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PhD Thesis by Dan Hvidtfeldt: Creativity as a Musical Practice

This PhD dissertation has been developed in collaboration with Roskilde Festival with the overall purpose of promoting a theoretically and empirically informed understanding of creativity, which is relevant for the ongoing organisational, musical and artistic development of Roskilde Festival.

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Creativity as a Musical Practice: An Inquiry into the Emergence of Roskilde Festival

by Dan Hvidtfeldt

This Industrial PhD dissertation has been developed in collaboration with Roskilde Festival, the largest music and arts festival in northern Europe. It has been written with the overall purpose of promoting a theoretically and empirically informed understanding of creativity, which is relevant for the ongoing organisational, musical and artistic development of Roskilde Festival.

The findings of the dissertation contribute to the current conceptualization of creativity as a socio-material practice. Creativity is here understood as a dialogical process infiltrated in and dependent on the situation in which it takes place. The creative processes leading to new and appropriate ideas, products or performances are thus not understood to be based solely on mental activities, but rather as distributed practices both contributing to and depending on the surrounding material, social and cultural environment. Research on creativity must therefore be analytically attentive to the continuous dialog between subject – the creative person – and objects involved in the process: the materials, be they used by for example the festival volunteer in the process of creating the event or the instruments used by the professional musician, have an authority, an affordance, shaping creative behaviour.

Specifically, this dissertation is conceptualizing how the general philosophy of emergence theory, that a whole is other than the sum of its parts, inform the understanding of creativity as a social-material practice. The overall research question asks, ‘how do creative processes, understood as musical and socio-material practices, develop in dialogue with emergent phenomena?’. Creativity is defined as depending on musicality, understood as both an ability to contribute to the process of emergence and a quality of the emergent phenomenon. Methodologically, the dissertation is based on semi-structured interviews with musicians performing at Roskilde Festival (2016-17) and participant observations collected by following a one-year musical writing and production process resulting in the release of the mini-album Syl (2018) – a mini-album composed and produced by Dan Hvidtfeldt, Eske Nørrelykke and Anna Brønsted based on lyrics written by author Josefine Klougart.

The findings of the dissertation are presented in three published articles. The first article provides a theoretical language describing the emergent phenomenon as a ‘material’, akin to tangible, physical objects, though ephemeral. The article finds, that studies of creative processes, interested specifically in the relational, continuous dialog between subjects (e.g. musicians) and objects (e.g. instruments), must refer to the emergent process to which they are contributing and through which they become musical. Building in this theoretical framework in analysing interview and participant observational empirical material, the second article explores how digital materials – such as instruments and samples – can be involved in musicians’ creative processes on stage in a ‘musical’ manner conducive to the process of emergence. It concludes, that musical creative processes taking place on stage, involving digital tools and materials, depend on an openness towards a fragility, imperilling the situation and ‘cracking’ the digital materiality. With the intention of further exploring the theoretical framework presented, the final article illustrates, using examples from different levels of the organization, how creative processes realizing Roskilde Festival become musical in dialogue with the event seen as an emergent phenomenon. We demonstrate how Roskilde Festival is ritually (re-)created and how the ephemeral, emerging whole serves as a ‘macro-structure’ entangling creative behaviour within the organisation. Finally, it is discussed how the theoretical model presented could be further developed in future studies.

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