Sunday, 12 February 2012


MPR090 Creativity & Knowledge 2

A Brief Review of – Dean & Smiths (2009) ‘Introduction: Practice-led-Research, Research-led-Practice – Towards the Iteractive Cyclic Web’.

Smith and Dean’s writing here firstly explains that they intend to convey the importance of creative practices in the University environment in regards to research practices.

Over the past 20 years the notion that the creative arts are now an accepted academic endeavour with Higher Education has been growing rapidly also illuminating that these practices bring a great opportunity for ground breaking research.

This Practice-led-Research or Research-led-Practice is proving to alter the way we practically and conceptually engage with creative topics and is essentially reshaping the Higher education system showing us that there is in fact a scientific nature to the way we make and think about the arts.

 Bi-Directional Focus
Dean and Smith describe this relationship as a bi-directional focus where both of these seemingly binary elements are in direct support of each other. This gives the potential for discovering a multitude of directions in academic research as well as making a positive impact over creative practice; hence why they do not specify inclination over the two phrases. It is this interwoven relationship of two contrasting process that they describe as an iteractive cyclic web.

Dean & Smith’s intention was to analyse this relationship in its current and past state discussing issues arising over different art disciplines in context with the political structure of the ever changing higher education institution that is the basis and authority for this research’s existence. This inspired their attempt to answer the broader question of what knowledge is in terms of how we understand creative process.


The notion of practice-led-research has many different terminologies as it encumbers values from different ends of the spectrum of academic although all these terminologies are defined as the same point
‘the way in which practice can result in research insights, such as those that arise out of making a creative work and/or in the documentation and theorisation of that work.’
Smith & Dean (2009) p. 2

Dean & Smith want us to realise that academic writing can lead to creative functions and that the conceptual knowledge that exists in our making is already out there we just have not analysed it in a conscious manner yet.

The previous traditions of higher education gave great preference to work in the fields of humanities, theory, criticism and history over any kind of creative based subject, even English literature something as intrinsically founded in our culture. Some 30 years later and we find that creative practitioners have coin this phrases encouraging the system to acknowledge the insights derived from practices as bases for research regarded as highly as other research methods.
The Conundrum

Although, one might encounter immediate problems when engaging with the idea of research in this way as its meaning is founded in the definition of knowledge. Academia for many years had implicit definitions about the nature knowledge; that it is tangible and a solely conscious activity; it is transferable through language or communication and is congruent with that of its origin. Some find the notion of knowledge or meaning being conveyed through artistic practice to be a problematic idea.

Conventional knowledge in academic appreciation is recognised as either verbal or numerical standards whereas most of art especially music which is purely sonic and although conveys some tangible values, emotions and associations it cannot convey it’s phenomenological worth as a mathematical accuracy even though we cannot deny that knowledge is used to create and perform it.

The concept of knowledge is unstable when regarded in terms of a post modernistic perspective; it essentially denies knowledge as absolute truth and undermines the authority of scientific fact.

In consideration of this, research is a process that constitutes primary knowledge that can be observed in many different lights, and as we analyse this we can see how different interpretations overlap making it ambiguous whether there is a particular way of viewing. These observations result in varying levels of stability and precision and when correlated with traditional quantitative and qualitative conceptual models this works to greater affect.

Dean & Smith then go on to explain a bit about differences in qualitative research; a reflexive approach keeping the researcher fairly close to the material and participants, an example of this being anthropology and quantitative research which mathematically treats the material and participants under particular conditions. Both have their strengths and weakness for gathering information and are two of many different approaches.

Although the relationship that links these approaches to practice-led-research is a complex they are tools to keep us better informed as practitioners to innovative processes and how we might document this in academic theory. Despite its complexities practice-led-research is a highly informed and unique way of conducting research.

Both I and Liam Walsh are currently working at York St John University alongside Dr. Liz Mellor as research assistants in a continuation of very exiting research into Music Composition as a cognitive creative process and its support of Music Education. The project is called iCompose and has strong ties to the Paynter Project; an outreaching appreciation for innovative and effective methods in Music Education.
Link to The Paynter Project Website:

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