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

Editorial

‘Expositions & Developments’

by Jeremy Cox| Read Full Text

Expositions

Debussy: Beyond Black and White

by Stephen Emmerson and Bernard Lanskey

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Abstract

This exposition reflects on several performances by the authors that aimed to re-imagine selected pieces by Debussy in the centenary year of his death. More particularly, it considers some issues and implications arising from performing the composer’s music for piano(s) on modern digital instruments, specifically the Nord Stage 3 keyboards (2017). The exposition focuses primarily on the second movement of En blanc et noir, although the composer’s version of Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune for two pianos and the solo prelude “Voiles” are also considered. The authors propose that exploring this pivotal music from the Western and Modernist traditions on digital instruments allows it to be presented and heard in new ways, thereby expanding our perception and experience of it. Several video-recorded performances of these pieces are provided. An outline of Debussy’s own preferences concerning instruments is offered, together with some brief comments on his broader aesthetics, our perspective being that our versions remain congruent with underlying aspects of both of these.

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Horatiu Radulescu – Playing the unplayable

by Roger Heaton

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Abstract

Romanian/French composer Horațiu Rădulescu (1942–2008) might superficially be thought of as part of the French spectral group with Grisey, Murail and others, but spectralism is a very broad church and Radulescu’s work, as he states, radically transforms compositional technique away from treating sound from the outside, organising sounds produced in traditional ways; rather, he explores the possibility of sound’s autonomy, of ‘entering the sound’. Rădulescu’s music from the late 1960s onwards is built from sound situations created by different treatments of fundamentals, the spectra produced by these treatments, and the isolation of individual spectra. The music evolves ‘naturally’ from the initial organisation of sound sources and formal structures, its interest lying in the interaction of the resulting harmonics, difference tones, sub-tones, rhythmic beats, and so on. The material of music is no longer the manipulation of pitch and rhythm but a ‘living matter’ that Rădulescu calls ‘sound plasma’. As an example of Rădulescu’s work, this exposition presents an analysis from the performer’s point of view of The Inner Time for solo clarinet (1983), illuminating the challenges posed by attempting to realise this score in performance. The piece, lasting 28 minutes, is composed in 137 modules or ‘aural filters’ notated as microtonal frequencies. The clarinettist uses multiphonics, harmonics and what Rădulescu calls ‘yellow tremoli’ (trills on one pitch, colour trills, bisbigliando) following notated rhythmic patterns where pitches are split apart and the harmonics explored individually, then building and layering on top of each other.

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Multiphonics for Stringed Instruments: Performance Practice and Research Practice

by Ellen Fallowfield

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Abstract

I contextualise my work in cello multiphonics in the framework of practice-based research and key modern developments, such as music-as-performance and contemporary technique. I describe the processes and outputs involved in my research in terms of performance practice and research practice, and provide videos to demonstrate the practical use of a recently released app for cello harmonics and multiphonics.

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Coup de la Glotte and Voix Blanche – Two vanished techniques of the Garcia School

by Ingela Tagil

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Abstract

This exposition explores aspects of the vocal techniques promoted by the Garcia School, in particular Manuel Garcia the younger (1805–1906). Despite his aim to improve the male opera voice, Garcia and his successors had their greatest success with female singers. I believe that, to the extent that they may be considered as significant factors in why the Garcia School was extraordinary successful with female singers, especially high sopranos and coloratura sopranos, some parts of Garcia’s vanished techniques may benefit female voices today. Garcia’s controversial term Coup de la glotte, his definition of breathing support, and his term for a high larynx position, voix blanche, provide the main focus for the exposition. My core research questions are: 1. How do Garcia’s techniques coup de la glotte (hard tone onset) and voix blanche (high larynx position) affect female opera voice progression? 2. Do these techniques have any relevance today? I have conducted experiments with seven sopranos, three of them professionals and four opera students at the Bern University of Arts. All participants sang the same Garcia exercises and the same aria, a part of Lucia’s mad-scene from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. All these experiments were filmed, with the camera focused on the singer’s glottis while they sang using Garcia’s techniques. I am now evaluating the experiments and comparing them with early recordings. I have found that some of Garcia’s techniques, especially the higher breathing support together with the higher larynx positions are really useful to some high sopranos, especially in certain bel canto repertoire. Garcia was already old-fashioned during his own lifetime and singers from the Garcia/Marchesi school clung to older techniques longer than other singers from the same period. For this reason, I suggest that the Garcia School may be used as a historical window to singers wishing to sing in historical ways – even having relevance for pre-nineteenth century repertoire.

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Developoments

Cerro Rico: the co-production of a discursive voice in chamber music

by David Gorton, Mieko Kanno, and Stefan Östersjö

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Abstract

Centred around a video essay, this exposition aims to develop an understanding of subjectivity within a collaborative chamber music context. Drawing on the theory of situated cognition (see for example Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989) and the concept of subjective ‘voice’ in performance (Cumming, 2000), the presentation develops the model proposed by Gorton and Östersjö (2016 and 2019) in which a ‘discursive voice’ may emerge from the process of composer–performer collaboration. These ideas are explored through a study of the early rehearsals of David Gorton’s composition ‘Cerro Rico’, for soprano violin and charango. This is a very slow piece, and while the two instrumentalists both operate at this extreme of the tempo spectrum, they do so guided by different conceptions, one metronomic and the other taxonomic, of how this should be notated; the charango player works with a very slow metronome mark of quaver = 15 while the violinist plays mostly in large note-values: breves, longs, and dotted longs. From these opposed positions, the performers find a shared understanding of time. Through an appraisal of video footage taken from the first rehearsals of ‘Cerro Rico’, it is argued that the malleable character of coordination, shaping, and timing that is afforded in performance by the extreme slowness of the piece creates the conditions for the emergence of a discursive voice, compounded from the contributions of the two performers and the composer. The ‘collaboration’ between composer and performers can be conceived as being situated within this discursive voice, manifested as a sense of shared ownership of the materials.

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New music for old instruments

by Helena Marinho and Joaquim Branco

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Abstract

This project addressed the digital expansion of fortepiano features using techniques of sound design and programming, studying how these interact with the performing and improvising processes and questioning a sonic image of the fortepiano’s affordances that is limited by the perception of the standard devices available on modern pianos: the sustaining and the *una corda* pedals. We took our point of departure from two research questions: 1) Since sound-altering devices are not normally available in modern copies of fortepianos, how can we conceive and apply experimental alternatives? 2) How do the ensuing alterations modify instrumental perception and can they contribute to the creation of alternative performing solutions, namely in association with improvisatory practices and sound synthesis? The research has exposed the aesthetic limitations of merely considering historical re-construction. In doing so, it has highlighted a set of performing techniques, creative procedures and digital applications that can contribute to a deconstruction of the standard perception of the sound of historical keyboard instruments and to the creation of experimental paths for performing and improvising on the fortepiano through the mediation of electronic interfaces and digital sound objects.

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Issue Editor

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