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Series 2

CMPCP/IMR Series 2 (2011-12)

Tactile listening: musical gestures and the (lived) body

Deniz Peters
21 November 2011
Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

When listening to music, we often respond with feeling. There are various kinds of felt reactions to a performance of a musical work. Some of these kinds are accompanied by or correlated with an emotional reception of the music, while others are not; the latter might be described as somatic responses. In some cases belonging to both kinds we consciously experience feelings, rather than inferring something that might have an emotional significance or connotation. For example, we might describe a passage as increasing in tension, in this pointing to our physical experience of a particular quality of tension behind this assertion. In view of the detail, cohesion, and differentiation of tension qualities one might experience when listening to a complex work, one can speak of an experiential counterpart – the tactile twin of the work’s aural presence, its felt counterpart. That counterpart is analytically and even ontologically obscure, an obscurity often viewed as a consequence of the subjectivity of experience. For instance, when speaking of musical gestures, we refer to an experience beyond that of melodic contour or rhythmic, harmonic and formal organisation. A host of contemporary theories conceive of the musical gestures’ experiential beyond as being a consequence of the listeners’ emotional mirroring of performers’ gestures. I have suggested that this model is not convincing, and will here expand on the reasons why this is so. I shall consider strengths and shortcomings of current theories of musical perception, including accounts of gesture, persona theory, and mental simulation as a backdrop. I then present my own account, which identifies tactile listening as grounded in the listener’s own lived body, rather than in an imitation of the performers’ actions and a simulation of their feelings and emotions. I apply my argument to concrete musical analysis, illustrating how the body provides an intersubjective rather than merely subjective basis for shared experience by comparing various interpretations of a piano work by Brahms in regard to their tactile listening potentials.

Deniz Peters is both a musicologist and an improvising musican. He graduated with first class Honours in classical piano performance at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, where he also gained his Master’s degree in musicology. Peters’ doctoral dissertation (University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, 2005) was on the aesthetics of Alexander Scriabin’s late œuvre, and combines music analysis with philosophy. His research activities and interests are in interdisciplinary musicological work, joining topics in the philosophy of music, phenomenology, music theory and analysis with artistic research. On the artistic side, his work has included collaborative improvisations with dancers. Peters was main researcher in the Embodied Generative Music project (2007–2010), as part of which he conceived and organised the Bodily Expression in Electronic Music Symposium, with co-directors Gerhard Eckel and Andreas Dorschel. Peters has just finished editing a book on the same topic with Routledge, to appear later this year. Based in Graz, he is currently applying for funding for research on musical expression, interpretation and improvisation. Peters has published in English and German, on the aesthetics of Alexander Scriabin and on various aspects of musical experience. His most recent publications are ‘Enactment in Listening: Intermedial Dance in EGM Sonic Scenarios and the Listening Body’, in Performance Research 15/3 (September 2010), and an article on sonic resistances forthcoming in Contemporary Music Review.

Advocacy and ethics: how the performer seeks to be a faithful advocate for the nature of the music he or she performs

Darla Crispin (Orpheus Institute)
28 November 2011
Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

In conveying an authoritative voice within performance, musicians may experiment with their own levels of engagement, neutrality and alienation. As described here, these represent simply the twin extremes and the mid-point of what, in reality, is a spectrum of possible approaches, albeit one across which one may speak of a prevailing tendency towards one of these three nodal points.

These qualities may be perceived, in musical works (and therefore be assumed to be symptomatic of the composer’s intention) but may equally emerge as characteristics of the performer’s interpretation. This seminar will present both a theoretical model as a means of underlining the multiplicity of forms that a performer’s advocacy may take, and demonstrations of how this might be applied in musical practice, through specific reference to solo piano works of the Second Viennese School. The overall aim is to question prevailing views of musical performers as ‘communicative vessels’, and to offer, instead, some approaches which emphasise performers’ power of communicative choice and concomitant need for a strongly developed ethical sense in making these choices.

Darla Crispin is a Senior Research Fellow at the Orpheus Research Centre in Music (ORCiM), Ghent, Flanders. A Canadian pianist and scholar, Dr Crispin has worked as a solo performer and accompanist in the UK, Continental Europe and Canada, specialising in musical modernity in both her performing and her scholarship. Dr Crispin’s most recent scholarly work focuses upon the ramifications of practice-based research for musicians, scholars and audiences. Publications on this theme include Schoenberg’s Wounded Work: Interpretative Themes and the String Quartet in F sharp minor Opus 10, in Austrian Studies 17 (Manley Publishing, for the Modern Humanities Research Association), and a collaborative volume with Kathleen Coessens and Anne Douglas: The Artistic Turn: A Manifesto (Orpheus Institute, September 2009). She is currently working on a book entitled The Second Viennese School: Performance, Ethics and Understanding.

The idiom of the performer as a factor in the origination of new work

John Wallace (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland)
5 December 2011
Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

In his preface to a new book on the history of the trumpet by John Wallace and Alexander McGrattan, shortly to be published by Yale University Press, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies writes tellingly of his earliest experiences of the trumpet, his close relationship with players, and the way that listening to live and recorded performances of jazz and popular music influenced the music he wrote for trumpet. John Wallace’s talk will take as a starting point his own observations of the way in which composers work with and feed off the personalised idioms of performers from close experience with Davies, Birtwistle, Macmillan, Saxton, Muldowney, Gruber, Berio, Souster and others. Now at the end of his professional career, though still active in commissioning new works for trumpet, Wallace will illustrate his talk with live and recorded performance of the works which were written for him.

John Wallace is Principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. He is also Chair of Conservatoires UK and a council member of the Association of European Conservatoires. Born in Fife, he had his formative musical experiences playing cornet in Tullis Russell Mills Band. After an education encompassing Buckhaven High School, the NYO, King’s College Cambridge, the RAM and York University, he had a career as a trumpet player in London with the LSO, Philharmonia and London Sinfonietta. He formed his own ensemble, the Wallace Collection. Composers including Maxwell Davies, Macmillan, Birtwistle, Saxton, Muldowney and Souster wrote new works for him– the starting point for today’s seminar.

Study day with Arditti Quartet: Jonathan Harvey’s String Quartet No. 4

Arditti Quartet
Irvine Arditti (violin); Ashot Sarkissjan (violin); Ralf Ehlers (viola); Lucas Fels (cello)
Sound Intermedia
Gilbert Nouno (IRCAM)
Michael Clarke (University of Huddersfield)
26 January 2012
Jerwood Hall, LSO St Luke’s, 161 Old Street, London EC1V 9NG (note venue)
Tickets £10 (£5 students)

Jonathan Harvey’s Fourth String Quartet brings together a fascination for instrumental virtuosity and an examination of sonority with live electronics in a hauntingly beautiful work. Professor Michael Clarke will lead a discussion of this work with the programmer of the computer system, Gilbert Noumo, and will introduce a performance of the work with the Arditti Quartet.

Promoted by IMR, Kingston University London, University of Huddersfield and CMPCP, in association with the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s ‘Total Immersion: Jonathan Harvey’.

Beyond the radif: new forms of improvisational practice in Iranian music

Laudan Nooshin (City University, London)
12 March 2012
Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

For the past 100 years and more, the performance of Iranian classical music has been based on a repertoire known as radif, a collection of pieces organised according to mode and memorised by pupils for later use as the basis for creative performance. In the course of the twentieth century, with the gradual institutionalisation of music education and the introduction of notation and sound recording, the radif became increasingly iconic of the tradition itself, and by the 1960s was closely linked with newly emerging discourses of ‘authenticity’ and ‘purity’.

Today, the radif remains firmly at the heart of the Iranian classical tradition; to work outside the framework of the radif is to work outside the tradition. However, in recent years a number of musicians have started to challenge the authority of the radif, taking their cue in part from changes which took place from the mid-1970s, particularly during the ‘return to roots’ resurgence of national identity which followed the 1979 revolution, when musicians started to introduce new ideas, new sounds, new instruments, new rhythmic structures, setting new kinds of poetry, and so on. This trend has continued, culminating in the recent ‘new wave’ of musicians who are breaking out from what they view as the constraints of the radif. Two such musicians are Amir Eslami (nei) and Hooshyar Khayam (piano), whose work I will discuss in this seminar.

Amir and Hooshyar belong to a new generation of composer-performers who are well-educated, cosmopolitan in outlook and highly articulate about their music. Their 2010 album All of You (Hermes Records, Iran) presents a new approach to improvisation which, whilst taking inspiration from the radif, lies outside the radif tradition and differs in important respects from ‘traditional’ forms of improvisation in Iranian music, not least in the discussions which precede performance and in the discursive foregrounding of compositional thinking by the musicians themselves. In this seminar, I discuss the work of Amir and Hooshyar, presenting examples from their recent album, and ask what their music tells us about the possible future direction of creative practice in Iranian classical music.

Laudan Nooshin is Senior Lecturer in Ethnomusicology at City University, London. Her research interests include creative processes in Iranian music; music and youth culture in Iran; music and gender; neo/post-colonialism and Orientalism; and music in Iranian cinema. Recent publications include Music and the Play of Power in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia (ed. 2009, Ashgate) and book chapters and journal articles in Iranian Studies, Ethnomusicology Forum and the Journal of the Royal Musical Association. Laudan also writes reviews and features for Songlines magazine. Her forthcoming monograph is entitled Iranian Classical Music: The Discourses and Practice of Creativity (Ashgate). Laudan is currently co-editor of Ethnomusicology Forum.

Muses from the past: historical flute recordings and today’s performance style

Abigail Dolan (University of Surrey)
26 March 2012
Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

Combining historical and practical perspectives, the seminar both presents my research into 78rpm flute recordings and investigates how the knowledge gained in the study of the recorded heritage can be creatively used in performance.
The presentation overviews the changes in flute performance style in recordings made between 1900 and 1950, focusing on the different approaches to vibrato and tone colour during the period and changes in the use of tone as an expressive device. By referring to examples from works for solo flute by Debussy and Jolivet, the discussion explores ways to use historical recordings as a catalyst for expanding the performer’s expressive palette and as a means for enhancing creativity in performance. The seminar launches my IMR research project ‘The Recorded Heritage and Beyond’, which focuses on the investigation of the recorded heritage alongside collaboration with performers on exploring possible applications of the research to performance.

Abigail Dolan’s career combines performance studies with flute performances worldwide. Abigail has recorded four CDs (released by Selen and Memus) and performed with various chamber groups such as Ensemble Lumina, Musica Nova, and the Tateand Kaprizma Ensembles. Former Edison Fellow at the British Library Sound Archive, Abigail is a Fellow Commoner at Clare Hall in Cambridge, and serves as the Artistic Director of the College’s chamber music series. She has recently been appointed as a Research Fellow at the Department of Music & Sound Recording, Surrey University, and is Research Director of the Musical Expression in Performance Research Institute (MEPRIUS) and the Symphonova Project. Abigail’s research interests include changes in twentieth-century performance style, with special interest in the French School of Flute Playing, as well as expressivity in performance and historical recordings as an inspirational source.

The digital musical instrument as an epistemic tool

Thor Magnusson
30 April 2012
Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

In this talk Thor Magnusson will explore some important differences in the design and performance of acoustic and new digital musical instruments, arguing that with the latter there is an increased encapsulation of musical theory. The point of departure is the phenomenology of musical instruments, which leads to the exploration of designed artefacts as extensions of human cognition – as scaffolding onto which we delegate parts of our cognitive processes. The talk emphasises the pronounced epistemic dimension of digital instruments when compared to acoustic instruments. Through the analysis of material epistemologies it is possible to describe the digital instrument as an epistemic tool: a designed tool with such a high degree of symbolic pertinence that it becomes a system of knowledge and thinking in its own terms. The conclusion rounds up the phenomenological and epistemological arguments, pointing at relevant issues in the design of digital musical instruments, which are particularly important due to their strong aesthetic implications for musical culture.

Thor Magnusson is a musician/writer/programmer working in the fields of music and generative art. His PhD from the University of Sussex focused on computer music interfaces from the perspective of the philosophy of technology, phenomenology and cognitive science. He is a senior lecturer in the School of Art and Media at the University of Brighton. Thor is mainly interested in improvisation, live performances, installations and audio software production. He is a co-founder and member of the ixi audio collective, with which he has written various musical software and given workshops and talks in key institutions across Europe on the design and creation of digital musical instruments and sound installations.

‘Liveness’: a quality, a platform, an essential creative space in notated music

Kathryn Whitney (Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama)
21 May 2012
Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

When musicians perform a piece of music in concert, they enter in a state of ‘liveness’, while at the same time causing that state to come into being. While ‘live’ is a term typically used to distinguish concerts from recordings, Philip Auslander (2008) has argued that this distinction is meaningless, since we experience all music in ‘real time’ regardless of the means of production.

Persuasive though this theory may be with respect to listeners, for performers, liveness is different. Liveness is a quality performers create and play into, a platform on which they experience an audience’s contribution and a space within which they present ideas worked out in rehearsal.

Crucially (I will argue), liveness is also an essential creative space within which performers and audiences explore the shifting expressive content of fully notated music. Similar to concepts such as ‘flow’ (Augustine), ‘performativity’ (Austin), and the idea that music ‘takes shape’ across time (Leech-Wilkinson), liveness is a quality or space or potential of concert performance that is written into every composed work.

How can we best discuss liveness or learn about its features, structure or condition? In this paper-performance, I will show how demonstration of the ‘performativity’ of poetry and music in live art song performance offers an effective model for identifying creative and structural characteristics of liveness that may be applicable across composed genres.

Kathryn Whitney is a classical singer and musicologist and founding co-director of the SongArt Performance Research Group. Trained in musicology at Toronto and Oxford, and in singing in New York and at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, she was a college lecturer in music at Oxford for twelve years and has been a visiting lecturer at many institutions, including the Royal Academy of Music, Cambridge, and the University of British Columbia. A Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Musical Research in London since 2009, she was Walton Fellow at the Royal Welsh College of Music from 2009 to 2011. Kathryn has performed over forty premieres, the majority of the music having been written for her voice.

Performance and creativity: harpsichord as cultural microcosm

Jane Chapman (Royal College of Music)
28 May 2012
Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

‘There came a moment of madness when the feeling harpsichord thought that it was the only harpsichord in the world, and that the whole harmony of the universe resided in it.’ Diderot (1769)

Jane Chapman will examine the harpsichord as a source of inspiration for a new body of innovative work and performance techniques, drawing on and confronting its historical associations and redefining its position today through solo performance and wider artistic collaboration. This presentation explores the creative process as partnership between performer and composer, illustrated by key works that have been written for her. She will investigate ideas of performance practice, authenticity and interpretation when applied to the appropriation of musical ideas and inspiration from the ‘other’, in particular the challenges of reconstructing and contextualising the first publication of Indian music written in staff notation for performance on Western instruments, namely The Oriental Miscellany; being a collection of the most favourite airs of Hindoostan, compiled and adapted for the harpsichord, &c. by William Hamilton Bird (Calcutta, 1789).

Jane Chapman is described as ‘Britain’s most progressive harpsichordist’ (Independent on Sunday) and ‘the hippest harpsichordist around’ (London Metro). She is equally passionate about contemporary and baroque music, and has inspired a generation of composers, premiering over 200 solo, chamber and electroacoustic works worldwide. She is involved in cutting-edge collaborations with groundbreaking musicians and visual artists, exploring innovative approaches to performance.

Her recordings of eighteenth-century English music and of the seventeenth-century French Bauyn Manuscript offered the first extensive overviews of important sources previously unexplored on disc, and her solo CD for harpsichord and electronics WIRED is the first of its kind by a British artist. She has also compiled and edited two volumes of Contemporary Music Review on new music for harpsichord. Jane is Professor of Harpsichord at the Royal College of Music, and is currently Artist-in-Residence at King’s College London Library.

Do you know the land? Wolf’s performing and composing of Mignon’s lyric chain

Amanda Glauert (Royal College of Music)
11 June 2012
Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

The ‘Kennst du das Land’ poem from Goethe’s novel Wilhelm Meister is often taken as a model of the lyric’s appeal to the listener to join in with the singer. Yet the diegetic aspects involved in Goethe’s description of Mignon’s performance of her song in the novel draw attention to her specific dramatic embodiment of her question to listeners and thus the strangeness of the ‘land’ she evokes. Much to Goethe’s dismay, Beethoven set a precedent for radically foregrounding the dramatic in his music-setting of Mignon, to the point of straining or even breaking the lyric contract. Performers and composers who come to Mignon via a post-Beethoven pattern of musical response often find themselves facing a contradictory mixture of operatic and song-like cues. In this context, Wolf’s uncompromising search for renewed definitions of lyrical song throws a critical and clarifying light onto the Mignon legacy, and specifically onto the question of how to resolve a mixture of the dramatic and lyrical in favour of the lyric. The presentation will include a performance and discussion of Wolf’s ‘Kennst du das Land’ with pianist Briony Williams and soprano April Frederick.

Amanda Glauert read Music at Clare College, Cambridge and undertook her PhD at Goldsmiths College, London. After taking her ARCM in violin teaching at the RCM, early teaching appointments took her to Trinity College, Dublin and the Colchester Institute, after which she spent fourteen years in a number of senior roles at the Royal Academy of Music. There she set up research programmes for performers and composers at Master’s and doctoral level, and helped establish creative links between aspects of theory and practice. In 2009 she became Professor of Music and Music Director of Research at Kingston University, before joining the RCM as Director of Programmes & Research in 2010.

Professor Glauert’s musicological interest in performance issues and the aesthetics of performativity, particularly in relation to song, began to develop while she was an undergraduate at Cambridge. Her PhD was on Hugo Wolf, and her book on the composer (CUP, 1999) was nominated for an RPS Award. She has written innumerable articles, chapters and conference papers, predominantly on German repertoire of the nineteenth century; her most recent research focuses on the songs of Beethoven.