Creativity Cards Workshop at the Cimarosa Conservatory in Avellino, Italy
In October 2023, DigiScore research team has delivered a creativity cards workshop for the composition class of Vincenzo Gualtieri at the Cimarosa Conservatory in Avellino, Italy. The research focus was on students’ creative process while observing changes to their digital musicianship. Additionally, the creativity cards workshop supported students’ development of a musical idea towards a realization of a functioning prototype of a digital score. This offered us an insight into transformational changes in creativity that can take place through digital score making.
Throughout the workshop, we assessed students’ engagement through questions, and observing their immersion and connection to the task of making a digital score, being imaginative in realizing a prototype digital score idea, taking risks with the idea of making a digital score as no one in our workshop had done this before, and a degree of innovation with realizing complex technical music ideas with simple means.
In the post-performance discussion, students said that creativity cards presented them with “many choices, opportunities and possibilities for making a digital score”. Students also appreciated that the focus of creativity cards stayed on their embodied experience within the digital scores that they were making, being immersed in musical situations rather than technical or programming ones (observed in the post-performance discussion).
During the 3-day workshop, we also conducted surveys each day of the workshop focused on the four areas of digital musicianship with the aim of noticing any changes in the four categories over time:
• Skills: what are the skills needed to articulate and interpret features and effects of digital score musicking?
• Contexts, Cultures & Literacy: what contextual, cultural literatures and insights are required to inspire creative thought and support musicking ideas
• Musical Identity and Creative Practice: what are the new modes and possibilities of creative practice?
• Perception and awareness of (digital) music: how do musicians actively analyse digital score music, and what interpretations are they generating when making music?
In terms of the digital music skills, we had a very diverse group of music students, only 3 out of 7 students mentioned that they had any prior DAW skills or other digital music skills. Overall, we saw progress in the digital music skills that students acquired over the 3-day workshop. All students seemed to have acquired new skills, either through working with other students who already had digital music skills or being introduced to what a digital score is and how to make one in the shortest amount of time possible.
The majority of students in the study had a background in contemporary/classical music, with 43% already proficient in electronic and digital music. The survey responses on days 2 and 3 revealed that the workshop significantly altered students’ perspectives on music creation and presentation (context and cultures). Many grasped the freedom inherent in producing and performing digital scores, embracing the shift in aesthetic perspective where all participants are equally involved. Students also recognized the expansive possibilities offered by digital tools for exploring new avenues in music making.
In the digital identity and creativity, initially students expressed a general openness to new influences, contexts, and circumstances in their music-making processes. Notably, first-year composition students found the transformative impact of creativity cards on their work, expanding their vision, and enhancing collaboration skills. Participants highlighted benefits such as preventing the abandonment of ideas, fostering practicality, and relying more on instinct. Some considered creativity cards as a parallel path to traditional composition, describing it as a valuable additional tool. A shift in music identity was noted, with one student no longer seeing themselves as a defined identity but as a musician collaborating with others. Transformative experiences included changes in interaction with the score and music, incorporating new vocabulary into musical discourse, and an overall extension of their approach to music-making for a more comprehensive musician.
In knowledge and awareness, reflecting on the usefulness of creativity cards for their digital score idea during the workshop: “The most interesting thing was starting from the core of the idea and then expanding it” and that in future work, the same participant said: “I will be more careful to integrate different aspects of music, not just electronic. (Anonymous, 2023). Students mentioned how the creativity cards workshop was useful in making digital score prototypes: “to reach a working goal in the shortest time possible” and “the most interesting thing was the collaboration” (Anonymous, 2023). Thus, having learned how creativity cards operate, students found working with them impactful on their compositional process.
Through the digital musicianship surveys, we can track clear changes that took place in students’ musicianship. These show that through an engagement with creativity cards students had new and transformative experiences in making and performing music. When it came to digital music skills, creativity cards either extended musicians’ previous skills or introduced completely new tools and ways of making and performing music. We also noticed positive changes in the way musicians viewed themselves and the kinds of activities they would want to engage in the future as a result of working with creativity cards. 4 out of 7 students (57%) mentioned the interchangeability between ‘composer’/ ’performer’ in the making and performing digital scores as truly transformational to how they will view music-making in the future. These students also appreciated the accessibility of digital scores that could invite untrained musicians or the audience into making music.
In analyzing the evolution in the digital musicianship surveys, we can see that the changes that took place in students’ musicianship could be supported by our observations from a three-day workshop on students’ creative process. Here, we observed students’ engagement, immersion and play with digital creativity cards, where we can conclude that meaningful interaction took place. Additionally, meaning was made in relationships that students built with the score materials and each other during the workshop, as many mentioned ‘collaboration’ and ‘communication’ with the score and each other that formed part of their reflection on whether they would use this approach in the future. The meaningful interactions that students had with creativity cards show that transformative experiences took place which have contributed to students’ digital musicianship.