University of Limerick
Hunka_2023_Connection.pdf (1.93 MB)

Connection and creativity: generating relational depth in improvised music-making

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posted on 2023-11-09, 15:11 authored by Boris Hunka

This research explores potential ways to improve musicians experience of improvised music by focusing on increased relational depth. The hypothesis being tested is whether borrowing tenets developed in the context of psychotherapy – specifically adherence to core conditions of empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard – can have a positive impact on the music. the musician and the audience experience.

The research is centred on a series of musical improvisation sessions that took place between 2019 and 2021 between the author and a panel of six selected musicians. The impact of the Covid pandemic meant that some of these sessions were live, and some online – an unanticipated variety of formats that added a layer of research data and insight. A mixed methodology of a Descriptive Phenomenological framework, supplemented by auto-ethnographical elements was utilised.

In the course of the research thesis a number of paths to connection as well as obstacles are explored. These include various modes of musical communication, the role of idiom, the ubiquity of judgement and the improvisers’ relationship with the unknown. The research concludes that a conscious adherence to the core conditions of psychotherapy can have a positive impact on improvised music making, by increasing relational depth between the players. This has the potential to benefit the musicians and audiences by enhancing the experience. The research further posits a theoretical model in which rational, emotional and physical elements of communication combine and form an interdependent relationship with spontaneous creativity.



  • Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences


  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Niall Keagan

Department or School

  • Irish World Academy of Music & Dance

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