Roman Duffner - Sociology of Music

"And when I press this button, he plays a little piece of music".

Collaborations between human and non-human actors in music production

When it comes to evaluating creativity structures in a process, one finds that all agents involved have an influence on the end result. Nevertheless, there are often pronounced hierarchies in relation to creative leadership.

The traditional historical idea that the composer leads interactions and patterns of creative work in their role as author and creator is widely questioned today, especially as less hierarchical structures and more flexibility can be made possible with the increasing use of new technologies and media. Through my research, I intend to question this paradigm by finding alternative ways of compositional and performative practice.

The studies of psychologists Robert J. Sternberg and R. Keith Sawyer on the 'flow' phenomenon in groups and on networking as well as current studies on creative leadership form the theoretical starting point for my research and to establish alternative work situations in musical composition. I will use new technologies such as programming applications and user-friendly interfaces that enable simple interactions, and search for applications of media and platforms for communication and information exchange that enable less hierarchical structures and more flexibility in compositional and performative practice.

Through collaborative, pedagogical and interdisciplinary projects, I seek alternative compositional approaches, means of communication, and codes that open a space for new models of interaction between the agents of the Western contemporary music community.

This dissertation project investigates the collaboration of human and non-human actors in the creative process of producing popular music. The research project is connected to the current academic debate on creativity and the "musicology of record production".

Creative work is primarily regarded as a human ability that is made possible by individual equipment, such as skill and knowledge, and by social components, such as interaction with others. However, especially in current forms of creation - such as the digitally supported creation of popular music ("record production") - non-human entities take an active position (e.g., in stabilising/recording situational music-making). To grasp their sometimes-trivial activities, however, it is necessary to treat these non-human entities, like the musicians themselves, as actors - in the sense of actor-network theory. This means that they appear in a cooperative relationship, so that their (co-)action in "music-making" can be grasped as a form of cooperation.

Based on these considerations, I pursue the following research question: How do human and non-human actors cooperate in the creative process of digitally or electronically supported music-making (producing, composing) of popular music? Using focused video-based observations of studio and home recording work as well as partially structured interviews with musicians, the generative process will be empirically collected, and these data evaluated in a systematic analysis step.

The research project aims to develop a deeper understanding of socio-material relations in the digitally supported creative process of popular music. Furthermore, it aims to contribute to the theoretical debate on creativity by considering the involvement of non-human actors.  

First supervisor: Univ. Prof. Dr. Carolin Stahrenberg, ABPU
Second supervisor: Ao. Univ. Prof. Dr. Tasos Zembylas, mdw


L. Roman Duffner, doctoral student at the Anton Bruckner Private University in Linz, is a trained musicologist and sociologist. His research interests include studies on music and society, socio-technological and material aspects of music practice and practices of creative work. After his studies at the University of Vienna, he worked at the Johannes Kepler University in Linz. Here he dealt with various music sociological topics, such as the pop/rock band as a form of organisation or the effects of the digital transformation on the music album in popular music. He published a scientific article on the "push button" as a creative interaction instance and an artistic-scientific graphic novel on the topic of "creativity theories". At AMIS 2021, he presented his findings on the "Guitar Strap" - its form, use and contribution in music performance.

His PhD project explores the collaboration between human and non-human actors in the process of creating popular music. He is interested in how creativity and creative work in high-tech music production can be understood beyond human skills and imagination.