The composer is present
: a creative exploration of the role of the composer within the work

  • Shona Mackay

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


This thesis comprises eight new works written between 2011 and 2018 which incorporate music, video and performance. These works are the result of a practice-as-research creative exploration which problematizes the traditional role of the composer by making the composer present within the work and its performance in a number of non-musical ways. The commentary begins with a discussion of the personal background which led to this period of practice-based research, including the influences of John Berger’s 'Ways of Seeing', Jennifer Walshe’s 'The New Discipline', and the works of performance artists Carolee Schneemann, Adrian Howells and Marina Abramović. Each composition is then discussed in greater detail to highlight my creative process and reflective practice. In order to foreground my journey through the research process, the works will be discussed in chronological order and are exhibited as a combination of musical scores, videos (including additional performance materials where applicable), and recordings which document their performance.
Date of Award24 Jun 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorAlistair MacDonald (Supervisor) & Gordon McPherson (Supervisor)


  • Composer
  • Music
  • Contemporary music
  • Composition
  • Performance art
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Practice-as-research
  • Artistic presence
  • Self as subject
  • Composer as non-musical performer
  • Interdisciplinary composition
  • Audiovisual performance
  • Mixed-media composition

Access Status

  • Full text open

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