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David Gilling

David Gilling staff profile picture

School of Management
Massey Business School


Thesis Title
Music at work: Unpacking the orchestral organization

Research Description
Music at work: Unpacking the orchestral organization After spending my career playing the violin in orchestras, I am looking to interrogate that experience to find out what I have learned about communication and coordination in the symphony orchestra. While much has been written on this subject by external commentators, a view from the inside is needed to balance the ledger. To do this, I am undertaking autoethnographic research theoretically grounded in the phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961), as his concern with perception, embodiment and lived experience resonates strongly with experience-based approaches such as autoethnography. In particular, Merleau-Ponty's late ontological turn toward ideas such as the flesh of the world and its key characteristic of reversibility offer, I argue, an important way in to lifeworlds such as orchestral performance that ask the researcher to consider the whole whatever the detail.

Research Importance
The orchestra is, in my view, an important but largely untapped source of organisational knowledge, especially in areas such as leadership, hierarchical adaptation and non-verbal communication, so my study has implications for managers inside and outside the orchestral field.

Research Benefit
This research is directly relevant to anyone working in a highly skilled and specialized field and those who manage them. It will also be of interest to scholars seeking to understand how organizational hierarchies adapt to significant environmental change.

Personal Description
Raised in Christchurch and trained in London, I chose Massey because I remain a full-time employee of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. I also wanted to pursue my PhD with the Massey-based supervisory team that made a key contribution to my master's degree. After finishing this stage of my study I intend to continue contributing to the orchestra both musically and academically in whatever way I can.

Associate Professor Craig Prichard
Dr Ralph Bathurst


Bathurst, R.J., Gilling, D.F., and Rasmussen, S.J. (2019). Orchestras: A model for social and organizational development. Hauppauge, NY: Nova.

Gilling, D.F. (2014). From Mahler to the movies: Physical empathy in orchestral leadership. In D. Ladkin & S.S. Taylor (Eds.), The physicality of leadership: Gesture, entanglement, taboo, possibilities, pp. 109–133. Bingley: Emerald.

Gilling, D.F. (2014). Music-making and the organisation: Researching the orchestra at work. The New Zealand Journal of Music Therapy, 12, 106–135.

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