Raymond MacDonald

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Raymond MacDonald
Saxophonist Raymond MacDonald.jpg
Background information
Occupation(s)Musician and Academic
Years active1985 - present

Raymond MacDonald is a saxophonist, composer and psychologist with an extensive career in music, cross-disciplinary arts and academia.[1] Much of his work explores the boundaries and ambiguities between what is conventionally seen as improvisation and composition.[2] As a saxophonist and composer, MacDonald has released over 60 CDs, toured and broadcast worldwide and has composed music for film, television, theatre, radio and art installations.[3] He is currently Professor of Music Psychology and Improvisation at Edinburgh University and his recent book, The Art of Becoming: How Group Improvisation Works (co-authored with Graeme Wilson) explores the nature of improvisation.[4] MacDonald has also co-edited five texts and published over 80 academic papers and book chapters.[1][5]

Early life and education[edit]

MacDonald was born in Glasgow (Scotland) to a family steeped in the arts (his father Hamish MacDonald was a renowned contemporary artist) and studied at Glasgow University, where he obtained a PhD in psychology studying the therapeutic effects of music for individuals with learning difficulties.[6][7][8] After completing his PhD, MacDonald worked as artistic director for Limelight, a music production company specialising in training and developmental opportunities for people with impairments.[1][9][10]

Career as a musician[edit]

MacDonald’s work is informed by a view of improvisation as a social, collaborative and uniquely creative process that provides opportunities to develop new ways of engaging musically.[2] He plays in many collaborative free improvisatory contexts, and his roots in jazz and pop music can be heard across all areas of his performance and composition.[11] His unique approach of combining music and psychology and incorporating other artistic disciplines has been used to develop collaborative projects and ongoing working relationships around the world.[12][2] He began his performing career playing guitar in Remember Fun, as part of the indie scene in Glasgow in the late 1980s and moved into jazz playing with saxophone quartet The Hung Drawn Quartet and a jazz trio, Another Hairdo.[13] 

MacDonald has collaborated with musicians across the spectrum of international contemporary music, such as Marilyn Crispell (US), George Lewis (US), David Byrne (UK/US), Jim O’Rourke (US), Damo Suzuki (JP/DE), Kang Tae Hwan (KR), Axel Dorner (DE), Tatsuya Nakatani (JP), Tony Buck (AU), Michael Zerang (US), Fred Lonberg-Holm (US) Satoko Fujii (JP) and Natsuki Tamura (JP).[14] His list of UK collaborators is equally extensive, and includes Evan Parker, Nurse with Wound, Fred Frith, Keith Tippett, Barry Guy, Harry Beckett, Keith Rowe, Lol Coxhill, Maggie Nicols, Steve Noble, Steve Beresford, the London Improvisers Orchestra (LIO), and Future Pilot A.K.A.[2] He is a founding member of the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra (GIO) and co-leads the George Burt-Raymond MacDonald Quartet.[1]  He plays with Alister Spence and Sia Xray in Sensaround and has long standing duo partnerships with Marilyn Crispel and Gunter “Baby” Sommer.[13][15]

MacDonald instigates and collaborates on cross-disciplinary projects and has worked with visual artists, dancers, writers and filmmakers.[16] Cross-disciplinary projects include collaborations with Christine Borland, Simon Starling, Martin Boyce, Douglas Copland, a BBC Radio 3 commission Between the Ears for Burt-MacDonald Quintet (BMacD5), and an ongoing collaboration Scarecrows & Lighthouses with Boyce and David Mackenzie.[17][18][19] MacDonald has also worked with Mackenzie on film soundtracks, including Young Adam (2003), Outlaw King (2018) and short film What is Essential? that debuted on Netflix as part of their anthology series Homemade, (2020).[17][20][21] Other contributions to music for film and TV include soundtracks for Nicolas Winding Refn's Valhalla Rising (2010), and Scottish Television series Taggert.[19]

Selected collaborative projects[edit]

  • This is not improvised but that is: Lockdown 2020 (2020), with daughters Eva and Maria. Broadcast as part of Improvfest 2020, hosted International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation, Guelph, Canada. [22][23]
  • Theatre of the Home (2021), with Maria Sappho[24][25]
  • Duet for two people who have never met (2020), with Rachel Joy Weiss.[26]
  • Return to Y'Hup: The world of Ivor Cutler (2020), a reimagining of the first release by Scottish poet and composer Ivor Cutler. Co-created with Matt Brennan and Malcolm Benzie.[27][28]
  • Still My Sleepy Fortunes (2019), new work commissioned by Creative Scotland to mark the centenary of Scottish writer Muriel Spark.[29][30]
  • Silent Music | Seeing Sound (2019), exhibition of graphic scores at The Royal Scottish Academy with ongoing collaborator Jo Ganter (visual artist and print maker). [31] [32]
  • Together (2017), a new score commissioned by PRS Foundation with musician Christian Ferlaino for Lorenza Mazzetti's 1956 silent film.[33]
  • Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra, founding member (2002 - present)
  • Guitar and Saxophone duo with musician Jer Reid[34]



List of studio albums, with selected detail
Title Album details

Raymond MacDonald & Neil Davidson

Iorram Records, 2021

Remember Fun

Firestation Records, 2021[35]

Raymond MacDonald & Gordon MacLean

FMR Records, 2020
Two Down to Eight

Raymond MacDonald & Giles Lamb

Absentia Sound Works, 2020
Return To Y’Hup – The World of Ivor Cutler Citizen Bravo

Raymond MacDonald & Friends

Chemikal Underground, 2020
Seas in Cities

Raymond MacDonald and George Burt

Tob Records, 2019


hellosQuare Recordings, 2019
Energy Being

Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra & Maggie Nicols

FMR Records, 2019
Sound Hotel

Alister Spence & Raymond MacDonald

Alister Spence Music, 2018
Songs Along The Way

Raymond MacDonald & Marilyn Crispell

Babel Label, 2018
Parallel Moments Unbroken

Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra

FMR Records, 2018
Near & Far

Raymond MacDonald & Jer Reid

Gruff Wit Records, 2018
The Word For It Now

Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra

FMR Records, 2017
GIO Sevens

Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra

Tob Records, 2017
Cast of Thousands

Raymond MacDonald & Graeme Wilson

Creative Sources Recordings, 2016
Travelog Sensaround hellosQuare Recordings, 2016
Isotropes Sensaround hellosQuare Recordings, 2015
Parallel Moments

Raymond MacDonald & Marilyn Crispell

Babel Label, 2014
Artificial Life

Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra with George Lewis

FMR Records, 2014
Schweben – Ay, but can ye?

(with Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra & Barry Guy)

Maya Recordings, November 2012[36]
Stepping Between the Shadows

Alister Spence & Raymond MacDonald

Rufus (RF95), April 2012[37]

(with Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra, Evan Parker & Lol Coxhil)

Iorram Records, January 2012[38]
Linn Flax

(with David Stackenas)

Iorram Records, January 2011[39]

(The Raymond MacDonald International Big Band with Jim O'Rourke & Toby Hall)

Textile Records, November 2010[40]

(with Satoko Fujii, Natsuki Tamura, Neil Davidson & Tom Bancroft)

Nu-Jazz Europe, January 2008[41]
Street Level

(with Peter Nicholson)

Iorram Records, 2009[42]
Metamorphic Rock

with Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra & George Lewis

Iorram Records, January 2009[43]
Other Voices

with Aoife Mannix

Nu-Jazz Europe, 2009[44]
Constant Weave

Raymond MacDonald & George Burt

Iorram Records, 2009

Raymond MacDonald & Neil Davidson

Iorram Records, 2008
Separately & Together

Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra & London Improvisers Orchestra

Emanem, 2008

Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra & Barry Guy

FMR Records, 2007
Delphinius & Lyra

Günter 'Baby' Sommer & Raymond MacDonald

Clean Feed Records, 2007
Dark in Light Corners

Rich in Knuckles

Creative Sources Recordings, 2007

Raymond MacDonald, Tatsuya Nakatani, Neil Davidson, Peter Nicholson & Nick Fells

Creative Sources Recordings, 2007
One Bloke

George Burt Raymond MacDonald Quintet

Textile Records, 2007

Raymond MacDonald & Neil Davidson

FMR Records, 2006
Boo Hoo Fever

George Burt - Raymond MacDonald Sextet

Leo Records, 2007
Listen Big

Rich in Knuckles

ISIS Music, 2005[45]
The Great Shark Hunt

George Burt - Raymond MacDonald Septet

FMR Records, 2005[46]
Which Way Did He Go?

Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra & Maggie Nicols

FMR Records, 2005[47]
Hotel Dilettante

George Burt - Raymond MacDonald Quintet

Textile Records, 2005[48]
A Day for a Reason

George Burt - Raymond MacDonald Sextet with Keith Tippett

Tob Records, 2005[49]

Giles Lamb & Raymond MacDonald

Deluge & Guitary, 2005[50]
Munich & Glasgow

Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra & Evan Parker

FMR Records, 2004[51]
Pop Corn

George Burt - Raymond MacDonald Octet

FMR Records, 2004[52]
Coxhill Street

George Burt - Raymond MacDonald Quartet with Lol Coxhill

FMR Records, 2002[53]

George Burt - Raymond MacDonald Quartet

FMR Records, 2001[54]
Train Journeys

Remember Fun

Matinee, 2001[55]
Hey There You Hosers

Hung Drawn Quartet

HDQ, 2001
Big Brothers

George Burt - Raymond MacDonald Quartet

BMacD, 2000[56]
Oh Hello

George Burt - Raymond MacDonald Quartet

BMacD, 1998[57]
A Train in the Distance

Hung Drawn Quartet

Contributions to, or tracks on
Title Album Details
Get while the getting is good Compilation Aufgeladen und Bereit, 2006
Secrets from the Clock House

Future Pilot AKA

Creeping Bent, 2006
The Electronic Bible Chapter One Compilation White Label, 2004
Lead us not into Temptation

David Byrne

Thrill Jockey, 2003
Salute Your Soul

Future Pilot AKA

Geographic, 2003
You don't need darkness Compilation Geographic, 2002
Séance at Hobbs Lane

Mount Vernon Arts Lab

Topcities, 2001
Tiny Waves Mighty Sea

Future Pilot AKA

Geographic, 2001
Be-Bop to Hip-Hop Compilation Demus, 1996
The Rise of the Phoenix Compilation Optimum, 1989
Airspace Compilation EGG Records 1989
A Lighthouse in the Desert Compilation EGG Records 1989[59]

Academic career[edit]

Between 2000-2012, MacDonald worked in the Psychology Department at Glasgow Caledonian University where he led the Glasgow Caledonian Music Psychology Research Group.[1]  Since 2012 he has held the position of Professor of Music Psychology and Improvisation at Edinburgh University and was Head of The School of Music between 2013 and 2016.[5]  He was editor of the journal Psychology of Music between 2006 and 2012.[60]  He runs workshops and lectures internationally on issues relating to composition, improvisation, music education, health and wellbeing  and musical communication.[1]



  • MacDonald, R. and Wilson, G. (2020), The Art of Becoming: How Group Improvisation Works New York: Oxford University Press.[4]

Edited books[edit]

  • MacDonald R.A.R, Miell D & Hargreaves D.J.  EDS (2017), The Oxford Handbook of Musical Identities Oxford: Oxford University Press.[61]
  • MacDonald R.A.R, &. Kreutz, G Mitchell, L.A., EDS (2012),  Music, Health and Wellbeing Oxford: Oxford University Press.[62]
  • Hargreaves D.J.  Miell D & MacDonald R.A.R, EDS (2012), Musical Imaginations Oxford: Oxford University Press.[63]
  • Miell, D. MacDonald R.A.R, & Hargreaves D.J. EDS (2005), Musical Communication Oxford: Oxford University Press.[64]
  • MacDonald R.A.R, Miell D & Hargreaves D.J.  EDS (2002), Musical Identities Oxford: Oxford University Press.[65]

Selected refereed journal articles & book chapters[edit]

  • MacDonald, R.A.R , Burke, R.L.  De Nora , T, Sappho Donohue, M. and Birrell, R. (2021)  Our Virtual Tribe: Sustaining and Enhancing Community via Online Music Improvisation Frontiers in Psychology.[66]
  • MacDonald, R.A.R. and Birrell, R. (2021) Flattening the curve: Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra’s use of virtual improvising to maintain community during COVID-19 pandemic. Critical Studies in Improvisation.[67]
  • MacGlone, U. M.; Vamvakaris, J.; Wilson, G. B. & MacDonald, R. A. R. (2020) ‘Understanding the effects of a community music programme for people with disabilities: a mixed-methods, person-centred study’. Frontiers in Psychology.[68]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Prof Raymond MacDonald (academic staff profile)". Edinburgh College of Art. Retrieved 2021-03-06.
  2. ^ a b c d "Travellin' Light". www.pointofdeparture.org. Retrieved 2021-03-06.
  3. ^ "Tectonics". Retrieved 2021-03-22.
  4. ^ a b MacDonald, Raymond A. R.; Wilson, Graeme B. (2020-06-25). The Art of Becoming: How Group Improvisation Works (1 ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/oso/9780190840914.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-19-084091-4.
  5. ^ a b "Raymond MacDonald". University of Edinburgh Research Explorer. Retrieved 2021-03-22.
  6. ^ "PressReader.com - Your favorite newspapers and magazines". www.pressreader.com. Retrieved 2021-03-22.
  7. ^ MacDonald, Raymond Alfredo Rossi (1996). Structured music workshops for individuals with learning difficulties : an evaluation study (PhD thesis). University of Glasgow.
  8. ^ Hargreaves, David J.; MacDonald, Raymond; Miell, Dorothy (2016-01-01). Hallam, Susan; Cross, Ian; Thaut, Michael (eds.). "Musical Identities". The Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198722946.013.45. ISBN 978-0-19-872294-6. Retrieved 2021-03-24.
  9. ^ "One on one ...with Raymond MacDonald | The Psychologist". thepsychologist.bps.org.uk. Retrieved 2021-03-22.
  10. ^ "Limelight Music". Retrieved 2021-04-16.
  11. ^ "Raymond Macdonald". Glasgow international. Retrieved 2021-03-22.
  12. ^ Kee, Joanne (2013-09-09). "An interview with Raymond MacDonald". Jazz Australia. Retrieved 2021-03-22.
  13. ^ a b Jazz, All About. "Raymond MacDonald: Man with Two Brains article @ All About Jazz". All About Jazz. Retrieved 2021-03-22.
  14. ^ ORCID. "Raymond MacDonald (0000-0002-9748-4480)". orcid.org. Retrieved 2021-03-22.
  15. ^ "heart/noise, by Sensaround". hellosQuare. Retrieved 2021-03-24.
  16. ^ "RAYMOND MACDONALD". JazzMusicArchives.com. Retrieved 2021-03-24.
  17. ^ a b "A new order set to music Visual artist Martin Boyce has formed his own park life with a soundtrack by an innovative collaborator, reports Moira Jeffrey". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 2021-03-24.
  18. ^ "Scarecrows & Lighthouses, part one: Scarecrows, Tramway, Glasgow". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 2021-03-24.
  19. ^ a b "Biography". raymondmacdonald.co.uk. Retrieved 2021-03-24.
  20. ^ "Outlaw King Album – Department Odd". departmentodd.com. Retrieved 2021-03-24.
  21. ^ "Department Odd – a creative avenue for projects – most of which are evolving slowly". departmentodd.com. Retrieved 2021-03-24.
  22. ^ "Event Archive". Improvisation Festival. Retrieved 2021-06-02.
  23. ^ This is not improvised but that is: Lockdown 2020, retrieved 2021-06-02
  24. ^ GIOfest XIII - Theatre Of The Home by Maria Sappho and Raymond MacDonald, retrieved 2021-03-28
  25. ^ "with Raymond MacDonald". Sappho. Retrieved 2021-03-28.
  26. ^ Smith, Robin. "Raymond MacDonald + Rachel Joy Weiss". Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. Retrieved 2021-03-28.
  27. ^ "Return to Y'Hup: The World of Ivor Cutler review – tribute to surreal poet's fantasy island". the Guardian. 2020-01-30. Retrieved 2021-03-28.
  28. ^ "Citizen Bravo, Raymond MacDonald and Friends: Return to Y'Hup: The World of Ivor Cutler review – charming tribute to a national treasure". the Guardian. 2020-01-18. Retrieved 2021-03-28.
  29. ^ "Musical celebration of Muriel Spark to take centre stage at Edinburgh Festival Fringe". www.scotsman.com. Retrieved 2021-03-28.
  30. ^ "Celtic Connections: Raymond MacDonald & Friends - Works Inspired by Muriel Spark at The Glad Cafe, Glasgow on 18 Jan 2019". The Glad Cafe. Retrieved 2021-03-28.
  31. ^ "SILENT MUSIC | SEEING SOUND | Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture". www.royalscottishacademy.org. 2018-12-17. Retrieved 2021-03-28.
  32. ^ "Graphic Scores: Jo Ganter & Raymond MacDonald". ganter | macdonald. 2015-06-01. Retrieved 2021-03-28.
  33. ^ "Live tour of new commission for 'Free Cinema' film 'Together' (1956): Beyond Borders". PRS for Music Foundation. Retrieved 2021-03-28.
  34. ^ Owen, Benjamin (2021-04-23), 'Calling Names' Raymond MacDonald & Jer Reid, retrieved 2021-06-02
  35. ^ "Firestation Records | Germany's No. 1 Indie Pop Label". firestation-records.de. Retrieved 2021-06-08.
  36. ^ Schweben - Ay, but Can Ye? by Barry Guy, retrieved 2021-03-23
  37. ^ Stepping Between the Shadows by Alister Spence & Raymond MacDonald, retrieved 2021-03-23
  38. ^ "Improcherto (for HB) by George Burt, by Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra with Lol Coxhill & Evan Parker". Iorram Records. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  39. ^ "Lin Flax, by Raymond MacDonald & David Stackenäs". Iorram Records. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  40. ^ Buddy by The Raymond MacDonald International Big Band, Jim O'Rourke & Toby Hall, retrieved 2021-03-23
  41. ^ Cities by Raymond MacDonald, Satoko Fujii, Neil Davidson, Natsuki Tamura, Tom Bancroft, retrieved 2021-03-23
  42. ^ "Streetlevel, by Peter Nicholson & Raymond MacDonald". Iorram Records. Retrieved 2021-03-27.
  43. ^ "Metamorphic Rock, by Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra & George Lewis". Iorram Records. Retrieved 2021-03-27.
  44. ^ Other Voices by Raymond MacDonald / Aoife Mannix, retrieved 2021-03-27
  45. ^ Rich In Knuckles – Listen Big (2005, CD), retrieved 2021-06-08
  46. ^ "George Burt / Raymond MacDonald Septet". Discogs. Retrieved 2021-06-08.
  47. ^ The Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra With Maggie Nicols – Which Way Did He Go? (2005, CD), retrieved 2021-06-08
  48. ^ Hotel Dilettante by Lol Coxhill & The George Burt & Raymond MacDonald Quintet, retrieved 2021-06-08
  49. ^ George Burt / Raymond MacDonald Sextet featuring Keith Tippett – A Day For A Reason (2005, CD), retrieved 2021-06-08
  50. ^ Raymond MacDonald / Giles Lamb – Asylum Sessions (2005, CDr), retrieved 2021-06-08
  51. ^ The Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra With Evan Parker – Munich And Glasgow (2004, CD), retrieved 2021-06-08
  52. ^ George Burt / Raymond MacDonald Octet Featuring Lol Coxhill – Popcorn (2004, CD), retrieved 2021-06-08
  53. ^ The George Burt / Raymond MacDonald Quartet With Lol Coxhill – Coxhill Street (2002, CD), retrieved 2021-06-08
  54. ^ Burt/MacDonald4, Lol Coxhill – Tsunami (2001, CD), retrieved 2021-06-08
  55. ^ Remember Fun – Train Journeys EP (2001, CD), retrieved 2021-06-08
  56. ^ George Burt Raymond MacDonald Quartet – Big Brothers (2000, CD), retrieved 2021-06-08
  57. ^ George Burt Raymond MacDonald Quartet – Oh Hello (1998, CD), retrieved 2021-06-08
  58. ^ The Hung Drawn Quartet – A Train In The Distance (1995, CD), retrieved 2021-06-08
  59. ^ A Lighthouse In The Desert (1989, Vinyl), retrieved 2021-03-23
  60. ^ Max-Planck-Institut. "IDEA Lecture with Raymond MacDonald: The Art of Becoming: what is improvisation and why is it important". www.aesthetics.mpg.de. Retrieved 2021-03-26.
  61. ^ Raymond A. R. MacDonald; David J. Hargreaves; Dorothy Miell, eds. (2017). Handbook of musical identities (First ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-175999-4. OCLC 975027391.
  62. ^ MacDonald, Raymond; Kreutz, Gunter; Mitchell, Laura, eds. (2012-02-23). Music, Health, and Wellbeing. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199586974.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-19-958697-4.
  63. ^ David J. Hargreaves; Dorothy Miell; Raymond A. R. MacDonald, eds. (2012). Musical imaginations: multidisciplinary perspectives on creativity, performance, and perception. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-956808-6. OCLC 753300206.
  64. ^ Dorothy Miell; Raymond A. R. MacDonald; David J. Hargreaves, eds. (2005). Musical communication. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-852936-8. OCLC 58546138.
  65. ^ Raymond A. R. MacDonald; David J. Hargreaves; Dorothy Miell, eds. (2002). Musical identities. Oxford University Press. ISBN 1-4237-0562-9. OCLC 667096025.
  66. ^ MacDonald, Raymond; Burke, Robert; De Nora, Tia; Sappho Donohue, Maria; Birrell, Ross (2021-02-23). "Our Virtual Tribe: Sustaining and Enhancing Community via Online Music Improvisation". Frontiers in Psychology. 11: 623640. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.623640. ISSN 1664-1078. PMC 7940664. PMID 33708151.
  67. ^ MacDonald, Raymond; Birrell, Ross (2021-05-06). "Flattening the Curve: Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra's Use of Virtual Improvising to Maintain Community During the COVID-19 Pandemic". Critical Studies in Improvisation / Études critiques en improvisation. 14 (2–3). ISSN 1712-0624.
  68. ^ MacGlone, Una M.; Vamvakaris, Joy; Wilson, Graeme B.; MacDonald, Raymond A. R. (2020-12-14). "Understanding the Wellbeing Effects of a Community Music Program for People With Disabilities: A Mixed Methods, Person-Centered Study". Frontiers in Psychology. 11: 588734. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.588734. ISSN 1664-1078. PMC 7768027. PMID 33381067.

External links[edit]