The notion of performance creativity within popular music has attracted little academic attention outside that afforded the singer / songwriter / producer. Drummers, for example, are not typically associated with creativity, a presumption that appears to diverge from the perceptions of expert practitioners. Recent research within that community by the presenter, himself an expert drummer, indicates that the capacity for creative action is the rule rather than the exception, and that the achieving and making meaning of creativity in performance is central to self-perception.
Drawing together the three elements of culture, individual and action, all seen as inseparable and mutually constitutive, this paper attempts to illuminate issues of creativity and meaning in the performance of the Western kit drummer. Performance creativity is viewed as a socio-cultural, intersubjective and interactive construct; an action in between actors and their environment rather than ‘inside’ individuals as a psychological phenomenon entirely located within the individual mind. In this view, culture and cultural psychology become crucial determinants in the meaning-making processes of performers on ‘unpitched’ instruments. An action-theoretical model is introduced to depict the way in which drummer action is informed by and informs Self and Others in a fluid circulation of individual and domain meanings.
The paper concludes by proposing that drummers derive meaning from a sense of shared community, and that their making meaning of lived experience, and particularly lived creative experience, affects the way they carry out that experience in their actions as musicians. While no claim to originality is made in interpreting and drawing upon the works of others, the nuanced action-theoretical model of significant, mediated action-in-context presented here should have future value in helping to understand how instrumental practitioners construct notions of creativity in music performance.