Ensembles working towards performance: Emerging coordination and interactions in self-organised groups

Nicola Pennill

Nicola Pennill

BA, BSc, MSc, PhD, LRSM, DipM, DMS

With a background in industry, Nicola’s research combines organisation studies and music, and is inspired by her experiences with teams, business systems, change management and music education.

Nicola Pennill has a PhD in music and organisation studies from The University of Sheffield. With a career in industry as a senior consultant on organisational change and development, her research interests in collaboration and interactions of music ensembles arise from her experiences as an ensemble musician, and from her work with teams in other domains. She also has an MSc in Performance Science at the Royal College of Music, London, where her dissertation focused on leadership in string quartets and paradox theory. Nicola also holds postgraduate diplomas in management and marketing, and is a licentiate of the Royal Schools of Music in performance.

Nicola's Projects

Ensembles working towards performance: Emerging coordination and interactions in self-organised groups

Music ensembles are often regarded as models of group coordination, as they work together to produce artistic performances. However, as well as musical skills and knowledge, the group dynamics involved can have a big impact on performance. This project aimed to understand ways that individual contributions form part of an interacting, dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and in which many small decisions and changes contribute to the final result. Like other work groups, musical ensembles face time pressures and complex demands. Preparing for performance is achieved through rehearsals, shared goals, social, technical and musical elements. This project adopted a range of methods to explore this. A survey of ensemble rehearsal practices and interviews with members of newly formed groups were combined with time pattern analysis to track interaction patterns. Time pattern analysis enabled tcoded behaviours to be expressed as hierarchical time patterns. These emergent patterns of verbal interactions provided a means to investigate implicit coordination over the course of a series of rehearsals and revealed the presence of tacit or ‘hidden’ patterns of communication in rehearsal. The main findings from the research suggest that these patterns were structured as a series of episodic transitions, which emerged over time during rehearsals, suggesting complex patterns of interaction.

Nicola’s PhD research was funded by the White Rose College of Arts and Humanities (WRoCAH), and formed part of the Expressive Nonverbal Communication in Ensemble Performance research network, between Sheffield, York and Leeds Universities.

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