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Agency and Control in the Compositional Process

A new model for theorising the compositional process

This article was published in the International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music.

It sets out to explore the interplay between different agencies in musical composition. This yields a tripartite framework based on the centeredness of control over the musical product; at the level of the instigation of a compositional project, at the level of the socialised act of composition itself, and at the level of the composer’s internal judgement different agencies may be influential on the creation of music. Although based on fieldwork with composers of, largely, contemporary Western art music, the framework for understanding the balance of artistic control that is developed here is intended to be applicable more broadly. In creating a framework with some generalizability, the intention is to move towards opening up the common forms of social negotiation involved in disparate fields of musical production.

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