I both write about and practice co-creative artistic methodologies. I first became interested in the modality I now describe as “co-creation” (but was at earlier moments in describing as “participation,” as in “participatory art”) through historical research on Anglo-American experimental music – the subject of my first published article: “Sound Pedagogies: Teaching Listening Since Cage.” (Organised Sound 20:2, 2015)
In the artistic practices described in that article, I found key impetus for my own artistic work, facilitating sonic co-creation with amateur and non-musicians, especially in a long-running ensemble called the Universal Language Orchestra. In a subsequent article (“Experimental Music with Young Novices: Politics and Pedagogy” Leonardo Music
Journal Vol. 25, 2015), and then a book chapter (“When Mixed Skill Ensemble Becomes Social Practice Art,” in Guro Gravem Johansen, Kari Holdhus, Christina Larsson, Una MacGlone, eds, Expanding the Space for Improvisation Pedagogy in Music: A Transdisciplinary Approach, Routledge, 2019), I situated my own work within the wider project of experimental sound, and advocated for extending that project towards an ethic of co-creation.
That one of the key progenitors of such co-creative sound practices, Pauline Oliveros, should be the subject of a subsequent article (“The SAG Representative for the West Coast: Pauline Oliveros’s Resonance Aesthetics in Context, 1964-1970.” American Music Review Vol. XLV, No. 2, Fall 2017) is no coincidence: after studying and performing with her, my work has been deeply marked by Oliveros’ thought.
My studies with and research on Oliveros were key influences on my development of “SoundMind,” a series of participatory workshops in embodied listening and soundmaking that I launched at the Tang Teaching Museum, and subsequently brought to other museums and festivals. Riffing on elements of Oliveros’ Deep Listening practice and combining them with a range of other co-creative and site-responsive practices that I have studied, practiced, and written about, SoundMind combined meditation, sensory awareness, and aesthetic activation of the breath, body, and voice, as participants explored resonance and vibration through a range of approachable scores and activities. Documentation of the series was published in the exhibition catalogue Liz Collins: Energy Field (Tang Museum, 2020).
My writing on co-creation and experimental music also influenced the subsequent slate of co-creative projects I was involved in, including Sympathetic Magic, a commission from New Music USA and Diagenesis Duo that sets co-creative parameters and forms for collaboration by virtuoso and untrained musicians, and a concert of “Music for Mineral Springs” and a “Quick-Start Guide to Sonic Massage” (both for a retrospective exhibition and catalogue of L.A. art space Machine Project and published in Machine Project: The Platinum Collection (Live By Special Request).
Over time, I have moved towards the notion that the broader inclusiveness and accessibility of sonic participation that I have sought and advocated for might better thrive outside of a music performance context. Piloting the TangWaves festival of low-power broadcasting and radio art (2016-2019) , as well as the Upstate Youth Radio Project (2017-18, see news coverage), I facilitated broadcast experiments with novice practitioners of the various arts (DJ-ing, audio drama, interviewing, audio documentary) associated with radio.
Moving forward from this fruitful experience (though somewhat chastened as I better understood the resources required to scale and sustain such projects), I developed a proposal to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to launch the Co-creation Initiative as a new program area of the John B. Moore Documentary Studies Collaborative (the interdisciplinary cluster at Skidmore that I direct). Since its launch in 2020, this initiative has allowed me, working alongside many colleagues and students, to radically redefine the scale and ambition of my work in co-creation, which will result in the development and launch many more such explorations of artistic co-creation, in tight collaboration with a range of community partners, in the years to come.