Companion Thinking in Improvised Musicking Practice

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Rottle, Jodie
Reardon-Smith, Hannah
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We understand that our thinking and creating is always in company. By musicking with others, we situate ourselves amongst an entangled web of human, nonhuman, and more-than-human co-creators; to recognise these external and internal influences is to become a companion. Our concept of companion thinking stems from companion texts according to Sara Ahmed (2017. Living a Feminist Life. Durham, NC: Duke University Press), which may ‘prompt you to hesitate or to question the direction in which you are going, or they might give you a sense that in going the way you are going, you are not alone’ (16). Companionship implies with: In this paper, we discuss how companions are vital to our improvisatory music practices by considering the co-creative relationships in which we operate. we analyse our artistic research from our perspectives as performers and improvisers and consider the processes of making music with beyond-human entities. Instead of the human-focused concept of collaboration, we posit companionship as an approach to thinking-with and sounding-with the more-than-human, other-than-human, and nonhuman. Our former selves, experiences, environments, and nonhuman critters and objects are always-already part of our musicking practices and communities. Performance is thus ecological, political, and personal; it is through this lens that we analyse the entanglements of our varied communities and explore how this concept can stretch beyond a music practice, to consider what it means to engage in creative practice as migrant-settlers on stolen Aboriginal land. This paper includes an investigation of what it means to be a companion and a discussion of a practice-based case study in which we implement—or practice—companion thinking. As friends, collaborators, and companions to one another, we each present our individual concepts of companionship through our own improvisation practices, addressing themes of situatedness, response-ability, surprise, stumbling, curiosity, and unmastery. We then analyse the entanglements of our work in performance. This process of thinking, making, and doing in-company offers the opportunity to consider an intersection of analysis and performance through an improvisatory musical practice.

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Contemporary Music Review
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© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent.
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Arts & Humanities
Companion thinking
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Rottle, J; Reardon-Smith, H, Companion Thinking in Improvised Musicking Practice, Contemporary Music Review, 2023, 42 (1), pp. 82-99