At the Borders of Music, Art and Text

Exploring an interdisciplinary approach to composition
A research project by Caitlin Rowley

About this project

At the Borders of Music, Art and Text: Exploring an interdisciplinary approach to composition was my extended research project for my Master of Fine Arts Creative Practice (Music) degree at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in 2013-14.

It was supervised by Dr Sam Hayden and my composition tutors over the year were Errollyn Wallen  MBE and Dr Paul Newland. I was also receiving singing lessons from Peter Knapp and Omar Ebrahim. My heartfelt thanks goes to everyone who was involved in the project.

This site contains the full text of the dissertation, appendices and samples of scores and recordings submitted. As several of the works developed during the project were works in progress at the time, occasional updates and changes have been made to the portfolio and appendix material to provide the most complete form of the material. These updates are clearly marked as such.

If you have any questions about the material presented here, please do contact me.

Caitlin Rowley


This project began with an idea to explore the integration of visual art and text in my composition process. Having begun to create artworks as part of my process of writing notated music, I wanted to explore this further and to combine with with my love of words to see what role each might play in my practice. My work this year has been focused around issues of the score, both as an object and a concept, and performance and has focused principally on vocal music, in the guise of solo songs, a choral piece and works which use my own voice.

The starting point for many of the ideas discussed here has been the work and creative process of the British sculptor Richard Long.(fn1) I felt a real resonance with the balance of openness and precision that characterises much of his work and the simplicity of the concepts he works with. As my research progressed, I found his work also raised questions relating to documentation/reperformability, and also the use of skills outside his central training in the production of his publicly displayed work.

Approaching Long’s work from a musician’s perspective, I read much of it through a filter of time-based art predicated on a basis of reperformability and the production of materials to enable recreation. The artist himself is adamant that his work ‘has never been remotely concerned with performance’(fn2), however my composer’s reading of his work still sees aspects of performance within it which I have developed into ideas regarding my own practice and compositions.

Based on this musical reading of Long’s work, I have identified six key elements (italicised below) which I have developed as compositional ideas in my music over the course of this year. These have gradually grouped themselves into binary concepts, which are explored in terms of boundaries in this dissertation:

1. Exploring boundaries

Work which pushes the boundaries of my process and thinking: Experiments with openness and the setting of limitations on my compositional process. The role of fear in creativity and how to manage it is also examined.

2. Blurring boundaries

Work which exists on multiple planes simultaneously: Pieces which blur the boundaries between amateur activity and professional practice, and between music and art.

3. Crossing boundaries

Work which experiments with the relationship between audience, performer and piece: Compositions which explore public and private facets of composition and performance, and the role of presentation.


1. A brief outline of Richard Long’s career and art practice is included as Appendix 1.

2. Richard Long, and Martina Giezen, Richard Long in Conversation: Bristol 19.11.1985, Noordwijk, Holland: MW Press, 1985, 4.