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On Education, Drumming and Strumming

DOI: 10.32063/0301

Christina Kobb

Christina Kobb studied piano and pedagogy at the Norwegian Academy of Music before shifting her focus to historical performance practices. Her doctoral research on 19th-century piano playing was featured in the New York Times and grounded her 2017 Carnegie Hall debut. Christina works freelance and lectures at the Norwegian Academy of Music.

by Christina Kobb

Music & Practice, Volume 3

Editorial


As we saw in the survey above, scholars, musicians and representatives of European music institutions have shared their thoughts on future musicianship and present educational practices. Many of the authors had taken the opportunity to read the article by Esther Bishop and Martin Tröndle which we present in this issue, ‘Tertiary musical performance education: An artistic education for life or an out-dated concept of musicianship?’ In a study by Bishop and Tröndle, more than 300 graduates with performance degrees on orchestral instruments from German conservatoires were interviewed about their initial aspirations, the curriculum at their respective conservatoire and their career development. The results clearly reflect the hiatus between present educational practices and future musicianship.  Reading the students’ replies should interest us all, as musicians’ job market is changing in most countries.

To some extent related, Brit Ågot Brøske and Jon Helge Sætre conducted a study aimed specifically at ‘exploring professional work placement’ during the Master’s programme in music performance at the Norwegian Academy of Music. Their article, ‘Becoming a musician in practice: a case study’, discusses how professional work placement offers the students realistic experiences of their prospective future and may help them form a clearer understanding of their career options. For some students, this experience even prompted reflections on their “reasons for becoming a musician, and what kind of musicians they would like to become” (article quote). Turning more actively to performance, we are happy to include in this issue a thought-provoking and well-written text on the study of performance from a performer’s embodied experience. Notably both a drummer and an editor of Journal of Popular Music Education, Gareth Dylan Smith is in the rare position of possessing performance and pedagogic – as well as academic – expertise in his field. In his writing, the ‘Embodied experience of rock drumming’ oscillates between scholarly presentation and excerpts from his own ‘drumming diary’ of performance reflections. Smith thus develops, in full knowledge of all the theoretical challenges involved, an autoethnographic approach to drumming, and invites his readers into a world normally ignored by scholars examining rock music. Putting ‘the direct experience of the performer’ in the centre and not the listener is the advantage and novelty of this approach.

Finally, the composer Hector Berlioz and his remarkable Symphonie fantastique anchor this issue of Music & Practice in history – perhaps all the way back to the Paris conservatoire and Berlioz’s four attempts at winning Prix de Rome. The interesting question, however, is the extent to which Berlioz himself depended on historical models and methods. In ‘Fantasizing at the guitar: Remarks on the compositional practice of Berlioz’, our editor-in-chief, Erlend Hovland, discusses the intriguing genesis of this work. The article is a fascinating example of how closely instrumental practices may be knit together with compositional practices.

Finally, we would like to thank all authors for sharing their knowledge, insights and research, and for trusting us with the presentation of their ideas and their work. We would also like to thank Harald Jørgensen, Celia Duffy, Anne Danielsen, Stephen Broad, and Per Elias Drabløs who have provided invaluable advice in revising the peer-reviewed articles (Section 2) in the earlier stages. Finally, thanks are due to all authors who sent in articles for consideration, together with all peer reviewers and our editorial team.

On behalf of Music & Practice,

Christina Kobb

Becoming a musician in practice: a case study

Table of contents

DOI: 10.32063/0303

Brit Ågot Brøske and Jon Helge Sætre

Senior Lecturer in music didactics at the Norwegian Academy of Music, Oslo, Brit Ågot Brøske, is strongly engaged in a music project for refugee children in Lebanon. Her research focuses on multicultural music education, community music activities, teacher training, and music students’ experiences from challenging and unfamiliar professional placement situations.

Jon Helge Sætre, Associate Professor in music education (PhD), is currently Director of the Centre of Excellence in Music Performance Education (CEMPE), at the Norwegian Academy of Music, Oslo. Sætre has taught music on all levels and, as a pianist, has performed and recorded contemporary chamber music with renowned ensembles like Oslo Sinfonietta and Affinis Ensemble.

Background

This article presents results from a case study exploring forms of professional work placement in specialist higher music education. The case study is carried out at the Norwegian Academy of Music (NMH) and is one of several research and development projects located within NMH’s Centre of Excellence in Music Performance Education (CEMPE). A main aim of CEMPE is to develop knowledge about learning and teaching in music performance education contexts, in order to contribute to enhancing the quality of their educational programmes. The present case study is part of the research project Together for better learning, a collaborative project involving several Bergen University Faculties and CEMPE.

The Hammerfest project is one of several elective projects within a compulsory course in the Master’s programme. These projects give students an opportunity to plan and carry out demanding interdisciplinary, collaborative projects, according to the Master’s programme curriculum. The main aim is to stimulate reflection around the role and function of music and musicians in society. The project takes place in Hammerfest during one intensive week in February. Hammerfest is one of the northernmost cities in the world, and the project is a collaboration between the Norwegian Academy of Music, several partners in Hammerfest municipality and the multinational Oil and Gas Company Statoil. During one week more than 300 children, 100 adults and 15 Master’s degree students perform and collaborate in making music. The project is driven by five interconnected principles. First, a high degree of collaboration pervades the whole project, both among the students and with amateur musicians, children and disabled people across different disciplines. Second, the project includes artistic presentations in traditional venues such as churches or concert halls, where the students assume full responsibility for curating the events. The third element is artistic presentations in less traditional arenas for performance, such as private homes or workplaces, where the students are challenged by the intimacy between audience and performers. Fourth, conscious contemplation of the relationships between performers and audiences is encouraged: students are hosted in private homes when they are in Hammerfest, and dialogues between musicians and audiences take place in the performance venues. And finally, the fifth element is a high degree of reflection through dialogues with and among the students, to make sense of and evaluate their experiences.

The Professional orchestra placement programme is an elective course at the Master’s level, to which students are admitted by audition. Over a period of two years, students participate as orchestra musicians in professional orchestras during 12 week-long rehearsal and concert projects. The students are paid, and they receive 18 ECTS on completing the placement programme. Each student is appointed a supervisor from the orchestra, normally one of the orchestral musicians. Two professional orchestras are involved in the programme. The programme is described on the NMH webpages, but the description does not include information about aims, objectives or content.

by Brit Ågot Brøske and Jon Helge Sætre

Music & Practice, Volume 3

Scientific

Tags: higher music education, work placement, learning, practice, socio-cultural theory


double bass player

Musicians of the future? (Photo: Zbigniew Ziggi Wantuch).

Introduction

There seems to be increased scholarly debate about development in higher music education (HME) institutions. A central point of this debate is highlighted by the framing of the current issue of Music & Practice: What are the characteristics of musician of the future, and are current educational practices helping students develop these characteristics? Some research studies advance the view that the labour market for musicians is changing.1) Esther Bishop and Martin Tröndle, ‘Tertiary Music Performance Education: An Artistic Education for Life or an out-Dated Concept of Musicianship?’, Music & Practice 3 (2017), https://www.musicandpractice.org; Rineke Smilde, Musicians as Lifelong Learners: 32 Biographies (Delft: Eburon Academic, 2009). According to these studies, the future musician, as well as the majority of today’s music graduates, will have to combine a range of work positions and settings. They will become what is described as the portfolio or protean musician,2) Dawn Elizabeth Bennett, Understanding the Classical Music Profession the Past, the Present and Strategies for the Future (Farnham: Ashgate, 2008). with only a few having the traditional role of orchestral musician. Bishop and Tröndle claim that specialist HME has had trouble adjusting to these changes.3)Bishop and Tröndle, ‘Tertiary Music Performance Education’. Yet several ongoing initiatives are focusing on innovation within HME, including ICON (The Innovative Conservatoire), NAIP (New Audiences and Innovative Practices)4)Rineke Smilde and Sigurdor Halldórsson, ‘‘New Audiences and Innovative Practice’: An International Master’s Programme with Critical Reflection and Mentoring at the Heart of an Artistic Laboratory’, in Collaborative Learning in Higher Music Education, ed. by Helena Gaunt and Heidi Westerlund (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013). and CEMPE. And a number of research studies explore both traditional and new forms of aspects of musical learning such as one-to-one tuition, group tuition, peer learning, self-reflective practice, mentoring, and assessment and digital technology.5)See Helena Gaunt, ‘One-to-One Tuition in a Conservatoire: The Perceptions of Instrumental and Vocal Students’, Psychology of Music 38 (2010), pp. 178–208; Bjørg J. Bjøntegaard, ‘A Combination of One-to-One Teaching and Small Group Teaching in Music Education in Norway: A Good Model for Teaching?’, British Journal of Music Education 32 (2015), pp. 23–36; Ingrid Maria Hanken, ‘Peer Learning in Specialist Higher Music Education’, Arts and Humanities in Higher Education 15 (2016), pp. 364–75; Morten Carlsen, ‘De- and Relearning the Violin: A Short Reflection’, Arts and Humanities in Higher Education 15 (2016); Helena Gaunt, Andrea Creech, Marion Long and Susan Hallam, ‘Supporting Conservatoire Students Towards Professional Integration: One-to-One Tuition and the Potentional of Mentoring’, Music Education Research 14 (2012), pp. 25–43; Julius Pranevicius, ‘Rich Feedback and Assessment Environment in a Horn Studio: Practising Scales’, Arts and Humanities in Higher Education 15 (2016), www.artsandhumanities.org/journal/rich-feedback-and-assessment-environment-in-a-horn-studio-practising-scales/. These contributions discuss and challenge the relevance of current HME practices, and they stimulate a scholarly debate that aims to understand and employ different approaches to learning and teaching in HME.

The benefits of work placement are quite thoroughly described by research studies in a number of higher education settings, such as teacher education.6)Donald J. Boyd, Pamela Grossman, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb and James Wyckoff, ‘Teacher Preparation and Student Achievement’, Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis 31 (2009), pp. 416–40; Suzanne M Wilson, Robert E. Floden and Joan Ferrini-Mundy, ‘Teacher Preparation Research: An Insider’s View from the Outside’, Journal of Teacher Education 53 (2002), pp. 190–204. Work placement is thought to link on-campus activity to professional practice, and thereby to increase the relevance of the educational programmes. Systematic use of work placement is probably less frequent in specialist HME,7)Harald Jørgensen, Research into Higher Music Education. An Overview from a Quality Improvement Perspective (Oslo: Novus Press, 2009). but music students may still be deeply involved in off-campus professional or semi-professional practice. Students enter HME as aspiring musicians; they may already be involved in a number of self-initiated projects and may even have experience from the professional field of music. An institutional survey carried out at NMH shows that specialist music students spend considerable time in various off-campus professional settings, and they spend time developing their own artistic projects. Furthermore, the survey indicates that students find these activities highly relevant for future work,8)See also Magnus Dahlberg, ‘Learning across Contexts: Music Performance Students’ Construction of Learning Trajectories’ (PhD diss., Norwegian Academy of Music, 2013). and that more than half of the students would welcome an increase of professional practice and work placement as parts of their study programmes. Still, there are few studies investigating what students actually learn in and from such activities.

The present study contributes to this debate by investigating the potential of work placement and professional practice as part of specialist HME. The aim is to explore what students learn in and from two different placement settings, both of which are parts of the Master’s programme at NMH. Among the questions addressed here, the most important is that of what, precisely, students learn in and from these contexts of practice. We examine the ways learning takes place in the two selected cases and the factors influencing and contributing to students’ learning. Further, the article includes discussion about the differences between on-campus and off-campus learning and possible deficits in current educational practices.

Two cases of practice

hammerfest project, children playing violin

Figure 1 Students and teachers collaborating in the Hammerfest project. (Photo: Eybjørn Paulsen).


Students and teachers collaborating in the Hammerfest project. (Photo: Eybjørn Paulsen).

To explore what students learn in different placement settings, the project was designed as a case study.9)Robert K. Yin, Case Study Research. 4th edn (London: SAGE, 2009). The overall case context is the Master’s programme in music performance at the Norwegian Academy of Music, and the study is therefore best understood as a single case study. Within this programme, two units of analysis are selected. These particular units are selected because of their many differences. The rationale for emphasizing difference as the criterion of selection is to make room for contrastive and comparative perspectives on students’ perceptions of learning in work placement contexts. The two units are the Hammerfest project and the Professional orchestra placement programme (see text box for details).

Since the aim of this study is to explore the students’ perceptions of learning in the two placement settings, the focus group interview was selected as the method of collecting empirical data. Focus group interviews are well suited for creating an exploratory dialogue, and for making room for both agreement and disagreement on the selected topics.10)Victoria Wibeck, Fokusgrupper: Om Fokuserade Gruppintervjuer Som Undersökningsmetod (Lund: Studentlitteratur, 2010). The group setting also makes room for an effective, descriptive conversation, since the interviewees have the opportunity to correct, adjust, supplement and add perspectives to the joint conversation.11)David L. Morgan, Focus Groups as Qualitative Research. 2 edn (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1997). Five students were selected from the Hammerfest project (four females and one male), and four from the professional orchestra placement programme (two females and two males). All students had taken part in these activities recently. The Orchestra group members were selected in such a way as to represent more than one orchestra and more than one type of instrument. The students are called Student A, B, C and D in the transcripts.

Both focus group interviews were conducted by the same researcher, and the other took the role as an observer. The interview guide consisted of four main themes: description, ways of learning, responsibility and outcomes. When the main interviewer was about to end the interview, the observer was asked whether he had additional questions. This strategy turned out to have some benefits, since the observer could add questions based on his interpretation of the entire interview dialogue. The interviews were transcribed in the original language (Norwegian), and the transcripts were subjected to coding and collaborative interpretation by the two researchers.

The first level of coding followed the main themes of the interview guide (description, learning, responsibility and outcome), and the data was further analysed to reveal the variety of perceptions of value, relevance and ways of learning.

Learning in practice

The present study takes a socio-cultural view of learning, emphasizing the relational, social and cultural features of learning and learning situations, and the importance of understanding the relationships between learning and tools.12)See Lev S. Vygotsky, Mind and Society. The Development of Higher Psychological Processes (Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press, 1978). From this theoretical point of view, the Hammerfest project and the orchestra programme should be different in many ways. They take place in different cultural arenas (orchestras, schools, family homes, etc.), they involve collaboration between students and different groups of people (musicians, conductors, fellow students, pupils, teachers, audiences), and they include different tools in the Vygotskian sense (e.g. language and psychological and physical artefacts). Social relations are also at the core of the concept of collaborative learning. Gaunt & Westerlund see collaborative learning as the most powerful way to deal with today’s challenges in HME, such as the imperative for networking, innovation, negotiating cultural differences, developing professional flexibility, and to be able to meet new situations and social contexts imaginatively and with empathy. According to them, this goes ‘hand in hand with the increasingly accepted understanding of learning as social endeavour, and of teachers being facilitators and co-learners rather than doorkeepers of learning’.13)Helena Gaunt and Heidi Westerlund, eds, Collaborative Learning in Higher Music Education (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013), p. 1.

The interplay between the roles of social relations and cultural tools in learning is a central premise for the concept of the proximal development zone, which denotes the distance between what a learner is capable of achieving on his or her own, and what the learner is capable of achieving with help from others.14)Vygotsky, Mind and Society. According to Wittek, in a learning relationship, the more experienced person contributes with ways of conceptualizing the learner’s understanding and provides cultural artefacts which the learner uses to create learning experiences and develop his or her constructions of knowledge.15)Line Wittek, ‘Sosiokulturelle Tilnærminger Til Læring’, in Pedagogikk: En Grunnbok, ed. by Janick Heldal Stray and Line Wittek (Oslo: Cappelen Damm Akademisk, 2014), pp. 133–48. In this sense, it is of interest to study whether and how social relations are apparent in students’ stories about learning experiences. Social relations may take the form of informal social interaction or formal arenas for supervision and reflecting in and on practice, which Schön identifies as an important part of developing professional knowledge.16)Donald Schön, The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action (New York: Basic Books, 1984).

Several research studies on higher education advocate bridging the gap between on- and off-campus learning by emphasizing pedagogies of enactment in higher education and allowing students to practise a set of core practices.17)Pamela Grossman, Karen Hammerness and Morva McDonald, ‘Redefining Teaching, Re-Imaging Teacher Education’, Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice 15 (2009), pp. 273–89. A central point is that on-campus practising of professional core practices (approximations of practice) can be carried out in low-risk settings, where students are allowed to experiment and falter.18)Pamela Grossman, Christa Compton, Danielle Igra, Matthew Ronfeldt, Emily Shahan and Peter Williamson, ‘Teaching Practice: A Cross-Professional Perspective’, Teachers College Record 111 (2009), pp. 2055–2100. In comparison, real-life professional practice is a more complex high-risk learning setting. Further, the concept of core practices identifies two major questions for HME. First, what can be defined as core practices for higher education music graduates? And second, is practising these core practices the best way of developing professional competence? From the viewpoint of socio-cultural theories of learning, meeting different contexts of practice (activity systems) may have the potential of providing learning ‘new forms of activity which are not yet there’, in the words of Yrjö Engeström.19)Yrjö Engeström, ‘Expansive Learning at Work: Toward an Activity Theoretical Reconceptualization’, Journal of Education and Work 14 (2001), pp. 133–56. The contexts of professional practice selected in the present study can still both be defined as core practices for musicians, the Hammerfest project representing the portfolio musician20)Bennett, Understanding the Classical Music Profession. and the orchestra programme representing the professional orchestral musician. It is of interest to find out how students perceive the value and relevance of these different practices, and to examine in some detail what students actually learn from them. This may give some hints about the potential of these forms of practice for the development of future musicians, as well as the differences between on-campus and off-campus learning in HME.

Interview findings: Learning and levels of risk

According to the interview data, the students perceived the Hammerfest project as an expansive form of practice, a project characterized mainly by its large number of unfamiliar activities, which took the students out of their comfort zones. They were involved in many artistic productions, and aimed at the same time at high artistic quality. The students reported that ‘this was a mind-opener, in a way, as we were tossed into many different challenges’, and ‘we were entrusted with teaching and things we don’t usually do’. Activities and tasks entailed performing in various and unfamiliar types of concerts, collaborating with children and amateurs, improvising, collaborating with and performing for unfamiliar audiences, collaborating extensively with other students and participating in everyday reflection sessions. The students did not prepare specific things in advance, though:

We were told that it would get intense and that we should be ready for whatever turned up. We should also be prepared to play a lot of different pieces; that we could be challenged to jump headlong into it, and that happened as well.

These unfamiliar and somewhat ‘scary’ high-risk activities were, however, embedded in a low-risk atmosphere. The students were all ‘in it together’ and the people in Hammerfest were ‘so open’. As one student put it: ‘We are all in the same boat, that is the feeling’. A feeling of openness – due to having to cope with different challenges, where the students had to move out of their comfort-zones – was valued by several of the students. One student would have liked to be forced into such situations more often, ‘for it to become more natural. But ideally, I think everyone wishes they could be this open when playing any concert’. This feeling is also something they want to bring with them to other projects and situations:

The next time you find yourself in such a situation – then – from here, everything can happen. I am ready. I am open. Always open, always ready. So maybe that is what is the most important.

Another important component of the Hammerfest project seems to be the limited time for planning and rehearsal, which is seen as both a high-risk feature and a fruitful experience.

What I have learned for later is that, although I normally plan and rehearse for a concert long time in advance, it is also possible to prepare a concert in half an hour. It’s not dangerous, it’s fine, and it will be good! That is something I will remember.

Another student says:

It feels like we got a new perspective on concerts when we were there. Or, we knew that there were so many concerts and too little time to prepare, so you didn’t even have the time to get nervous. And then you could care for the moment on stage. It might be the same pressure there as here, but there we could better see the things that went on around us.

Students also comment on being generally more open and free in Hammerfest. Participating in unfamiliar activities contributed to turn the focus away from themselves and their own performing. This is clearly seen as different from the life on campus:

I think we limit ourselves on campus. You have your field of expertise, and think that we should not move outside it.
You are in a bubble at the Academy. You stay in the rehearsal room five hours a day, and everything is about your sound, … but there is so much more to it than just the playing.

The Hammerfest project seems therefore to represent a rather special practice context, since it represents the complex, high-risk features of professional practice while at the same time presenting this complexity in a low-risk setting.21)Grossman et al, ‘Teaching Practice’. Apparently, the students also need to enter practice in order to understand that musicianship is more than ‘just the playing’.

The high degree of collaboration seems to be an important feature of the low-risk setting. Collaborating with fellow students pervades the week in Hammerfest. In particular, it seems to have led to positive social relations between the students.

Something really positive this year, was the unbeatable mood among the students, which made everything easy.

Students say that they normally have a low interest in collaborating with other students on campus: ‘But there, something about the mood just changed me. I became more motivated to collaborate’. The low degree of collaboration on campus is commented by another student: ‘We have not had any projects like this one, or at least I have not participated in any. I have been here for five years’. In the Hammerfest project collaboration is twinned with a high degree of responsibility, as well as freedom. This is seen as a positive thing, since the students appreciate the feeling of being in charge, as well as being challenged: ‘We had quite a lot of freedom’, ‘we could choose what to participate in’, and

I think of the project with the young kids. We just got two days, no plan or instructions, but 12 or 10 persons just have to create something together. I have never done that before. We started from nothing – what shall we do? It turned out well in the end.

This degree of responsibility is also described as almost too high, ‘everybody got a bit shocked’. But another student answers:

They may have tried to show us that you have something in you, trust that, try to challenge yourself, explore it. The fact that we didn’t have any frames scared everybody. But then creativity kicks in and you get to know yourself. So, through this project, I think everyone tasted a bit of that.

In comparison, the Orchestra programme seems to be a ‘single-activity’ or focussed form of professional practice. Asked to describe the programme, one of the students responds briefly: ‘Rehearsing and performing orchestra repertoire, in a professional orchestra’. This type of activity is familiar to the students; it is perceived as the ‘most obvious form of practice’ there is. However, the context is described as high risk, with little room for failure. To be allowed a place in the programme is described as ‘a dream come true’, ‘to get to work with some of the best musicians in this nation, work closely with them’. Yet it is accompanied by a feeling of anxiety: ‘After being granted a place in the programme … it became more a sense of nervousness than me having great expectations’. The rest of the students agree. Student A adds: ‘You know, there is only me playing my part’, and another follows up with saying ‘It is a bit frightening if there is a lot to do [musically]. You get a bit nervous. But that is a good thing [laughs]’. One student describes the meeting with the orchestra like this:

Student B: I tried not to be visible at all, because in my first week the programme was so crazy that I was just terrified [several students laugh]. So I tried just to enter and sit down and play the as softly as I could.

Students A and B add that is was really not much different than being a regular freelance substitute, and even that many orchestra members probably think that’s what they are.

The students report different experiences of the degree to which they have influence over which productions to participate in and hence over repertoire. Student C reports having a great deal of influence over which weeks he worked, and says he selected the weeks in order to perform a varied repertoire and meet different conductors. He even had a week with the chief conductor, he says. Students A and B say they had no influence over these matters, and they seem to be quite sorry about this. Student A says she did not have a week with the chief conductor. The researcher asks the students whether they have influence over other issues, and Student C answers: ‘There isn’t much to influence, is there?’ Further, all students say that they are ‘taken seriously’ by the orchestra and the orchestral musicians. However, they also say that many in the orchestra seem not to know that they are placement students. The students also have different experiences with the degree to which they are given musical responsibilities. Student D seems to content. Student B seems to be happy with a rather limited position, while Student A reveals disappointment with not being trusted more, musically:

Student B talks about the difference between the solo and tutti position, and seems to be more confident with the tutti position.
Student A: But – that is different from person to person, how we see that issue.
Researcher: Of course.
Student A: I like to have responsibility.
Researcher: You would like to have more?
Student A: Eh. Yes, personally, I have worked as solo many places, and I think that is perfect. …  It would have been great to try that once, to actually have responsibility [in the placement orchestra]. But then they have to trust me [laughs].

In sum, both forms of practice are perceived as high-risk contexts, the first because of its unfamiliar, non-typical features and the second because of its high professional level. Both are valued highly, but Hammerfest seems to stimulate an open discourse on the possibilities of musical activities, while the Orchestra programme seems to stimulate a focussed, traditional musical discourse. The Hammerfest context is manageable because the positive social relations between the students create the necessary low-risk atmosphere. Moreover, they learn and experience that it is okay if they don’t always perform (or solve the tasks) at their best, and if they try new things. They are allowed to experiment, in other words, to explore and falter. In the orchestra placement, the tasks are all familiar, but firmly placed in a high-risk context. The fact that there is little room for failure seems to be one of the reasons why the practice context is seen as such a valuable learning arena for these dedicated future orchestral musicians.

Interview findings: supervision and reflection

Both groups of students seem to find supervision and feedback (from teachers, peers or experienced musicians) an important factor stimulating learning in practice, in addition to the very experience of practice itself.

Participating in reflective sessions is experienced differently in Hammerfest than in regular, on-campus sessions. The students find it more important and easier to participate in reflection in Hammerfest. One student says that she just isn’t used to reflecting during her everyday life, but here in Hammerfest everything was so different and unfamiliar that reflection became more necessary. In the beginning, the everyday reflective sessions were seen as something new and unfamiliar, but they turned out to be a predictable daily session: ‘We did many things that were new and unfamiliar. But we always sat down and reflected on it’. Collaborating with, and getting to know the other students, is seen as a condition for participating in the reflective dialogues. This contributed positively to the social relations among the students, which led to high motivation for participating in the everyday reflective meetings:

I find it difficult to present ideas in the regular classes, when I don’t know who is listening. So, it felt more comfortable to talk and think, knowing who the others were.

The high degree of collaboration in Hammerfest is a central part of the students’ positive experiences, which is in keeping with the socio-cultural view of learning, including research on collaborative learning. Thus, social relations – with peers and audiences both – seem to be central to the way students learn in the project, and the collaborative, reflective approach seem to be a key factor in making these learning experiences explicit. The students reported that their need to reflect on activities in which they themselves were participating, along with high-quality questions from the project leader, motivated them to participate actively in the reflective meetings. One student says:

Maybe the fact that we reflected on something that we, ourselves, were a part of, was important. Meaning that we were actively participating in something, and then talking about it afterwards, and it felt important to talk about it, since we were going to do the same thing the next day.

Participating in reflective dialogues contributed further to a continuously higher degree of reflection during the days:

The daily meetings of reflecting together and listening to what the others had to say contributed to making reflection a part of my own work. We discussed the meaning of what we were doing, and we carried it with us during the day, keeping in mind what to bring to the meetings.

All the students assigned high value and significance to reflection. One student describes it this way:

I really believe that being in a dialogue with others speeds up your own development. In a dialogue, you receive, it is like talking to yourself, only much, much faster, you get input like this [snaps], like we do now. I get a bunch of different views at the same time, as a supplement to my own thoughts – which doesn’t happen very often.

This student mentions another, quite similar project, where she very much needed to reflect with others, without any allocated time to do so: ‘I didn’t have anyone to reflect with there. If we would have sat down like here, reflecting everyday – that is true. It’s brilliant!’ This is underscored by another student, who relates the high degree of interest in reflection to the fact that the project was unfamiliar and challenging: ‘When we have an orchestra project and play together for a week, it’s only that – we’ve always done it. We don’t need to reflect as much, since we’ve played in orchestras and been used to that since childhood’. Another student agrees: ‘I think I am just not used to reflecting. It is just a habit. But here, everything is so unusual, that you more or less have to reflect, or else you become crazy, and you will not understand what is going on’.

The orchestra students find supervision and feedback important, but they describe a context in which this happens both in less formal ways and less frequently. They have different experiences with how formal supervision is handled by the orchestras. Student C reported not knowing that he was entitled a supervisor or contact person, and Student D is happy not having one. Student A has had fruitful one-to-one lessons with an orchestra musician – quite traditional lessons focussing on repertoire. The students agree that there is a need for better communication between NMH and the orchestras on the matter of supervision.

However, the students find that different types of informal supervision and feedback from fellow musicians are the most positive experiences in the placement programme:

Student A: The best part is when the one who sits next to me offers constructive feedback. This has taught me so much, for instance how incredibly loud you can play when you’re playing second on your instrument … You don’t get that [kind of feedback] as a freelancer.

The degree of feedback the students receive varies. Some orchestra musicians provide a lot of feedback, ‘while others don’t say a thing’.

The students identify constructive feedback from experienced fellow musicians (mainly individual feedback from the person ‘next to me’) as a highly valuable way of learning in orchestra practice. Again, social relations play an important role, this time very much in line with the Vygotskian concept of the zone of proximal development.22)Vygotsky, Mind and Society.

Interview findings: value and relevance

Both groups of students seem to find the programmes valuable and relevant, but for quite different reasons. A main difference is that the Hammerfest project seems to challenge the identity of the student musician, while the Orchestra programme seems to confirm it. One of the Hammerfest students says: ‘This inspires me to reflect more about the presentation of music, more than playing with the correct sound’. And another: ‘Here, the attention was directed at creating something together. This made me turn the focus away from myself, and think more about the audiences’. Several of the students talk about how the connection with, or the focus on, audiences made them more aware of how to present their music: ‘From now on I will perhaps think differently about all of my concerts’. This is linked to a shift in focus:

Now I have realized that a concert is about the music and playing together. I got to play in the big band with the locals here in Hammerfest. It was all about getting a grip of the music and make a good show.

The Hammerfest students start to question the reasons for becoming a musician, and what kind of musicians they would like to become. The project ‘made me start thinking’ about the future. A student questions whether ‘how I look, how I sound’ is all there is to it. ‘Should I just keep doing that for the rest of my life? … If I start teaching, what will my role be?’ and she adds: ‘Shouldn’t we expand the expectations?’ The students may not want to continue doing all of the activities they did in Hammerfest, but they find the experiences coming from the project important for their development as future musicians.

All the Orchestra students also find the programme highly valuable. Student A says ‘I am big-time satisfied’, and Student D says that the programme is the very reason he applied for the Master’s programme in the first place. It is the single most important thing for him, he says, because it is about what he wants. There are several reasons the students value the placement programme. One is as a pathway into a professional, high-level orchestra. ‘It is a way in’, the students say. A second, related issue is networking. The students find this highly valuable: ‘You get the chance to talk to people. And boom, you are in. In a way, that is what the Master’s programme is about’. Third, the students are grateful for the work experience the placement programme gives them, to be given the chance to play in a real orchestra for two years. And they state the importance of working in the same orchestra with the same people during an extended period of time. This gives them the chance to get to know the orchestra culture, to understand what kind of musicians the orchestra is looking for, and to pick up some hints about what to focus on in auditions. According to the students, things are more difficult to understand as a freelancer, as freelance work means shorter contracts in a number of orchestras. When asked about whether the placement programme has changed their view of their professional role, Student B says that it has. Her goal is no longer to become the solo player on her instrument (in the orchestra). She has realized that she rather would play second. She likes to follow, to blend in, she says, and is happy to avoid the stressful solo position. Her colleague, Student A, maintains that her goal is still to become the solo player.

In the last part of the interview, the students start discussing another course in the Master’s programme, in which students develop their own projects in creative ways. Student B is critical, or even ironic, and describe the idea as «these creative projects that preferably should be with cool lighting, smoke on stage or at places with no people, and the best is perhaps if you don’t play a single note’. These students seem to be devoted to the idea of becoming orchestral musicians, and talks about this as Plan A. The Master’s Programme, however, seems to «start with Plan B from the very beginning’, according to Student D. That is, to prepare students for a job situation outside the orchestra.

In sum, the two contexts of learning could be seen as core practices,23)Grossman et al, ‘Redefining Teaching’, pp. 273–89. due to their resemblance of real life musicianship. The Hammerfest week seems to have raised a range of questions: about the role and tasks of the students as future musicians, about musicians’ identities, about music itself, about working as a portfolio musician, and about ‘expanding the frames’. In this sense, the Hammerfest project is probably more capable of developing the kind of innovation, professional flexibility and understanding of cultural differences and social contexts that Gaunt and Westerlund identify as the way forward for HME.24)Gaunt and Westerlund, Collaborative Learning in Higher Music Education. And it may have the potential of providing ‘new forms of activity which are not yet there’.25)Engeström, ‘Expansive Learning at Work’, p. 138. In comparison, the orchestra students highlight the importance of getting a chance to understand the orchestra culture, and of networking, getting an entrance into the orchestra, a ‘way in’. The students perceive their participation as a dream come true and as experience with real life. These statements hint at the strengths, or powers, of the social mechanisms at play in these rather different social contexts, the local, cultural municipality and the professional orchestra, which seem to affect both the learning outcomes and the ways of learning.

Interview findings: learning on campus and learning in practice

Understanding orchestra culture

Figure 2 Understanding the orchestra culture. (Photo: Zbigniew Ziggi Wantuch).

Both groups of students compare the experiences from practice with ‘normal’ on-campus learning. As we have seen, the Hammerfest students see the project as different because of the emphasis on collaboration, reflection on action, the wide range of professional tasks, and the way in which they are taken out of their comfort zones.

The orchestra students also describe differences between on-campus learning and learning in practice. Student D says that there is less ‘direct feedback’ in the orchestra. It is more a matter of ‘learning by doing’. He continues to describe the way he learns in the orchestra, by using phrases such as ‘you pick up things during extended periods of time’, ‘you just learn things every time that you are not necessarily conscious about’, ‘you just get it’, ‘You learn to listen, you learn to follow. And I think you are more attentive’. These experiences are contrasted with quite critical comments about the student orchestra at The Norwegian Academy. The main critical points are the extensive rehearsal periods, the focus on ‘just playing in time’, and the limited attention to how to act, listen and communicate musically as orchestral musicians, for instance ‘knowing that you may need to listen to the trumpet in order to start correctly along with the clarinet’. Student B describes these contrasts as follows:

Student B: Well, [in the professional orchestra] it is not just about a conductor standing there repeating the same section for 15 minutes because people haven’t prepared, or because people don’t know how to listen, or don’t know how to count. In a professional orchestra, everyone knows what to do. And I, as a student, who is also well-prepared, will, I think, learn more from knowing how to act and behave in the orchestra. Or how to better connect [musically] with other instruments. Or when to listen to the second oboe player. And how to hear the second oboist at all, way over there. Those things. There is no focus on such things in the orchestra at the Academy.

A main difference between the professional and school orchestra contexts is the higher level of professional orchestras, according to the students. And this high level demands serious practising of the orchestral repertoire, which again makes possible another way of acting in the orchestra:

Student B: You are in a way not so focussed on just practising, practising, practising. You are more focussed on how to be in the orchestra, in a way. How the attitude is supposed to be, how to work as effectively as possible.

Student A: Like listening, for example. Where to listen? Who to watch? Not many know that on the bachelor level [laughs].

Student D: Nobody tells you have to do those things.

Student B: Nobody tells you how to do those things. It isn’t until I have worked professionally that my attention has been drawn to this.

Researcher: Can you give any examples of such things?

Student A: Yes, for example that no one has ever said ‘now you should look at the double basses, they have the rhythm there’. Or if you are playing unison with the violins: ‘don’t look at the conductor, look at the concert master’. And things like that, which no one tells you.

The students describe how they learn ways of listening, ways of watching and of acting in the orchestra. They even talk about ‘learning how to be in the orchestra’. These ways of learning, or these learning experiences, are probably best understood as results of taking part of a community of practice,26) Wenger, Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998). as being enculturated in a specific, professional orchestra culture, with its codes, procedures, musical and bodily actions, and, of course, spoken statements and feedback. The orchestra offers the students a range of tools for understanding orchestral playing and acting. The students are onto this themselves, when they underline the importance of being allowed a long-term placement programme in a specific orchestra. They get to know the desired ways of acting musically in this particular orchestra, while acknowledging that orchestras are not all the same. Their critique of the student orchestra is perhaps due to the lack of such a developed orchestra culture, with its extensive rehearsal hours and the perceived narrow focus on ‘just playing in time’. The learning that takes place, is in other words highly situated and contextual.27)Lave and Wenger, Situated Learning; Wittek, ‘Sosiokulturelle tilnærminger’, pp. 133–48.

The potential of professional work placement

Based on the findings of this empirical study, professional work placement has the potential of playing a major part of HME Master’s programmes, as it has in other higher education settings. Interestingly, both contexts of practice described in this article are valued highly by the involved students, despite the many differences between the contexts. The Hammerfest context is characterized by high degrees of collaboration, reflection, responsibility and freedom, and by the number of unfamiliar musical challenges and tasks. The unfamiliar challenges and the high degree of responsibility and freedom creates a high-risk setting, which students handle through collaboration and reflection. The project seems to stimulate students to develop their understanding of the role and identity of the musician, the role of music in society, the relationship with audiences, and their confidence in facing an expanded array of musical tasks. The students seem to have learned a number of things they did not expect, and to have discovered aspects of musicianship of which they were not yet aware. In comparison, the Orchestra context is valued primarily for its relevance, in the sense of representing the very professional arena for which these particular students prepare. High-risk features, in particular high musical quality, high expectations and little room for failure, also characterize the context. The students therefore experience a great deal of responsibility, but less freedom. The students learn ways of performing, listening and acting in a professional setting, and this learning takes place because the students are included in a highly experienced community of practice.

In sum, both forms of practice seem to complement on-campus teaching and learning in important ways. The Hammerfest context offers a collaborative, reflective and explorative practice setting in which students can experiment with different components of musicianship, and in which they are given freedom to falter. The orchestra students are given an entry into a professional, high-quality community of experienced musicians who can guide the students in developing high-quality orchestra musicianship. The fact that both contexts are found valuable and relevant makes it difficult to suggest that one context should be preferred to the other. This article has shed some light on the details of these differences, however, and on the details of the different foci, ways of learning and types of outcome in these forms of practice. In that respect, the Hammerfest project seems to meet the requirements of what is described as features of future musicianship the best.28)Bishop and Tröndle, ‘Tertiary Music Performance Education’; Gaunt and Westerlund, Collaborative Learning in Higher Music Education; Smilde, Musicians as Lifelong Learners; Smilde and Halldórsson, ‘New audiences and Innovatice Practice’. Still, the orchestra placement students are devoted to the idea of becoming orchestral musicians, and for these particular students the placement programme is of vital importance. The findings of this study suggest that instead of choosing between such forms of practice, higher music education institutions should find ways of including a range of professional practice settings precisely because of their differences. The findings underline the importance of learning in and through practice, and of the role of practice also when it comes to developing professional musicianship. At their best, these forms of practice have the potential of bringing dedicated people together in order to discuss, reflect on and develop the multifaceted reflective and craftsmanship dimensions of becoming a musician for the future.

Endnotes

References   [ + ]

1. Esther Bishop and Martin Tröndle, ‘Tertiary Music Performance Education: An Artistic Education for Life or an out-Dated Concept of Musicianship?’, Music & Practice 3 (2017), https://www.musicandpractice.org; Rineke Smilde, Musicians as Lifelong Learners: 32 Biographies (Delft: Eburon Academic, 2009).
2. Dawn Elizabeth Bennett, Understanding the Classical Music Profession the Past, the Present and Strategies for the Future (Farnham: Ashgate, 2008).
3. Bishop and Tröndle, ‘Tertiary Music Performance Education’.
4. Rineke Smilde and Sigurdor Halldórsson, ‘‘New Audiences and Innovative Practice’: An International Master’s Programme with Critical Reflection and Mentoring at the Heart of an Artistic Laboratory’, in Collaborative Learning in Higher Music Education, ed. by Helena Gaunt and Heidi Westerlund (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013).
5. See Helena Gaunt, ‘One-to-One Tuition in a Conservatoire: The Perceptions of Instrumental and Vocal Students’, Psychology of Music 38 (2010), pp. 178–208; Bjørg J. Bjøntegaard, ‘A Combination of One-to-One Teaching and Small Group Teaching in Music Education in Norway: A Good Model for Teaching?’, British Journal of Music Education 32 (2015), pp. 23–36; Ingrid Maria Hanken, ‘Peer Learning in Specialist Higher Music Education’, Arts and Humanities in Higher Education 15 (2016), pp. 364–75; Morten Carlsen, ‘De- and Relearning the Violin: A Short Reflection’, Arts and Humanities in Higher Education 15 (2016); Helena Gaunt, Andrea Creech, Marion Long and Susan Hallam, ‘Supporting Conservatoire Students Towards Professional Integration: One-to-One Tuition and the Potentional of Mentoring’, Music Education Research 14 (2012), pp. 25–43; Julius Pranevicius, ‘Rich Feedback and Assessment Environment in a Horn Studio: Practising Scales’, Arts and Humanities in Higher Education 15 (2016), www.artsandhumanities.org/journal/rich-feedback-and-assessment-environment-in-a-horn-studio-practising-scales/.
6. Donald J. Boyd, Pamela Grossman, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb and James Wyckoff, ‘Teacher Preparation and Student Achievement’, Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis 31 (2009), pp. 416–40; Suzanne M Wilson, Robert E. Floden and Joan Ferrini-Mundy, ‘Teacher Preparation Research: An Insider’s View from the Outside’, Journal of Teacher Education 53 (2002), pp. 190–204.
7. Harald Jørgensen, Research into Higher Music Education. An Overview from a Quality Improvement Perspective (Oslo: Novus Press, 2009).
8. See also Magnus Dahlberg, ‘Learning across Contexts: Music Performance Students’ Construction of Learning Trajectories’ (PhD diss., Norwegian Academy of Music, 2013).
9. Robert K. Yin, Case Study Research. 4th edn (London: SAGE, 2009).
10. Victoria Wibeck, Fokusgrupper: Om Fokuserade Gruppintervjuer Som Undersökningsmetod (Lund: Studentlitteratur, 2010).
11. David L. Morgan, Focus Groups as Qualitative Research. 2 edn (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1997).
12. See Lev S. Vygotsky, Mind and Society. The Development of Higher Psychological Processes (Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press, 1978).
13. Helena Gaunt and Heidi Westerlund, eds, Collaborative Learning in Higher Music Education (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013), p. 1.
14, 22. Vygotsky, Mind and Society.
15. Line Wittek, ‘Sosiokulturelle Tilnærminger Til Læring’, in Pedagogikk: En Grunnbok, ed. by Janick Heldal Stray and Line Wittek (Oslo: Cappelen Damm Akademisk, 2014), pp. 133–48.
16. Donald Schön, The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action (New York: Basic Books, 1984).
17. Pamela Grossman, Karen Hammerness and Morva McDonald, ‘Redefining Teaching, Re-Imaging Teacher Education’, Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice 15 (2009), pp. 273–89.
18. Pamela Grossman, Christa Compton, Danielle Igra, Matthew Ronfeldt, Emily Shahan and Peter Williamson, ‘Teaching Practice: A Cross-Professional Perspective’, Teachers College Record 111 (2009), pp. 2055–2100.
19. Yrjö Engeström, ‘Expansive Learning at Work: Toward an Activity Theoretical Reconceptualization’, Journal of Education and Work 14 (2001), pp. 133–56.
20. Bennett, Understanding the Classical Music Profession.
21. Grossman et al, ‘Teaching Practice’.
23. Grossman et al, ‘Redefining Teaching’, pp. 273–89.
24. Gaunt and Westerlund, Collaborative Learning in Higher Music Education.
25. Engeström, ‘Expansive Learning at Work’, p. 138.
26. Wenger, Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).
27. Lave and Wenger, Situated Learning; Wittek, ‘Sosiokulturelle tilnærminger’, pp. 133–48.
28. Bishop and Tröndle, ‘Tertiary Music Performance Education’; Gaunt and Westerlund, Collaborative Learning in Higher Music Education; Smilde, Musicians as Lifelong Learners; Smilde and Halldórsson, ‘New audiences and Innovatice Practice’.

Towards a Post-Percussive Practice

Table of contents

DOI: 10.32063/0204

Håkon Stene

Håkon Stene is a percussionist active both in artistic research and as a concert performer around the world. In 2014 he concluded the project This is Not a Drum at the Norwegian Academy of Music, where he is currently developing the project Music with the Real in collaboration with composer Henrik Hellstenius. www.hakonstene.net

by Håkon Stene

Music + Practice, Volume 2

Explorative


Hakon Stene Michael Pisaro Ricefall

Representing the new breed of percussionists: Håkon Stene records Michael Pisaro’s Ricefall at Tomba Emmanuelle in Oslo, May 2011. (Photo: Frederic Boudin).

Though one of the oldest of the musical arts, percussion playing, especially within the Western classical tradition, has developed rapidly and been subject to significant change in the recent 60 to 80 years. The growing presence of percussion as a solo medium in classical music was primarily linked to avant-garde movements flourishing in the first decades of the twentieth century. Along with extra-musical objects such as household implements, and electronic devices such as radios, tape recorders and turntables, percussion emerged as a fresh medium for the expansion and alteration of Western music’s building blocks, perfectly suiting the period’s escalating quest to break new musical ground beyond the romantic tradition and mainstream conformism.

In this article we will look at tendencies emerging in the field of experimental music during the last ten years that continue the direction percussion music has taken since the mid twentieth century, but are not directly connected to percussive techniques or instruments. The compositions discussed here are not percussion works per se, since they do not necessarily involve percussion. However, percussionists, being accustomed to multidisciplinary practices through their repertoire of the past decades, perform these works and others of similar nature. Thus, we see the contours of a new, separate practice that I tentatively would like to label post-percussive – perhaps even post-instrumental.1)At this point it may be appropriate to separate this practice, based in traditional instrumental performance, from that of, say, the new breed of musicians using laptop computers and other electronic tools as their main instruments. It is equally important to acknowledge that there are non-percussionist performers in the field of New Music, such as pianists Mark Knoop, Stephane Ginsbourg and Sebastian Berweck who also operate within a similar field of mixed media and, cross-instrumental practices. But before we look at these examples, let us trace some of their history.

The first generation of works solely for percussion, composed by American avant-garde pioneers such as Henry Cowell, George Antheil, Edgard Varèse and John Cage, began to appear around 1930.2)More obscure, but equally interesting examples are the percussion music by Johanna Beyer (1888–1944), Harry Partch (1901–1974), William Russell (1905–1992), and Moondog (1916–1999), none of which, despite its originality, became part of the institutional canon or the catalogues of publishing houses. Altering European concepts of tempered pitch-harmony and tonal logic, their music was characterized by a focus on pulse and noise-based timbres, creating musical instruments of objects found in junkyards and elsewhere, or furthermore transforming existing instruments such as preparing and playing inside pianos.3)Objects used included steel bars, metal pipes, tin cans, washboard kit, sheet metal, firecrackers, brake drums, alarm bells and household objects such as suitcases, books and kettles. The introduction of found objects in musical settings makes an interesting and, I believe, not coincidental parallel to Marcel Duchamp’s concept introduced in the visual arts around 1913.4)Marcel Duchamp: Bicycle Wheel (1913) and Fountain (1917). Interestingly, Erik Satie’s Parade (1917), influenced by the Dada movement, included typewriter, sirens, splashing water, revolver, lottery wheel and glass bottles into a traditional ensemble; German Hans Jürgen von der Wense’s Musik für Klavier, Klarinette and freihängendes Blechsieb (Music for Piano, Clarinet and Suspended Kitchen Sieve) (1918) employed household implements; American William Russel’s compositions from the early 1930s used ‘found object drum kit’.

Another important influence for the vast expansion of acoustic material was the idea of electronic sound sculpting that started to take shape around this time. Compositions for acoustic instruments preceding electronic sound sources, notably by Varèse, opened up a field in which all sounds, noises and acoustic phenomena, as well as new spatial possibilities, became imaginable, and were transposed to acoustic instrumental music. Complexes of novel percussive colour thus offered an extensive contribution to this palette.5)For an excellent account of this, readers are advised to consult Jean Charles François’ Percussion et musique contemporain (Paris: Klincksieck esthétique, 1991).

The earliest music for solo percussion appeared in the 1950s with works such as 27’10.554” by John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Zyklus,6)Composed in 1956 and 1959 respectively, 27’10.554” was the first multi percussion solo, Zyklus the first European work of its kind. followed by Morton Feldman’s quiet reaction The King of Denmark (1963) and Helmut Lachenmann’s Intérieur I (1965–66). Early solo percussion writing was characterized by an abundance of instruments gathered in large batteries, brought to resonance by a limited set of techniques, namely that of striking. Later decades saw a reaction to this in works that explored a smaller instrumentation, but a broader array of sound producing actions. For the sake of a general overview it is possible to divide the body of classical percussion music into at least three categories:

  1. Works exploring timbre and resonance7)Such as in solo works by Cage (1956), Stockhausen (1959), Feldman (1964), Lachenmann (1966), Wuorinen (1966), Smith-Brindle (1967), Henze (1971), De Pablo (1973), Vivier (1980) Sciarrino (1986), Lucier (1988), Jarrell (1989), Eötwös (1993), Saariaho (1995) and Adams (2002).
  2. Pulse-based works8)Such as nearly all percussion works by Xenakis, Nørgaard (1967/1983), Alvarez (1984), Volans (1985), Wood (1986), Lang (1991), Wallin (1991), Ferneyhough (1991) and ensemble works by Cage, Reich etc.
  3. Music theater pieces9)Such as solo works by Kagel (1971/1995), Aperghis (1980/1982), Globokar (1973/1982/1989/1994/1997/2008), Rzewski (1985), Sarhan (2010), Appelbaum (2011) and Hoffmann (2001). The latter’s work An-Sprache explores an almost scientific percussive investigation of the body’s interior, continuing an idea introduced in Globoakar’s Corporel (1982) where the performer’s body is the one and only instrument.

This article presents three recent cases, among many, that I propose contribute to the formation of a fourth category, a category that I classify as percussion works only reluctantly. These are works that expand further the instrumental hybridism already inherent in Western percussive practices, transforming percussive and non-percussive sources alike into a mixed instrumental language. This tendency adds to the number of objects, playing techniques and concepts assimilated in our field, and highlights the rather special – and in classical music perhaps unparalleled – situation: that it has become possible to operate under the label ‘percussionist’ without performing any instrument traditionally regarded as percussion. Building on the fact that actions such as singing, scraping, talking, tearing, bowing and blowing are already integrated in experimental percussion, a new tendency is to transpose these modes of action on to instruments that are part of other established practices, thereby creating a performance practice in between or beyond defined instrumental categories. I propose the labelling Post-percussive Works.10)Other instrumental works suiting this category may include New Music classics such as Alvin Lucier’s Music for Performer (1965) and I am Sitting in a Room (1969); Giacinto Scelsi’s Ko-Tha (1967) for performer striking a guitar (or bass or 6-string cello); Steve Reich’s Pendulum Music (1968) for microphones and loudspeakers; Helmut Lachenmann’s Guero for piano (1970) and Pression for cello (1970); Maurizio Kagel’s Acustica (1970); Giorgio Battlistelli’s Jules Vernes (1987) for three performers; Manos Tsangaris’ Tafel I (1989) for two performers at a table; more recently Simon Steen-Andersen’’s Pretty Sound for piano (2008) and Black Box Music (2012); Alex Garsden’s Macrograph (2009); Carola Bauckholt’s Hirn & Ei (2010) for four wind jackets; Thomas Maedowcroft’s The Great Knot (2011) and Cradle (2012) for three performers; Simon Løffler’s b (2012) for effect pedals and fluorescent light; Trond Reinholdtsen’s Inferno (2013) for solo performer and video; Steffen Krebber’s Laufzeitumgebung (2013) for two performers; Erik Dæhlin’s Absence is the Only Real (2014) for solo performer controlling an entire installation – as well as those works mentioned in footnote 13.

General and work-specific techniques

Musical performance is a learned activity partly grounded in norms determined by style or genre. Accordingly, those norms influence what skills and which aspects of instrumental mastery musicians of various styles will acquire. Performing musicians possess their instrument-specific craft as well as skills covering common aspects of performance: skills associated with ensemble playing, communication and so forth (relating to musical pulse, timing, phrasing, etc.).

In classical music, especially in fields carrying long instrumental traditions for their canonical instruments, the way in which musicians approach their instrument is a highly evolved and defined practice, which is to say it is a practice that often precludes other ways of thinking. The way of approaching the instrument is relatively fixed, modified only gradually and passed down from master to pupil through generations. The instrument is likely to be regarded as a physical extension of the body, a channel for emotional and personal expression, and this relationship may be cultivated over a lifetime. Technique, no matter how difficult the music, is something that ideally should not come between interpreter and medium.11)Obviously, the idea of technical evolution and development is nothing new, and there are countless methods documenting this in history. However, the general physical actions involved in playing a string instrument or a keyboard have largely remained intact. Although concert pianists or organists constantly perform on different instruments in different halls and are required to re-adjust their technique accordingly, one traditionally relates to one kind of instrument only. This is not the case with percussion, and in this brief article I allow myself to draw general distinctions.

From a purely technical-mechanical standpoint, though, traditional Western pitch-based music is, in generalized terms, quite easy to circumscribe in terms of what range of skills is required to perform it; kinaesthetic mastery of scales, triads, arpeggios, chords and so forth constitute the range of technical requirements essential to most styles of music.12)Dynamic control, articulation and timbre should also be included. Since they serve expressive aspects of sound, I choose to categorize them apart from mechanical aspects in this context. In percussion playing, these elements, as well as the single stroke and the roll, traditionally constitute the technical requirements for most genres. Nevertheless, these basic technical skills are quite often not relevant or useful in experimental music. A pianist would gain little from practising arpeggios as preparation for a performance of inside-the-piano pieces such as Stefan Prins’ Etude Interieur (2004) or Simon Steen-Andersen’s Pretty Sound (2008). Similarly, standard guitar technique is of little significance in Lachenmann’s extended technique masterpiece for two guitars Salut für Caudwell (1977), as is the legato bowing in Lene Grenager’s The Operation (2011) for table-top cello.13)Stefan Prins (b. 1979), Etude interieure for inside piano and marbles (2004), http://www.stefanprins.be/eng/composesInstrument/comp_2004_01_etudeinterieur.html; Simon Steen-Andersen (b. 1976), Rerendered for amplified piano with two assistants (2004) and Pretty Sound for amplified piano (Edition S, 2008); Helmut Lachenmann (b. 1935), Salut für Caudwell for two speaking guitarists (Breitkopf & Härtel, 1977); Lene Grenager (b. 1969), The Operation for table-top cello and ensemble (Norwegian Music Information Centre, 2011).

Traditional technique does not necessarily aid one’s ability to play these pieces. The technical skills required by such compositions cannot be reduced to common, general exercises practised separately in order to support one’s fundamental ability to perform them. Their diversity and contextual specificity elude a reliable overall definition and application. Hence, we arrive at the concept of work-specific technical practices. The consequence for performers of such works proposed by my fourth category is that, in principle, there is no unifying technical legacy towards which they gravitate. Compared to classical music’s technical methods, these works signify a periphery without centre and may unfold themselves in the gaps between extended instrumental techniques, performance, theatre, installation or video art. Rather than being homogenous, they are multi-directional and thus constitute the need for continuous re-orientation on behalf of the practitioner.

Anyone involved in contemporary music knows the need for adaptability to heterogeneous settings. In particular, percussionists performing so-called multi-percussion set-ups, that is, collections of instruments varying from work to work, experience this constantly. The ability to recalibrate one’s technique and movement to these set-ups is among our craft’s most valuable and necessary skills. In avant-garde music traditions, composers and performers have deliberately challenged idiomatic ideals in search of new expressive means by transgressing technical conventions. Once these novel technical phenomena gain a performance tradition, they develop and improve in the hands of their practitioners and contribute to an ever-broader development of instrumental expressivity.

Three post-percussive works

In what follows, I describe three cases that exemplify radically different technical and instrumental characteristics.14)These case studies are by no means analytically exhaustive. Only general features relevant for performance are described. They do not belong to any established technical norm other than their own. What unifies them, in this case, is the fact that experimental percussionists embrace and perform such repertoire. Perhaps this is explained, in part, by the advantage we gain from being accustomed to performing on multiple instruments employing multiple, often unrelated technical grammars. Although percussionists mostly perform them, some of these examples are so remote from the origin of percussion and its traditional techniques that we may diagnose a mutation of an instrumental practice. Whilst proposing to label our fourth category ‘post-percussive works’, I will therefore argue that, at least technically, there should be no reason for these works or others of similar nature to be performed exclusively by percussionists. In fact, I am inclined to question whether any musical training is required in order to perform some of these works.15)This does certainly not apply to all works that could be defined as post-percussive, also not necessarily the ones presented in detail here, perhaps with the exception of Michael Piaro’s Ricefall. If general technical demands for post-percussive works are poorly specified, perhaps another tentative distinction needs to be drawn between practices whose technical grammar is defined through a coherent canonical repertoire, by coherent methods – for instance such as piano or flute methods – and those defined by each individual practitioner and his or her expertise. We cannot point to a set of coherent skills defined by the post-percussive repertoire itself. Rather, it suggests that one can define one’s own set of skills and shape the practice according to individual desire or according to what any given work may ask for.

If contemporary music in general requires a high degree of instrumental expertise and intellectual effort on behalf of the performer, the work Ricefall does not. In fact, it requires no instrumental skill at all. Inspired by a literary passage about the sound of rain, playing with the idea of composing a landscape in rain, Pisaro employs rice as a metaphor for rain.16)Previous examples of the acoustic sound of water in contemporary music are John Cage’s Water Music (1952) and Water Walk (1959), Nicolaus A. Huber’s Herbstfestival (1989), Caspar Johannes Walter’s Lichtwechsel (1993) and Tan Dun’s Water Concerto (1998), more obscurely in performance art through event-works of the Cage-influenced George Brecht. Beyond that, musical imagery of water is featured in ancient cultures through instruments such as the South American rain stick and more recent products such as ocean drum, waterphone and hydraulophone; in classical music through works by Chopin, Debussy and Ravel among others. Ricefall became Michael Pisaro’s first composition using the dropping technique – a manner of producing sound by means of dropping light objects onto resonators – a technique he developed further in works such as A Wave and Waves (2008). Pisaro writes:

At the end of a beautiful, detailed passage describing all of the minute sounds of the rain in his backyard, John M. Hull in his book Touching the Rock, writes: “The whole scene is much more differentiated than I have been able to describe, because everywhere are little breaks in the patterns, obstructions, projections, where some slight interruption or difference of texture or of echo gives an additional detail or dimension to the scene. Over the whole thing, like light falling upon a landscape, is the gentle background pattern gathered up into one continuous murmur of rain. I think the experience of opening the door on a rainy garden must be similar to that which a sighted person feels when opening the curtains and seeing the world outside. The rain presents the fullness of an entire situation all at once, not merely remembered, not in anticipation, but actually and now. If only rain could fall inside a room, it would help me to understand where things are in that room, to give a sense of being in the room, instead of sitting in a chair”.17)Pisaro, Ricefall (2004). Pisaro is quoting John M. Hull, Touching the Rock: An Experience of Blindness (London: SPCK, 1990).

Written for 16 performers (it may also be performed by 2×16, 3×16 or 4×16 players) dripping rice onto undefined surface materials, the score suggests a variety of possible interpretations. The work is divided into 18 sections of 1-minute intervals. Except a silence at the very beginning and end, all players or parts remain active throughout the 16 minutes, and by prescribing each local density level (1 through 8 – 1 being a single grain every 2–3 seconds, 8 being a constant stream) – the global intensity is shaped. This form is stochastically calculated, invented and fixed (the average density being given in the lower row of Figure 1), but the resulting rhythmic microstructure takes on, just like rainstorms, endless varieties and shapes, the number of impulses at times getting so dense that it resembles white noise. Unlike rainstorms, however, unison changes in density occur steadily every minute, and within every section each performer continues a steady pace at the given intensity. Consequently, Ricefall alternates between sections of complex rhythmical play and massive noise.

Michael Pisaro Ricefall Chart

Figure 1 Michael Pisaro: Ricefall, global chart. Reproduced with kind permission of the composer and Edition Wandelweiser.

Pisaro suggests eight different sounding materials upon which rice falls (see Figure 3).

Figure 2: Michael Pisaro: Ricefall, spatial layout. Reproduced with kind permission of the composer and Edition Wandelweiser.

Figure 2 Michael Pisaro: Ricefall, spatial layout. Reproduced with kind permission of the composer and Edition Wandelweiser.

This layout creates a ‘sonorous topographic space’ in which the ear may orient itself. The only resemblance of percussive acts is the gravity making two bodies strike together, one or more times. In this manner Ricefall represents not a formal-structural chance music, as championed in the 1950s and ‘60s by Roman Haubenstock-Ramati, John Cage, Earle Brown, Christian Wolff and others, but a situation where each grain physically signifies a chance operation, in that there is a gap, an unknown factor, between the dripping and the bouncing, hence the rhythmical gesture created. Letting go of the touch – the minute, tactile control and Fingerspitzengefühl that otherwise characterizes musicianship – implies an interesting twist in instrumental technique in that it requires no skill. If there is a craft connected to dropping rice, it is accessible to anyone who cares to try. To perform Ricefall does not call for a sense of rhythm, pitch, dynamic or timbre. To my mind, some of the beauty of the work lies in this fact – nearly anyone could participate in its performance.18)This particular feature is shared with other works in the experimental tradition that draw inspiration from conceptual art or deliberately avoid the need for professional musical expertise. Examples are Cornelius Cardew’s The Great Learning (1968–71), which was composed for the Scratch Orchestra, a group consisting of musicians and non-musicians alike, experienced artists and people with no previous experience in the arts; Christian Wolff’s Prose Collection for various constellations (1969); Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Aus den sieben Tagen (1968) and Mathias Spahlinger’s Entlöschend for large tam-tam (1974). It does require, however, a certain amount of discipline as regards following the few instructions given. As with all ensemble playing, even this piece finds its balance between individual energy and group energy, and a successful performance implies precise sectional shifts and rice steadily streaming, not clustering, onto the ground. Pisaro’s control of the global aspects mean that performers are not given creative freedom to invent gestures, however, their responsibility is to drop rice within the prescribed eightfold density. These seemingly anti-artistic, insignificant little actions gathered as myriads of strokes detached from muscular control, produce an extraordinary soundscape saturated with percussive texture and liveliness.

In Her Frown was written for and premiered at the Royaumont festival in 2007. Originally scored for two sopranos and amplification, the work was transposed for two non-singing performers for the recorded version released in 2011, where Simon Steen-Andersen performs spoken actions and I, using multi-track recording, perform the rest.

Sound material

The work’s basic material explores rather simple actions such as blowing air on perforated paper, rattling and writing on paper, as well as talking and a variety of oral, percussive sounds. Sounds are divided into seven groups notated in five action areas as indicated in Figure 3:

Simon Steen Andersen In Her Frown

Figure 3 Steen-Andersen: From the preface of In Her Frown. Edition S. (Used with permission).

1. Exploring sound colours in a piece of paper
1.1 Air-guiro: By perforating a piece of paper (DIN A4 size) and exhaling/inhaling through the holes with different types of pressure, at a different distance, at different speeds across the paper, an air-noise guiro is created. The entire opening of the piece is based on these actions. Dynamics: fff/ppp.

1.2 Rumble: Lightly shaking a large sheet of paper close to a microphone, producing a deep, rumbling drone. Dynamics: pppppp.

1.3. Ripping

2–3. Mouth and nose actions

  • Articulating text without using vocal chords or air stream
  • Articulating text with closed or ‘stopped’ mouth
  • Hyperventilating
  • Exhaling while patting the mouth
  • Inhaling while covering mouth with fingers
  • Rhythmically inhaling/exhaling
  • Whistling, at times while patting the mouth
  • Transitions between whistling, air sound and blowing
  • Producing whistle tones by subtly blowing a focused air stream, humming or whistling at the edge of the air-guiro. Used in combination with mouth actions. Dynamics: ppp.

4. Stethoscope scale: A percussive scale of extremely quiet sounds moving from the bronchus towards mouth, teeth, fingers as well as clicking of nails. Dynamics: ppppp.

In Her Frown Simon Steen Andersen

Figure 4 Simon Steen-Andersen: In Her Frown, preface. Reproduced with kind permission of Edition S.

5. Table actions

  • Rhythmicized writing. Dynamics: ppp

The entire range of sounds is in itself extremely soft, at times barely audible. The performers’ throats are therefore intimately ‘stethoscoped’ by microphones, exposing the micro-sounds of their insides. Extreme amplification is a central element in many of Steen-Andersen’s works and is often a fundamental musical factor in that it equalizes the gap between the audible and the inaudible, making the acoustically inaudible available as musical material. In his compositions there are often balanced counterpoints between unamplified loud sounds and amplified soft sounds, the amplifiers themselves sometimes taking on independent musical roles alongside the instruments. The procedure elaborates the concept of musique concréte instrumentale, introduced by Helmut Lachenmann. Here, instrumental noises traditionally regarded unworthy in the hierarchy of musical beauty – sounds of mechanics and bodily movement – are included as integral parts of the compositional material.

Another feature often displayed, also within In Her Frown, is the idea of a suppressed energy. Various techniques or filters are applied to charge physical resistance onto the performer’s body, for example expressed through precise instrumental choreography with weights attached to the limbs of the performers, or as a constant struggle for softer dynamics, causing the negative, conflicting movement to dominate, dynamically and visually, the actual audible outcome.

The text included in the piece is a combination of two dictionary entries – to communicate and to perceive – arranged in such a way that it resembles a poem. Commenting on the difficulties of communication, the words are ‘effortfully’ articulated by the performer. Again, there are compositional hindrances blurring them; articulating the words con bocca chiusa or without air, leaving only a forced miming as well as clicks and attacks from inside the mouth. The programme note thus becomes an extension of the work, articulating a friction between the statements about ‘clear communication’ and their obstructed performance.

In the new, transposed version the only sung material of the original – a high B natural – was replaced by a canned air horn, a choice that resonated with the idea of suppressed energy. Contained within a small can, this extremely loud and physically harmful sound serves a double function: a purely practical one, as well as that of covering the spoken text in the manner of a censor beep.19)Text of In Her Frown: To convey information about / make known / impart / communicated her views to the office / To reveal clearly / manifest / her disapproval communicated itself in her frown / To become aware of, know, or identify by the means of the senses / I perceived an object looming through the mist / To recognize, discern, envision, or understand / I perceive a note of sarcasm in your voice / This is a very nice idea, but I perceive difficulties putting it into practice. www.dictionary.com, communicate/perceive 

Figure 5 Simon Steen-Andersen: In Her Frown, bars 244–8. The excerpt illustrates table actions, muted text, stethoscope scale, censor tone. Reproduced with kind permission of the composer and Edition S.

The five action areas represent different musical material, which is directly connected to the various possibilities with the objects at hand. Separate sections of music are interrupted by new sequences, first as short fragments, then increasingly longer until a new continuity is established. Steen-Andersen refers to this interpolative construction as a multi-directional pseudo-polyphonic form, that is, a formal strategy whereby rapidly zapping between sequences allows many developmental levels simultaneously.

Figure 6 Simon Steen-Andersen: In Her Frown, bars 96–101. The excerpt shows four interrupted material developments. Used with permission of the composer and Edition S.

The highly sparse apparatus employed in In Her Frown presents technical and musical challenges that might seem unusual to any singer or instrumentalist. And for me as a percussionist, being accustomed to relating to instruments as external physical objects to be struck or excited by other means, the sonic production in this piece requires muscular control on a microscopic and partly inner level. In addition, sounds are extremely fragile and often occur in combination with physical obstructions. When adapting to this challenge, I benefited from a strong connection with bodily gesture acquired from my percussion playing. Though the means by which sounds are produced may be unusual – hybrids between miniaturized vocal and percussive techniques – the musical text itself demands what percussionists are trained for, namely rhythmical precision and clarity.

The idea of transformed percussive practices is highly evident in Black Horizon. Commissioned by a percussion group, Schlagquartett Köln, but scored for two table-top electric guitars, the piece explores a distinctly original and unconventional approach to instrumental playing whether one sees it from a percussionist’s or a guitarist’s perspective. As with Ricefall and In Her Frown, this work resists categorization, and in theory it could be performed by any schooled musician. The work combines traditional guitar techniques such as strumming, arpeggios and plucking, with more unique approaches using hand-held pick-ups, miniature playback systems with field recordings filtered through the pick-up switches, E-bows, bolts, slides and brushes.20)The E-bow is an electromagnetic, battery driven device that can sustain string resonance. Furthermore, each instrument is shared between two players sitting on opposite sides. A preparation known as ‘third-bridge-technique’ is applied throughout the piece, that is, a bolt positioned between the string and fretboard, allowing different actions to be played on both sides of the divided strings without interfering with each other. Playing the part of the string between this bolt and the bridge of the guitar generates resonances on the part of the string between the bolt and the nut and vice versa. These subtle harmonic phenomena are made audible by the hand-held pick-ups. Further, field recordings of desert winds and footsteps made in Death Valley and Anza Borrego in Southern California as well as film soundtrack samples are filtered through various pick-up combinations causing a registration colouring.21)Also, the following scordatura is used: Low E-string: unaltered; A-string: 2 cents lower than tempered; D-string: 31 cents lower than tempered; G-string: 33 cents lower than tempered; B-string: 64 cents lower than tempered; E-string: 66 cents lower than tempered. This chord structure is kept throughout, brought to resonance by traditional strumming, brushing or arpeggios, however steadily modulated by sliding the third-bridge bolt between frets.

Figure 7 Marko Ciciliani: Black Horizon, player 1, bars 88-98. The excerpt shows hand held pick-up amplifying string resonance whilst filtering field recording. Reproduced with kind permission of the composer.

Occasionally, a metal slide is used to create additional divisions of the string, allowing as many as three simultaneously sustained pitches per string (Figure 8)

Figure 8 Marko Ciciliani: Black Horizon, guitar 1, bars 533–555. The excerpt shows string ringing between bridge and bottleneck, bottleneck and bolt, bolt and nut. Reproduced with kind permission of the composer.


Figure 9 Marko Ciciliani: Black Horizon, bars 533–555. Field recording filtered through manual, pick-ups counterpointing plucked strings.

Black Horizon boasts oddly beautiful sequences with melodic and harmonic elements reminiscent of psychedelic music. It is an excellent example of how inventive and unconventional approaches to instrumental technique may uncover rich musical potential in ways we would not expect. It contributes to a development in which not only the diversity of percussive material is more complex and surprising than ever, but also the way in which materials are musically employed expands in novel directions.

New music – new tools

Despite the rather unusual apparatus employed in recent works such as Black Horizon, there is a long tradition of incorporating live electronic elements in percussion settings. Composers such as John Cage included radios and record players in Credo in US and the Imaginary Landscape series already in the late 1930s and 1940s. Karlheinz Stockhausen famously employed directional microphones and frequency filters as instruments alongside a tam-tam excited with various implements in his Mikrophonie (1964). Helmut Lachenmann’s concerto Air (1968) for percussionist and large orchestra included both a single string ektara and a table-top electric guitar.22)The ektara is a traditional instrument mostly used in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The instrumental setup for Air was created by American percussionist Michael W. Ranta, for whom the piece was written. Moreover, amplification and electronics in combination with acoustic instruments have been broadly experimented with throughout the history of experimental and avant-garde music; and through the low-cost accessibility and consumer-friendly technology following the digital revolution, these media have become standard ingredients in the set-ups of many percussionists, guitarists, keyboardists and other cross-media instrumentalists.

Music for Musician

The evolutionary tree of percussion roots back to the beginnings of human culture, branching out to all parts of the world. A very young branch on that evolutionary tree is thus the musical avant-garde. On this branch, a rather unique Western phenomenon strongly connected to the concepts of modernity influenced the liberation of traditional hierarchies, experimentation and the idea of material progress. The New Music movement historically defined itself by the principle of innovation and extension: By extending techniques and materials, it reached for ‘nie erhörte Klänge’ (‘sounds previously unheard’).23)This phrase was famously attributed to Karlheinz Stockhausen in the 1950s, although composers had embraced this aim as early as the 1920s. Important examples include Pierre Schaeffer’s Musique Concréte and the Fluxus movement. Extended compositional techniques, playing techniques, tonal modes, New sound sources and so forth, were elements that forced shifts in musical development throughout its history. They were achieved, at least in part, by another concept characterizing modernity, namely that of rationalization and categorization of musical parameters and materials, following a nearly scientific approach.24)For good summaries of the movement see (in English) Paul Griffiths, Modern Music and After (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), (in German) Ulrich Dibelius, Moderne Musik nach 1945 (Munich: Piper, 1998), or (in Norwegian) Dag Østerberg, Det Moderne: et essay om vestens kultur 1740-2000 (Oslo: Gyldendal, 1999).

In the same vein, our percussive practices have also radically altered its tools and techniques in search of new expressive vocabulary: from historical models of kettledrummers, to multi-tasking orchestral percussionists in the late romantic orchestra that saw a gradual expansion of instruments employed, followed by the expansion of playing techniques in the twentieth century. In the percussion sections of orchestras, composers began to ask percussionists to perform auxiliary tasks adding a variety of noises and colours to an otherwise fixed line-up. This situation remains largely the same in orchestras today: a string player is not likely to perform a part for musical saw, a flutist not likely to accept a part including anything else than flute, say glissando-flute. These tasks are assigned to the percussion section. This might be due to the low status that noisemakers hold in the traditional hierarchy of fine musical arts due to their primitive nature and the low degree of technical competence needed by the practitioners of many of these instruments.

Interestingly, in search of new musical colour, Western art music borrowed percussion instruments from all over the world. By altering their context and manner of operation, we created our own percussive language with these new tools. Perhaps owing to the sheer excess of materials borrowed, this adoption was often done in the name of simplification, utilizing only fragments of their original vocabulary, although the Eurocentric artists who first employed these foreign tools regarded their work as refinement of primitive noises.25)Observe, for instance, how playing techniques for castanets, tamburello, riq, pandeiro, maraccas, bongos and congas are played in their original context and how they are adopted to Western classical music settings. Louis Adolphe Coerne, in The Evolution of Modern Orchestration (1908) states (cited in Bugg (2003), p. 22): ‘Sound-producing apparatus devoid of definite pitch belongs to the initial attempts of primitive men to assist vocal expression of emotional feeling, to accompany religious orgies, or to encourage their warriors on the march. The modern orchestra includes the best of these primitive species, transformed into perfected types of genuine artistic value, and has also drawn into requisition various instruments originating in countries that are far apart. Most commonly used are the bass drum, the cymbals and the triangle. … Their mission is primarily to suggest “local” coloring or to emphasize rhythm for dancing’. A side effect of this practice was that the practitioners of this language became well-rounded polyglots who, in the wake of tonal dissolution midway into the twentieth century, used their hybrid skills to develop new technical-musical grammar motivated by the number of sounds and instruments available. Hence, this legacy has proved to be an advantage to our field, especially within the domain of experimental arts. The multi-tasking performer is more prepared, more apt to meet new and unconventional demands than are musicians relating exclusively and hermetically to one type of practice.

In addition to providing dramatic and rhythmic effect, percussion signified for the classic and romantic orchestral composer exoticism and foreign musical cultures.26)Notably to Turkish janissary music, the Arab world and the Far East. See Bugg (2003). As these exotic sounds slowly became standardized in Western contexts, new ones were included until the point where the accessorizing sound itself came to the foreground of music. Why the inclusion of noise? The answer John Cage and his contemporaries – clearly inspired by Dadaists and Futurists – asked this question and it still resonates today. Beyond the obvious wish to broaden the scope of musical colour through instrumentation, an underlying, more important driving force – perhaps parallel to the conceptual turn in the fine arts and its notion of an expanded field – may have been the desire to disturb and destabilize the hermetic distinction between art and real life. By playfully integrating and re-contextualizing the sonic elements of everyday life itself into musical works, they found an integral method of emphasizing this connection. This leads us to the current situation: scattered appearances of non-musical implements in concert music starting some hundred years ago, indicated that expansions in the percussive realm, beyond pure dramatic effect, had the potential to influence a new, autonomous genre and a new breed of performers who were to become natives of a novel practice operating apart from traditional instrumental performance. Many recent expressions of this potential have affected an evolution that has now led to a disconnection, in linguistic or biological terms, a mutation, where the fundamental characteristics of drumming are hardly recognizable any longer. It might be argued that this radical shift in Western art music is not likely to be found in other musical cultures precisely because it is motivated by a European idea of material expansion.

As a performer within the experimental field presented here, I constantly have to adapt to techniques and instrumentations developed specifically for a given work. I am furthermore confronted with fundamental questions regarding how to define the required skill set and, indeed, the level of virtuosity and perfection expected from classical musicians today. For the professional expert performer, instrumental expertise is developed through years of intense and intimate relationship with one’s instrument. However, if one chooses to embrace the variety and complexity of a post-percussive strategy as an open concept, one faces the risk of losing a coherent technical foundation and familiarity with one’s instrument, since every new work employs different tools. This is true whether one has to deal with new instruments or novel instrumental techniques. That musician – being a nomadic gatherer – belongs in principle to no defined practice: the practice of a nomadic gatherer becomes an attitude directed towards re-thinking and invention, illuminating the paradoxical situation that the only specialization and expertise left to us, is that of being specialized in being non-specialized. The conglomerate that constitutes that musical array has become a cultural and expressive melting pot that has shaped facets of modern music and will keep adding flavour to the future development of experimental musical arts.

Appendix

Chronological list of percussion works mentioned (lists are not complete):

1956: Cage, John: 27’10.554”, Peters Edition.

1959: Stockhausen, Karlheiz: Zyklus. Universal Edition.

1964: Feldman, Morton: King of Denmark. Peters Edition.

1966: Lachenmann, Helmut: Intérieur I. Edition Modern.

1966: Wuorinen Charles: Janissary Music. Peters Edition.

1967: Smith Brindle, Reginald: Orion M42. Peters Edition.

1967: Nørgård, Per: Waves. Edition Wilhelm Hansen.

1971: Henze, Hans Werner: Prison Song. Schott Music.

1971: Kagel, Mauricio: Exotica. Universal Edition.

1973: Globokar, Vinko: Toucher. Edition Peters.

1973: Pablo, Luis de: Le prie-dieu sur la terrasse. Suvini Zerboni.

1975: Xenakis, Iannis: Psappha. Edition Salabert.

1978: Aperghis, Georges: Le Corps à Corps. Editions Salabert.

1980: Vivier, Claude: Cinq Chansons pour Percussion. Boosey& Hawkes.

1980: Aperghis, Georges: Grafitti. Edition Salabert.

1982: Globokar, Vinko: ?Corporel. Peters Edition.

1982: Zimmermann, Walter: Glockenspiel. Beginner Press.

1983: Nørgård, Per: I Ching. Edition Wilhelm Hansen.

1984: Alvarez, Javier: Temazcal. Black Dog Editions.

1985: Rzewski, Frederic: To the Earth. Sound Pool Music.

1985: Volans, Kevin: She Who Sleeps with a Small Blanket. Chester Music.

1986: Sciarrino, Salvatore: appendice al perfeccione. Ricordi.

1986: Wood, James: Rogosanti. James Wood Edition.

1988: Lucier, Alvin: Silver Streetcar for the Orchestra. Material Press.

1989: Xenakis, Iannis: Rebonds. Edition Salabert

1989: Globokar, Vinko: Ombre. Ricordi.

1991: Lang, David: The Anvil Chorus. Red Poppy.

1991: Wallin, Rolf: Stonewave. Chester Music.

1991: Ferneyhough, Brian: Bone Alphabet. Peters Edition.

1992: Jarrell, Michael: Assonance VII. Editions Henry Lemoine.

1993: Eötwös, Peter: Psalm 151. Ricordi

1994: Globokar, Vinko: Dialog über Erde. Ricordi.

1995: Saariaho, Kaija: Six Japanese Gardens. Chester Music

1995: Kagel, Mauricio: L’Art Bruit. Edition Peters.

1995: Wolff, Christian: Percussionist Songs, Edition Peters.

1995: Reynholds, Roger: Watershed. Edition Peters.

1997: Globokar, Vinko: Pensée écartelée. Ricordi.

2001: Hoffmann, Robin: An-Sprache. Peters Edition.

2002: Adams, John Luther: The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies. Taiga Press.

2008: Globokar, Vinko: Au-delà d’une étude pour percussion. Ricordi.

2010: Sarhan, François: Home Work. Private edition.

2011: Appelbaum, Mark: Aphasia. Private edition.

Percussion Ensemble Works

:

1923/24: Antheil, George: Ballet Méchanique. Templeton Publishing.

1930: Roldán, Amadeo: Rítmicas 5&6.

1931: Varése, Edgard: Ionisation. Boosey& Hawkes.

1932: William Russel: Fugue. New Music Edition.

1933: William Russel: Three Dance Movements. New Music Edition.

1933: Beyer, Johanna: Percussion Suite in Three Movements. Unpublished manuscript.

1934: Cowell, Henry: Ostinato Pianissimo. Theodore Presser Company

1935: Beyer, Johanna: Auto Accident. Unpublished manuscript

1935: Cage, John: Quartet. Edition Peters.

1936: Cage, John: Trio. Edition Peters.

1939: Cage, John: First Construction (in Metal). Edition Peters.

1939: Cowell, Henry: Pulse. Theodore Presser Company

1940: Cage, John: Second Construction. Edition Peters.

1940: Cage John: Living Room Music. Edition Peters.

1941: Cage, John: Third Construction. Edition Peters.

1941: Harrison, Lou: Fugue. HBP

1942: Chavez, Carlos: Toccata. Alfred Publishing.

1943: Cage, John: Amores. Edition Peters.

1964: Stockhausen, Karlheiz: Mikrophonie I. Universal Edition.

1965: Kagel, Mauricio: Pas de cinq for 5 percussionists. Universal Edition

1969: Xenakis, Iannis: Persephassa. Edition Salabert.

1971: Reich, Steve: Drumming. Boosey & Hawkes.

1975: Stockhausen, Karlheiz: Musik im Bauch. Stockhausen Verlag.

1976: Cage, John: Branches. Edition Peters.

1976: Xenakis, Iannis: Pleiades. Edition Salabert.

1977: Kagel, Mauricio: Dressur. Universal Edition.

1988: Wood, James: Stoicheia. James Wood Edition.

1988: Huber, Nicolaus A: Herbstfestival. Berenreiter Verlag.

1989: Xenakis, Iannis: Okho. Editions Salabert.

1990: Grisey, Gérard – Le Noir de l’Etoile. Ricordi.

1991: Wallin, Rolf: Stonewave. Chester Music.

1994: Globokar, Vinko: Kvadrat, for four percussionists. Ricordi.

1997: Adams, John Luther: Strange and Sacred Noise. Taiga Press.

2006: Lim, Liza: City of Falling Angels. Ricordi.

2007: Hauser, Fritz: Bricco Lu. www.fritzhauser.ch

2010: Bauckholt, Carola: Hirn & Ei. Thuermchen Verlag.

2011: Meadowcroft, Thomas: The Great Knot. www.thomasmeadowcroft.com

2013: Meadowcroft, Thomas: Cradle. www.thomasmeadowcroft.com

Footnotes

References   [ + ]

1. At this point it may be appropriate to separate this practice, based in traditional instrumental performance, from that of, say, the new breed of musicians using laptop computers and other electronic tools as their main instruments. It is equally important to acknowledge that there are non-percussionist performers in the field of New Music, such as pianists Mark Knoop, Stephane Ginsbourg and Sebastian Berweck who also operate within a similar field of mixed media and, cross-instrumental practices.
2. More obscure, but equally interesting examples are the percussion music by Johanna Beyer (1888–1944), Harry Partch (1901–1974), William Russell (1905–1992), and Moondog (1916–1999), none of which, despite its originality, became part of the institutional canon or the catalogues of publishing houses.
3. Objects used included steel bars, metal pipes, tin cans, washboard kit, sheet metal, firecrackers, brake drums, alarm bells and household objects such as suitcases, books and kettles.
4. Marcel Duchamp: Bicycle Wheel (1913) and Fountain (1917). Interestingly, Erik Satie’s Parade (1917), influenced by the Dada movement, included typewriter, sirens, splashing water, revolver, lottery wheel and glass bottles into a traditional ensemble; German Hans Jürgen von der Wense’s Musik für Klavier, Klarinette and freihängendes Blechsieb (Music for Piano, Clarinet and Suspended Kitchen Sieve) (1918) employed household implements; American William Russel’s compositions from the early 1930s used ‘found object drum kit’.
5. For an excellent account of this, readers are advised to consult Jean Charles François’ Percussion et musique contemporain (Paris: Klincksieck esthétique, 1991).
6. Composed in 1956 and 1959 respectively, 27’10.554” was the first multi percussion solo, Zyklus the first European work of its kind.
7. Such as in solo works by Cage (1956), Stockhausen (1959), Feldman (1964), Lachenmann (1966), Wuorinen (1966), Smith-Brindle (1967), Henze (1971), De Pablo (1973), Vivier (1980) Sciarrino (1986), Lucier (1988), Jarrell (1989), Eötwös (1993), Saariaho (1995) and Adams (2002).
8. Such as nearly all percussion works by Xenakis, Nørgaard (1967/1983), Alvarez (1984), Volans (1985), Wood (1986), Lang (1991), Wallin (1991), Ferneyhough (1991) and ensemble works by Cage, Reich etc.
9. Such as solo works by Kagel (1971/1995), Aperghis (1980/1982), Globokar (1973/1982/1989/1994/1997/2008), Rzewski (1985), Sarhan (2010), Appelbaum (2011) and Hoffmann (2001). The latter’s work An-Sprache explores an almost scientific percussive investigation of the body’s interior, continuing an idea introduced in Globoakar’s Corporel (1982) where the performer’s body is the one and only instrument.
10. Other instrumental works suiting this category may include New Music classics such as Alvin Lucier’s Music for Performer (1965) and I am Sitting in a Room (1969); Giacinto Scelsi’s Ko-Tha (1967) for performer striking a guitar (or bass or 6-string cello); Steve Reich’s Pendulum Music (1968) for microphones and loudspeakers; Helmut Lachenmann’s Guero for piano (1970) and Pression for cello (1970); Maurizio Kagel’s Acustica (1970); Giorgio Battlistelli’s Jules Vernes (1987) for three performers; Manos Tsangaris’ Tafel I (1989) for two performers at a table; more recently Simon Steen-Andersen’’s Pretty Sound for piano (2008) and Black Box Music (2012); Alex Garsden’s Macrograph (2009); Carola Bauckholt’s Hirn & Ei (2010) for four wind jackets; Thomas Maedowcroft’s The Great Knot (2011) and Cradle (2012) for three performers; Simon Løffler’s b (2012) for effect pedals and fluorescent light; Trond Reinholdtsen’s Inferno (2013) for solo performer and video; Steffen Krebber’s Laufzeitumgebung (2013) for two performers; Erik Dæhlin’s Absence is the Only Real (2014) for solo performer controlling an entire installation – as well as those works mentioned in footnote 13.
11. Obviously, the idea of technical evolution and development is nothing new, and there are countless methods documenting this in history. However, the general physical actions involved in playing a string instrument or a keyboard have largely remained intact. Although concert pianists or organists constantly perform on different instruments in different halls and are required to re-adjust their technique accordingly, one traditionally relates to one kind of instrument only. This is not the case with percussion, and in this brief article I allow myself to draw general distinctions.
12. Dynamic control, articulation and timbre should also be included. Since they serve expressive aspects of sound, I choose to categorize them apart from mechanical aspects in this context.
13. Stefan Prins (b. 1979), Etude interieure for inside piano and marbles (2004), http://www.stefanprins.be/eng/composesInstrument/comp_2004_01_etudeinterieur.html; Simon Steen-Andersen (b. 1976), Rerendered for amplified piano with two assistants (2004) and Pretty Sound for amplified piano (Edition S, 2008); Helmut Lachenmann (b. 1935), Salut für Caudwell for two speaking guitarists (Breitkopf & Härtel, 1977); Lene Grenager (b. 1969), The Operation for table-top cello and ensemble (Norwegian Music Information Centre, 2011).
14. These case studies are by no means analytically exhaustive. Only general features relevant for performance are described.
15. This does certainly not apply to all works that could be defined as post-percussive, also not necessarily the ones presented in detail here, perhaps with the exception of Michael Piaro’s Ricefall.
16. Previous examples of the acoustic sound of water in contemporary music are John Cage’s Water Music (1952) and Water Walk (1959), Nicolaus A. Huber’s Herbstfestival (1989), Caspar Johannes Walter’s Lichtwechsel (1993) and Tan Dun’s Water Concerto (1998), more obscurely in performance art through event-works of the Cage-influenced George Brecht. Beyond that, musical imagery of water is featured in ancient cultures through instruments such as the South American rain stick and more recent products such as ocean drum, waterphone and hydraulophone; in classical music through works by Chopin, Debussy and Ravel among others.
17. Pisaro, Ricefall (2004). Pisaro is quoting John M. Hull, Touching the Rock: An Experience of Blindness (London: SPCK, 1990).
18. This particular feature is shared with other works in the experimental tradition that draw inspiration from conceptual art or deliberately avoid the need for professional musical expertise. Examples are Cornelius Cardew’s The Great Learning (1968–71), which was composed for the Scratch Orchestra, a group consisting of musicians and non-musicians alike, experienced artists and people with no previous experience in the arts; Christian Wolff’s Prose Collection for various constellations (1969); Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Aus den sieben Tagen (1968) and Mathias Spahlinger’s Entlöschend for large tam-tam (1974).
19. Text of In Her Frown: To convey information about / make known / impart / communicated her views to the office / To reveal clearly / manifest / her disapproval communicated itself in her frown / To become aware of, know, or identify by the means of the senses / I perceived an object looming through the mist / To recognize, discern, envision, or understand / I perceive a note of sarcasm in your voice / This is a very nice idea, but I perceive difficulties putting it into practice. www.dictionary.com, communicate/perceive 
20. The E-bow is an electromagnetic, battery driven device that can sustain string resonance.
21. Also, the following scordatura is used: Low E-string: unaltered; A-string: 2 cents lower than tempered; D-string: 31 cents lower than tempered; G-string: 33 cents lower than tempered; B-string: 64 cents lower than tempered; E-string: 66 cents lower than tempered. This chord structure is kept throughout, brought to resonance by traditional strumming, brushing or arpeggios, however steadily modulated by sliding the third-bridge bolt between frets.
22. The ektara is a traditional instrument mostly used in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The instrumental setup for Air was created by American percussionist Michael W. Ranta, for whom the piece was written.
23. This phrase was famously attributed to Karlheinz Stockhausen in the 1950s, although composers had embraced this aim as early as the 1920s. Important examples include Pierre Schaeffer’s Musique Concréte and the Fluxus movement.
24. For good summaries of the movement see (in English) Paul Griffiths, Modern Music and After (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), (in German) Ulrich Dibelius, Moderne Musik nach 1945 (Munich: Piper, 1998), or (in Norwegian) Dag Østerberg, Det Moderne: et essay om vestens kultur 1740-2000 (Oslo: Gyldendal, 1999).
25. Observe, for instance, how playing techniques for castanets, tamburello, riq, pandeiro, maraccas, bongos and congas are played in their original context and how they are adopted to Western classical music settings. Louis Adolphe Coerne, in The Evolution of Modern Orchestration (1908) states (cited in Bugg (2003), p. 22): ‘Sound-producing apparatus devoid of definite pitch belongs to the initial attempts of primitive men to assist vocal expression of emotional feeling, to accompany religious orgies, or to encourage their warriors on the march. The modern orchestra includes the best of these primitive species, transformed into perfected types of genuine artistic value, and has also drawn into requisition various instruments originating in countries that are far apart. Most commonly used are the bass drum, the cymbals and the triangle. … Their mission is primarily to suggest “local” coloring or to emphasize rhythm for dancing’.
26. Notably to Turkish janissary music, the Arab world and the Far East. See Bugg (2003).