Volumes 5-7. Special 3-volume Edition, 2019-2020: Performance Studies Network Conference, Oslo, July 2018


‘Interactions, Interrelationships and Interdependencies’

by Jeremy Cox| Read Full Text

Performative Compositional Practice

Composer-Performer Collaborations in New Compositions: suggestions for change versus authorship

by Agata Kubiak-Kenworthy

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Composer-performer collaboration is a phenomenon particularly associated with new music performance. This unique social situation often creates the opportunity for an artistic dialogue that would not occur otherwise. New music performance has been a rich source for music academia but, as stated by Fitch and Heyde (2007): ‘Very little attention has been paid to the performer’s potentially significant mediation between composer and piece’.

In this paper, I examine in detail the types of ‘creative change suggestions’ that drive many composer-performer collaborations. Through analysis of the rehearsal process and the communication that takes place within it, as well as through semi-structured interviews with participants and professionals, I have been able to gain insight into the process and ask important questions about the nature of authorship in new music performance. The pieces involved in this research range in culture from neo-romanticism to spectralism and require creative involvement from the performer at different stages. This research establishes a typology that allows one to look closely at the different kinds of creative interactions that occur in collaborative situations.

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“That it´s not too late for us to have bodies” Notes on Extended Performance Practices in Contemporary Music

by Monika Voithofer

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Since the 1950s, intermedia and performance art practices increased in the field of contemporary music. The interdependency of different (analogue and digital) media and the revaluation of the body and physicality call for a multisensory, instead of “just” an auditory perception of these compositions.

In the first sections of this paper the development of intermedia and performance art practices in historical European and U.S. post-war avant-garde movements such as Fluxus, Conceptual Art and Performance Art will be traced.

Subsequently, some selected works by composer-performer Jennifer Walshe will be discussed, to demonstrate the influence of the avant-garde movements on and their (digital) continuation in The New Discipline – a term Walshe introduced in 2016 to describe her artistic techniques in regard to extended performance practices in contemporary music, where sound is still a crucial, but not the only, ‘pure’ medium.

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‘Is this your composition, or is this some sort of collaboration?’ Examining a professional musician’s attitude towards graphic composition

by Russell Wimbish

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This study examines how a professional improvising musician establishes a personal sense of artistic value in the shadow of the Western classical music canon. The findings derive from an interview with double bassist Tom Blancarte on the topic of graphic score performance. Blancarte’s reasons for not wholeheartedly embracing graphic compositional concepts reveal much about the perspectives, practices and challenges of a musician working in experimental settings. By phenomenologically examining Blancarte’s views on graphic scores, improvisation, musical collaboration and the Western classical canon, this research shows how cultural hegemonies, social interactions and musical identity can impact artistic practice.

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Thought, Technology and Performance: Lessons from the Future

by Jonathan Impett and Juan Parra Cancino

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Music, Thought and Technology (MTT) is a research cluster investigating the role of technology- and science-derived concepts in contemporary music practices: in technologically-facilitated music, of course, but also more widely, in the creation, understanding, criticism, representation, pedagogy and discourses of music. As practitioners, we pursue this work in the spirit of artistic research – through our own work as musicians – and the methodological ethos of ‘critical technical practice’ (Agre, 1995).

Musical works have much in common with the virtual or digital objects we now seek to understand and with our new world of augmented materiality (Massumi, 2002). They exist in a unique state of materiality/immateriality. While they are intensely bound to direct experience, to technologies, techniques and materials, this physicality can exist in multiple instantiations, they can be manipulated, engaged with and acted upon as cultural abstractions. In cultural terms, music is the area of human activity in which we deal with the virtual, with the constructive relationship between human affect and abstract structures or formal systems.

Technological models thus influence all aspects of contemporary thought and practice, while our long cultural experience of art music offers precedents for understanding digital culture.

In working not only with new technologies but with the models of thought they embody, performance, imagination and creation come into a different alignment. The situatedness and distributedness of the work have to be acknowledged. The relationship between performer and work is transformed, particularly when the performer retains creative ownership over the evolution of the work, or the work itself has ‘intelligent’ agency. How are these situations reflected in the act of performance? In its preparation, reception and repetition? The transductive nature of technological performance affords rich modes of representation, analysis and reflection. How do these inform the evolution of performance in particular cases in in general? We explore these aspects through case studies from MTT. Finally, we then consider what are the implications of such work for the performance and understanding of earlier, historical repertoire. Is ‘technological’ performance materially different to ‘conventional’ performance in a cultural context of shared models?

As traditional roles and contexts for performance are increasingly open to question, these issues are relevant to performers of all kinds of music. These widely-diffused models of thought are common to all contemporary modes of performance; indeed, they point to some important commonalities.

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Meaning, Articulation and Reception

Death of the composer? Making meanings from musical performance

by Alan Taylor

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The view of art music composers as central to musical meaning making is hard to reconcile with what we know of the compositional process. I explore this question by examining the working of the imagination, reviewing debates on artists as the source of meaning in their art, and through a study of meaning making by audiences from pieces I composed. I propose a neurological model of meaning making from music in which meaning arises from listener perceptions of music as an analogy for human experience. Meanings may subsequently be expressed verbally due to the contrasting functioning of the brain hemispheres.

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Does the performer have to listen?

by Anthony Gritten

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This article sketches two arguments about how the performer listens. The first argument is that during performance, the performer listens with her entire body, not just with her ears. The body leads the way, rather than simply doing what the mind and its ears determine. What drives the performer is the self-perception of her body in its environment.

The second argument is that displacing the concept of listening by that of concentration allows us both to retain an emphasis on the body, and to understand how during performance the performer hears more and listens less than during practice. The precise ratio of hearing to listening during performance varies according to factors like the work’s style, the acoustic of the venue, the performer’s physical constitution and level of fitness, the instrument, and various psychological issues – which this article illustrates with reference to recorded performances of Mikhail Pletnev playing Mili Balakirev and Kjell Samkopf playing John Cage.

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Minds, music, and motion: ecologies of ensemble performance

by Marc Duby

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According to recent neuroscientific literature, expert musical performance is one of the most complex and challenging tasks humans undertake and constitutes an important potential area of inquiry into neurocognitive aspects of motor knowledge and brain plasticity, among other concerns (Schlaug 2015; Brown, Zatorre, and Penhune 2015). While there exist a large number of research projects focussing on individual performance, ensemble performance has not altogether garnered the same degree of attention, notwithstanding significant contributions from perspectives such as ecological psychology, incorporating notions of affordances under the aegis of what has become loosely known as 4E cognition (Clarke 2005; Windsor 2011; Windsor and de Bezenac 2012; Walton et al. 2015).

This article explores some opportunities and challenges that arise from a broadly ecological perspective as applied to ensemble performance, arguing that there is a fundamental difference between individuals as soloists and individuals as part of performing ensembles: in short, that the ensuing dynamics within performing groups cannot be straightforwardly understood as additive processes (in which individual contributions result in a group outcome in linear fashion). An additive approach, it is argued, cannot do justice to the emergent character of music in performance, when considered as an activity (Small 1998) rather than an object of analysis.

Studies of emergent relationships within ensemble performance (Borgo 2005; Sawyer 2006; Sawyer and DeZutter 2009; Barrett 2014) seem to exhibit a natural kinship with improvisation, whether in theatre or music. However, the question remains as to the applicability of these various approaches—which incorporate concepts from systems theory as models to account for unpredictable dynamic outcomes of group processes—to performances where the outcomes are pre-constrained by the composer’s authoritative directions. The article aims to offer a snapshot of current research in this emerging field of analysis in discussing the opportunities and challenges at play when aspects of ecological psychology and systems theory are applied to ensemble performance.

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Text articulation and musical articulation in choral performance: a case study

by Caiti Hauck

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In music, the term ‘articulation’ is often understood as the relationship between contiguous notes in terms of connecting them or not. In vocal music, ‘articulation’ also means the physical action of producing vowels and consonants. Is there a relationship between these two notions of ‘articulation’?

This article discusses the influence of text articulation on musical articulation in choral performances by comparing and contrasting analyses of recordings with bibliographical studies and interviews with conductors. It discusses the effects of different durations and dynamics of vowels and consonants on legato and non-legato articulations. Results suggest that the manner of articulating the text is intrinsically related to the resulting musical articulation.

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Resistance and Affordance

Baroque harmonic language and chord playing on the marimba: one piece, many options

by Tomoyo Ueda

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Early music increasingly forms part of the repertoire performed by marimbists. While it gives them the opportunity to explore repertoire composed nearly 200 years before the marimba came into the world of western classical music, marimbists are often faced with difficulties as to how to interpret this music stylistically. By combining aspects of historical performance practice with the marimbists’ technique and imagination, there is a possibility of creating a performance that meets the ideals of the Baroque period: one that is individual, expressive and moving.

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The potential of videoconferencing and low-latency (LoLa) technology for instrumental music teaching

by Benjamin Redman

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The research presented in this paper seeks to understand the responses of a variety of music teachers and students to using videoconferencing and low-latency (LoLa) audiovisual streaming technology in instrumental music lessons, and to determine the potential and limitations of its use in educational settings.

LoLa technology facilitates remote parties performing together, but there is limited research available on how effective the technology is when used for instrumental music teaching. Pilot studies and interviews with practitioners examine issues surrounding distance learning in instrumental music lessons, and sets the context from which the LoLa trials emerge.

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Contemporary Cello Technique: Performance and Practice

by Alfia Nakipbekova

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In my performance practice and pedagogy, I approach the inter-related elements of playing the cello – technique, interpretation and performance – as a single integrated domain. This article seeks to elucidate this notion, highlighting the inherent continuity between the development of the cello’s technical and expressive capacities. Within the broad area of ‘technique’, I believe that traditional and contemporary technical styles can evolve through a fluid process of interactions – a ‘dialogue’ that is enlivened by tensions, transitional turns and mycelial exchanges.

Focusing on Nomos alpha by Iannis Xenakis – one of the most complex works for solo cello of the twentieth century – the article investigates the dynamics of these interactions and how the traditions established in the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries might support the expanding domain of new techniques and approaches to the cello. I argue that the extended and ‘extreme’ techniques employed by Xenakis to convey the sound architecture of Nomos alpha must be viewed as a part of a global perspective on the traditions of cello playing.

By juxtaposing the orthodox cello method by David Popper (Hohe Schule des Violoncello-Spiels Op. 73) with contemporary studies compiled and edited by Siegfried Palm, Pro musica nova: Studien zum Spielen neuer Musik: für Violoncello and the set of Ten Preludes by Sofia Gubaidulina, the article explores the interactions, interrelationships and interdependencies that exist in the superficially different approaches to cello technique.


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Cameron Carpenter’s Queer Art of the Organ, Camp, and Neoliberalism

by Laura Wahlfors

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Organ virtuoso Cameron Carpenter, who tours the world with his custom-built digital instrument, is known for his camp image and controversial performances, and for his mission to revolutionise the art of the organ. In the light of camp and queer theories, this article explores how Carpenter challenges the practices of organ playing and the classical recital, queering normative embodiments of gender and sexuality. Even though, in contemporary society, gender fluidity and virtuosic flexibility are easily harnessed to serve the goals of capitalism and neoliberalism, Carpenter’s camp virtuosity can be interpreted as creating a space of resistance, a performance space of queer utopian potential.

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Issue Editor

Prof. Jeremy Cox MA, DPhil (Oxon.), FRCM, Issue Editor