Coming Close:

What an Interview Can Reveal About Creativity in the Contemporary Art Music Composer


  • Assoc. Prof. Richard Willgoss University of Sydney


creativity, art music, composition, interview, sparse data


Creativity is investigated as a property that composers invoke about their own output and that of peers and canon. The term is significant; it indicates a value system at work and can describe how that system enables selectivity. The personal interview is used to understand creativity in this context, relying upon conveying meaning via linguistic description, not music. But the interview is a window and first-hand way of obtaining insight into what is happening within and around art music composers. Intellectual domains, nominated as epistemology, ontology, nascency, process, product, and transcendence, upon which to base questions, were used to ask interviewees about their views. Questioning was open and invitational but not interrogative. The interview technique brought forth many diverse conceptual views. Creativity in art music composition defied any definition that is based on having preconceived notions of what might be found. Contemporary art music composition was seen as synonymous with being creative in that what is composed need have little or nothing to relate it to existing centres of musical interest. The wide range in reasoning made pedagogy, beyond the rudimentary, elusive. Ambivalence and paradox were essentially present from the beginning and welcomed. Transcendence became a final frontier. In between, the mechanics of composing as ‘creative’ was almost semiotically incidental to creatively portraying these epistemic book ends. Pedagogy was actively undermined by each composer’s efforts to be idiosyncratic, ‘speak’ with a different voice, and, perhaps, introduce the new. In this context, form and structure were present but they were transitory.

Author Biography

Assoc. Prof. Richard Willgoss , University of Sydney

Richard Willgoss made a career as an engineer at the University of New South Wales lecturing in machine intelligence and robotics. He continues to lecture there on ethics, professional responsibilities and intellectual property. He retrained to obtain a BMus and BA in philosophy and his interests broadened to include composing. More recently he submitted a PhD dissertation on the topic of art music compositional creativity to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music where he is an Affiliate Researcher. His research areas now include creativity in art music composition and the interplay of philosophy with music.




How to Cite

Willgoss , R. A. (2022). Coming Close:: What an Interview Can Reveal About Creativity in the Contemporary Art Music Composer. Journal of Music Research Online, 5. Retrieved from