|dc.description.abstract||This dissertation presents, discusses, and advances findings and contributions from an investigation into how professional orchestral musicians learn as they engage in their work together. Understanding the processes, demands, and consequences of orchestral work is important for informing the practices of professional and aspiring orchestral musicians, orchestral organisations, and educational institutions. Musicians’ well-being and the longevity of their working lives are of particular concern for this community. Learning and development are identified as important factors in understanding individuals’ vocational practices and how they work together. It follows that the conceptual framework of this investigation focuses on microgenetic learning and ontogenetic development to elaborate how intersubjectivity arises as musicians engage together in and learn through orchestral practices. Intersubjectivity refers here to the shared understandings of self and activity that arise from interaction with others, changing and developing with continued participation. From a sociocultural perspective, learning refers to microgenetic changes in individuals’ understanding and practice, while development lies within ontogenetic changes in their knowledge and abilities. As individuals engage together in activities, their learning and developmental processes contribute to a gradually emerging intersubjectivity, that is, shared understandings of what they know, can do, and value. To address the concerns raised regarding musicians’ ongoing practices, this investigation aims to describe and explain what intersubjectivity and engagement look like in orchestral performance. It also aims to comprehend how learning and development occur within this engagement.
To investigate learning and development in orchestral performance, an ethnographic inquiry was conducted to generate an account of how a small sample population of orchestral musicians engaged with and experienced their working environment. The study involved observations and interactions with 6 members of an Australian professional symphony orchestra over a 12-month period. The participants’ selection targeted a range of ages, gender, instrument type, and level of seniority in the orchestra.
Within the findings, five processes of engagement were identified through which intersubjectivity was constituted. These comprise (a) awareness, (b) communication, (c) evaluation of performance, (d) acting like a professional orchestral musician, and (e) the formation of playing intentions. These processes are advanced to contribute to a metaprocess of rehearsal, that is, the personal and interpersonal process of progressively reconstituting musical performance towards a shared ideal. New descriptions and evidence of how the musicians in this study engaged in orchestral performance are contributed, including descriptions and explanations of how trust and humour facilitated communication about performance.
Through these processes of engagement, the participants’ daily interactions in orchestral performance became sites of microgenetic learning processes in three distinct ways. First, the temporal conditions of rehearsals and performances imposed a nonlinear but directional pattern on how performance knowledge changed. Second, spatial awareness was a highly important organising factor in the musicians’ knowledge of performance within the orchestra. It is proposed here that the sensory ethnography term “emplacement” might be useful for describing the connections between musicians’ activity, perceptions, and environments. Third, these temporal and spatial aspects of the musicians’ knowledge combined as they co-created a performance environment together, within which they progressively advanced their performance practices.
Patterns and possibilities in the musicians’ ontogenetic development were identified through how they presented and construed their personal histories relating to performance. They selected past instances of microgenetic learning to illuminate and explain their current abilities, attitudes, and approaches to orchestral performance. The musicians were also capable of presenting positive or negative narratives of their development, frequently corresponding with their level of satisfaction with current environments or appraisals of performance. Positive developmental narratives used experiences of injury, difficulties in gaining membership in the orchestra, and the stresses associated with surveillance and critique to explain a growing ability to cope with challenges and to perform effectively with colleagues. Conversely, negative developmental narratives explained these experiences as being injurious to their ability to meet challenges or to perform at their best. It is advanced that how musicians engage with positive and negative developmental narratives may impact on their perception of their ability to sustain their working practices into the future.||