitioner I engage in this form of reflective practice regularly. Effectively, I am in the creative process, performing. The evidence of this reflective practice is actually the output of the performance – the cultural production; whatever form that may be. Whether the improvised instrumental solo that may or may not be captured on tape or video; or the stream of conscious writing committed to the document (paper of electronic).
Aesthetics is another stage of the reflective practice process according to Archer: “Aesthetics – reflection of the perceiver of art” (Ryan 2014, 80). According to Archer’s model, aesthetics is a arm’s length reflective practice. It may also include other’s in the performance piece, other than the creative practitioner such as an audience member, who is observing the performance as it occurs, with the performer actually responding to their response (facial, vocal, etc) and altering their creative practice as a result. However, as a researcher observer of my own creative practice, stopping and considering my process from a distance – perhaps even only at an arm’s length – is highly likely going to cause the creative performance in the moment, to stop, while the practitioner, the observer, steps back and look at their art from a greater distance than in the first step of the reflective practice stage; that of expressivity.
The last stage of Archer’s reflective process is that of expression: “Expression through symbolic capture – reflecting on and learning about self through the semblance produced” (Ryan 2014, 80). This process is likely to be in contrast to the two former stages of the reflective practice process. Instead of being on-site, this part of the process, is likely to be away from site, as part of what Schon (1983) has referred to as either “Reflection-on-Action”; or possibly what Pascal and Thompson (2012) has referred to as “Reflection-for-action”.
With this distinction, I realised I needed to read more broadly and deeply to consider my reflective practice model options from other specialist research practitioners, to apply to my particular auto-ethnographic research study. These are likely to be, in addition to the previously discussed Schon (1983), Brookfield (2002,1995, 1986), Archer (2010,2007), Ryan (2014) and Griffiths (2010); Rolfe (2002), Kolb (1984), Lawrence-Wilkes and Ashmore (2015), and Boud (2001).
I also need to research how one is expected to then test one’s practice, pre-reflection and post-reflexive developments. It would seem to be quite a challenging task, but a necessary one to be able to provide qualified or quantified evidence of either positive or not positive results from such reflective and reflexive practice within my research study. It is after all a requirement of robust academic research – to demonstrate thorough research practice.
This blog series is planned to continue next month with Research Practitioner Part 6. It is intended for this blog series to continue on a regular basis as I progress through my doctoral research project.
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– ©David L Page 20/03/2016
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