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Ensembles working towards performance: Emerging coordination and interactions in self-organised groups

Pennill, Nicola (2019) Ensembles working towards performance: Emerging coordination and interactions in self-organised groups. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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For small ensembles, preparing for ensemble performance is often achieved through a framework of rehearsals and performance goals. The ways that groups work together varies widely, but generally involves the concurrent evolution of social and task behaviours. Time as factor within and across a series of ensemble rehearsals has not been extensively studied. Research on organisations increasingly recognises the value of studying groups as dynamic, emergent entities. As well as the specific musical tasks and processes involved, this research takes a broader perspective, incorporating investigations of moment-by-moment verbal interactions between group members, and the way the explicit and implicit communication processes evolve over time. This research aimed to address the central question of how behavioural interactions in small ensembles emerge and change over time. It aimed to investigate the ways that ensembles work together in rehearsal, in particular as a way of preparing for performance. The key theoretical perspectives on which this research is based are concerned with processes of coordination in small groups, in which the ensemble is viewed as a dynamic, self-managed collective. This was a mixed methods study including a questionnaire study, quantitative measures of verbal interactions, and qualitative analysis of participant experiences and perceptions. A background survey on rehearsal methods was conducted with small ensembles (< 12 members), along with two longitudinal case studies of newly formed a cappella vocal quintets. Rehearsals were video-recorded in the field (Case 1) and in a laboratory setting (Case 2) over a three-month period. Verbal interactions were captured, and the rehearsal utterances were time-stamped and coded. Behaviours were analysed using the software Theme (Patternvision Ltd) to identify recurrent temporal interaction patterns (‘T-patterns). In Case 2, further aspects were incorporated – two contrasting pieces were provided for rehearsals, and musical and verbal interactions were explored. Finally, a qualitative study combined interview, observation and visual methods explored experiences from participants of both case studies. The emergence of interactions, implicit communication and rehearsal activities were subject to a series of transitional changes triggered by exogenous factors, including approaching deadlines and social familiarity. Survey findings showed differences in rehearsal structure at different stages of preparation, but also commonalities across a range of types and sizes of ensembles. In the case studies, patterns in behaviour were evident at two main levels of analysis – emergent, inter-individual interactions ‘in the moment’, and in progressions through phases over a series of rehearsals. Verbal interaction patterns contributed were evident from first encounters onwards; patterns appeared very early and increased in complexity over time, as implicit communication modes became more established. Three phases were identified – an initial exploration phase where social and task familiarity were established, a transition phase where differences were surfaced and resolved, and a final integration phase in which a shared plan for performance was realised. The findings also showed that over time, implicit coordination increased and explicit coordination modes decreased. A new model of ensemble processes was proposed, in which the emergent interactions and larger-scale transitional phases are combined. This research provided a new perspective on collaboration in music ensembles. It offered implications for further research on small group processes and their emergence over time, and for music ensemble performers and teachers seeking to reflect on practice. In describing these processes and their predictable ‘transition’ points, the metaphor of a river was used as a powerful image of change and renewal. It recognised ways that small groups, including music ensembles, need to balance paradoxical forces for predictability and structure with creativity and sharing of ideas. It also contributed to methods, both in its longitudinal design and the combination of approaches to investigation. Finally, the thesis highlighted further possibilities for interdisciplinary research in self-organised music ensembles and small group research.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield)
The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Management School (Sheffield)
The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Music (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Mrs Nicola Pennill
Date Deposited: 23 Oct 2019 15:02
Last Modified: 01 Aug 2020 00:18
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/25132

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