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Creating a Virtual Heart

Arts practice with a defective mind

I am a composer, and this study documents an individual perspective on two very personal, and almost inseparable themes – a musical life and the impact of Asperger’s Syndrome – upon it. Asperger’s Syndrome is a pervasive developmental disorder on the Autism Spectrum with which I was diagnosed in 2005. By their very nature these themes are strongly loaded with personal subjectivity, bias and experiences that are normally hidden within the individual. The resulting analysis of this effects first, foremost and strongest, the researcher and composer himself (myself) and offers a window through which the reader may glimpse another reality. These themes are explored via autoethnography, telling stories, observing the self. Autoethnography is quite new in the field of music research, perhaps reflecting the great fear that many musicians seem to have of losing their mysterious powers to the spotlight glare of research.

This document, the product of five years of interdisciplinary work in Griffith University’s Doctor of Musical Arts program, constitutes an innovative approach to a subject that is not well represented in the literature on either music or autism.

To these various ends, the presentation takes the form of a semi-linear multimedia document based in Web technologies, incorporating both evocative and analytical text, images and photographs, music, audio and video material where these elements are presented as integrated data rather than merely illustrative or ancillary. I have used a combination of table of contents, designated related posts and relevant links generated by WordPress designed for active web-server operation. The text is divided into “analytic” white pages, and “evocative” black pages, the first of which appears to the right of this column, thus presenting two complementary “voices” in the study. Post-assessment the website has become live on the Internet, a “living document” in a format that allows and encourages commentary and interaction, and could itself become a source for further investigation.

The title of the thesis came from Stavros Halvatzis, a colleague and friend with whom I was discussing the process of defining an internal emotion through cognitive processes. I said I was trying to think how to feel, he said I was

Creating a Virtual Heart.