Australasian Jazz and Improvisation Research Network Conference 2019

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesContribution to conference


Paper Presentation: Abstract

Dr Paul Williamson and Johannes Luebbers

Collaborative Composition: Improvising the Compositional Process

Whilst a common practice between performers and songwriters, collaboration between composers of large-scale musical works is a relatively rare phenomenon, with co-authorship and co-composed works remaining uncommon. This paper aims to explore approaches, processes and outcomes arising from collaborative composition through reflection on a large-scale collaborative work, Interpolations, composed for the Monash Art Ensemble by Luebbers and Williamson.

Interpolations is an experimental cross-genre work that includes improvisation aimed at developing contemporary techniques of ensemble interaction. The title refers to the nature of collaborative composition, where the usual trajectory of working by oneself is interrupted by a series of interpolations in the form of suggestions and input from a co-creator. Thus the compositional device of interpolating musical material is applied to the composer and process of composition itself. These interpolations embed a unique kind of reflexivity in the compositional process, whereby the ongoing opportunity to articulate one’s thoughts, and the reciprocal feedback generated, create a continual reflection and refinement of the work being composed. Rather than simply contributing individually composed sections, Luebbers and Williamson approached the process by playing, discussing, and exploring together across a series of development sessions.

The composers were struck by the refreshing and inspiring nature of working collaboratively, the unexpected and complimentary ideas and materials, and the value of a constant sounding board that enabled them to formulate, develop and refine ideas. Similarities and differences in the composers’ approaches culminated in a seamless final work where the composers can barely decipher the origins of the different materials and sections within the overall composition. By relinquishing individual control and pre-determined approaches in favour of a more collaborative approach the composers observed an increase in the uncertainty of process, structure and outcome. However, this uncertainty was experienced as a positive catalyst for problem solving. This project suggests collaborative composition as an alternative model that would be valuable for exploration within education and professional communities.
Period1 Jun 20192 Jun 2019
Event typeConference
LocationMelbourne , Australia, VictoriaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • composition
  • collaborative composition
  • jazz