Composers in academic institutions are increasingly required to describe their activities in terms of ‘research’ – formulating ‘research questions’, ‘research narratives’, ‘aims’ and ‘outcomes’. Research plans and funding applications require one to specify the nature of the original contribution that will be made by a piece of music, even before it is composed. These requirements lead to an emphasis on collaborative work, technology and superficial novelty of format. Yet the very idea that musical composition is a form of research is a category error: music is a domain of thought whose cognitive dimension lies in embodiment, revelation or presentation, but not in investigation and description. It is argued here that the idea of composition as research is not only objectively false but inimical to genuine musical originality.
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