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Series 3

CMPCP/IMR Series 3 (2012-13)


Looking at Cage at 100

Richard Bernas (Tate Modern) and Simon Shaw-Miller (Birkbeck)
1 October 2012

17.00 – 18.30

Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

This seminar will take the form of a discussion between Richard Bernas and Simon Shaw-Miller. In the year of John Cage’s 100th birthday celebrations they will be concerned with the wider purview of Cage’s aesthetic, especially its impact on the visual arts and multimedia performance practice. Particular reference will be made to the work of the contemporary German artist Gerhard Richter and Cage’s series of Variations for expanded media.

Simon Shaw-Miller is currently Professor of History of Art & Music at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is an honorary associate and research fellow of the Royal Academy of Music. In January 2013 he takes up the Chair in History of Art at the University of Bristol.

Richard Bernas is an associate fellow of the IMR, conductor of orchestras (such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Royal Opera House) and a music consultant at Tate Modern.

FLAT TIME/sounding: improvisation, research and the conditions of performance

David Toop (London College of Communication/Leeds College of Music)
15 October 2012

Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

Inspired by the ideas of artist John Latham, FLAT TIME/sounding is a six-page score of textual and visual elements composed for improvisers. The score is not a series of directives to be followed so much as an examination of Latham’s theories of time, and a collection of analects, aphorisms and images inviting musicians to consider structural and archival aspects of their own improvising language. Apparently a starting point or discursive stimulus that questions the meaning of ‘score’, FLAT TIME/sounding also raises questions of how it affects its own unfolding. Improvisers do not need, nor do they want, a score, and yet there is a case to be made at times for shifting the conditions of improvisation. Through examination of the oscillation between musical practice and so-called embodied research, the score may be construed as an example of the contemporary model of ‘art as research’ within the academy, within musical communities and as individual ‘practice’ across a range of technologies.

David Toop is a composer/musician, author and curator based in London who has worked in many fields of sonic arts and music. He has published five books, including Ocean of Sound, Haunted Weather and Sinister Resonance; released eight solo albums, including Screen Ceremonies, Black Chamber and Sound Body; and as a critic has written for many publications, including The Wire, Leonardo Music Journal and Bookforum. Exhibitions he has curated include Sonic Boom at the Hayward Gallery, London; Playing John Cage at Arnolfini, Bristol; and Blow Up at Flat-Time House, London. Visiting Professor at Leeds College of Music, he is a senior research fellow at London College of Communication. He is currently writing Into the Maelstrom: Improvised Music and the Pursuit of Freedom, and his opera – Star-shaped Biscuit – will be performed as an Aldeburgh Music Faster Than Sound project in September 2012.

Virtuosity and the redesign of an instrument

Chris Redgate (Royal Academy of Music)
5 November 2012

Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

The Howarth-Redgate 21st Century Oboe was developed with twin aims: to meet the demands of the most difficult repertoire written today, and to open the instrument to new avenues of musical and technical development. The technical challenges inherent in such repertoire are the result of both symbiotic work between composers and performers and a lengthy period of development and exploration. The challenges of these developments have caused some performers to rethink the use of some aspects of the instrument, and from there it was only a short step to considering change to the instrument itself. This seminar will explore the relationship between a virtuoso and the redesign of an instrument, and consider such questions as: How does the redesign of an instrument influence interpretation and performance of existent repertoire? How does a redesign influence approaches to virtuoso technique? How can a virtuoso performer discover and explore new avenues of performance practice and, from this, create musical possibilities of interest to composers?

Christopher Redgate has specialised in contemporary repertoire for over thirty years and has performed across Europe, the USA, China and Australia. A three-year Arts and Humanities Research Council Fellowship (2009-12) at the Royal Academy of Music enabled him to re-think the key-work of the oboe and, in collaboration with Howarth of London, to build a new instrument: the Howarth-Redgate 21st Century Oboe. He now performs exclusively on this instrument. As a performer he has developed significantly several aspects of oboe technique, leading him to re-evaluate a number of performance practices. Christopher Redgate’s concerts frequently include solo improvisations, which allow him to further explore the more extreme areas of the oboe. Many composers have written for him, including Michael Finnissy, Richard Barrett, Sam Hayden, Roger Redgate, Edwin Roxburgh, Christopher Fox, James Clarke, Paul Archbold, Dorothy Ker, Michael Young, Fabrice Fitch, David Gorton, Rob Keeley, Joe Cutler, Edward Cowie and Gwyn Pritchard. He gives regular masterclasses for oboists and composer workshops at colleges and universities around the world. He has recorded extensively, contributed articles to Contemporary Music Review and other double reed journals. He is currently writing a book, 21st Century Oboe, and contributing chapters to others.

Working with composers – an illustrated talk

Madeleine Mitchell (Royal College of Music)
26 November 2012

Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

Violinist Madeleine Mitchell wrote her MMus thesis on the influence of violinists on Bartók and Szymanowski and has long been interested in the interaction between composers and performers in creating original work, and how working with living composers can inform a performer’s approach to more standard repertoire. She will illustrate her talk with recorded extracts in a wide range of new music for violin, which she has inspired over 25 years, and she will play part of a challenging work for solo violin – Taw-Raw (the Shan fiddle of Burma) – by a composer who also plays the violin, Nigel Osborne. Many of the composers with whom she has collaborated do not play the violin, including the latest in a long line of distinguished composers who have written works for her, David Matthews, who has produced a large number of works for violin and who will join Madeleine in discussion about his new work, Romanza. She premiered this with strings on 6 October 2012 at the Alwyn Festival in Suffolk and in the version with piano in the Sound Festival in Aberdeen on 1 November 2012, with a preview on BBC Radio 3 In Tune on 3 October 2012. The London premiere is at Kings Place on 24 March 2013.

Madeleine Mitchell has performed as violin soloist in over 40 countries in a wide-ranging repertoire. She began her career as the violinist in Peter Maxwell Davies’ group The Fires of London and has since worked closely with many other composers. Works written for her include a violin concerto by Piers Hellawell, pieces with piano by James MacMillan, Michael Nyman, John Woolrich, Stephen Montague, Anthony Powers and Brian Elias and works for solo violin by Nigel Osborne and Stuart Jones. Madeleine has initiated original collaborations, including commissioning new works for solo violin and choir by Jonathan Harvey, Thierry Pecou and Roxanna Panufnik, and for violin and percussion ensemble by Tarik O’Regan, Anne Dudley and Stuart Jones, as well as a Fanfare for Fiddles by John Hardy and a work for multi violins by Adrian Williams for her Red Violin festival. Her wide discography includes a collaboration with Howard Blake as pianist, and recordings of works written for her have been nominated for Grammy and BBC Music Awards.

Changing face of ‘new’ music

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (Master of the Queen’s Music)
3 December 2012

Beveridge Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

Universally acknowledged as one of the foremost composers of our time, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies has made a significant contribution to musical history through his wide-ranging and prolific output. He lives in the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland, where he writes most of his music. In a worklist that spans more than five decades, he has written across a broad range of styles, yet his music always communicates directly and powerfully, whether in his profoundly argued symphonic works, his music-theatre works or witty light orchestral works.

Maxwell Davies’ major dramatic works include the operas Taverner, Resurrection, The Lighthouse, The Doctor of Myddfai and Kommilitonen!; two full-length ballets, and music-theatre works Eight Songs for a Mad King and Miss Donnithorne’s Maggot. His huge output of orchestral work comprises nine symphonies, as well as numerous concerti, light orchestral works and five large-scale works for chorus. His most recent series is the landmark Naxos String Quartet cycle, which was recently presented in its entirety over one weekend at the Southbank Centre. Recent premieres include a Violin Concerto for Daniel Hope and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and his Ninth Symphony, premiered by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Petrenko in Liverpool and at the 2012 BBC Proms.

Maxwell Davies has guest-conducted international orchestras at the highest level and has held the position of Composer/Conductor with both the Royal Philharmonic and BBC Philharmonic Orchestras. He retains close links with the St. Magnus Festival, Orkney’s annual arts festival which he founded in 1977, and is Composer Laureate of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Maxwell Davies was knighted in 1987 and appointed Master of the Queen’s Music in 2004, in which role he seeks to raise the profile of music in Great Britain, as well as writing many works for Her Majesty the Queen and for royal occasions.

Learning creativity: pedagogical enabling conditions

Juniper Hill (University of Cambridge)
4 February 2013

Room 104, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

What types of learning environments facilitate the development of artists motivated to be creative? What pedagogical methods are effective in empowering musicians with the skills to be creative? What educational experiences have the dangerous potential to stifle creativity? And what strategies have been successful in overcoming creative inhibitions? This presentation will reveal some of the findings from Juniper’s EU-funded research project on the enablers and inhibitors of musical creativity. A cross-cultural and cross-idiomatic comparison, her analysis draws from in-depth interviews with professional musicians from classical, jazz, and folk scenes in northern Europe, South Africa, and the USA who reflect on their development, struggles, and breakthroughs as creative musicians. Possible topics to be discussed include informal and formal learning, aural and notational skills, exams, student-centered learning, authoritarianism, perfectionism, mistakes, games, technical exercises, compositional scaffolding, improvisation, experimentalism, bodywork, agency, trust, and the psychological dimensions of feedback.

Juniper Hill is Marie Curie Intra-European Fellow at the University of Cambridge, a CMPCP Research Associate, Lecturer (on leave) at University College, Cork, and Visiting Researcher at the Sibelius Academy, the University of Cape Town, and the University of California, Los Angeles. Trained as an ethnomusicologist, she is conducting ethnographic research on the sociocultural enablers and inhibitors of musical creativity. Her publications include The Oxford Handbook of Music Revival (in press), as well as articles in Ethnomusicology, Ethnomusicology Forum, Yearbook for Traditional Music, Pacific Review of Ethnomusicology, Musiikin Suunta, Revue de Musicologie, and chapters in several edited volumes, including Musical Imaginations: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Creativity, Performance and Reception. She has conducted extensive fieldwork in Ecuador, Finland, South Africa, and the USA.

Rhythmic improvisation solo and duo: how two minds get together

Renee Timmers (University of Sheffield)
25 February 2013

Room 104, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

Recent research has shown an increasing interest in the psychology of joint behaviour, investigating how joint and solo behaviour are similar to, or an extension of, each other. Translating this to creative processes in music performance, we compared solo and duo rhythmic improvisation, investigating the rhythmic conceptual space that participants explored while performing alone or jointly with others. Our research questions were – in what ways does joint improvisation constrain or facilitate improvisation? In what ways do the performers accomplish integration of their rhythmic improvisation? What are similarities and differences between improvising together and alone? Rhythmic improvisations are characterised by the distribution of onsets across metrical positions, by the distribution of rhythmic durations and by its combination: the distribution of rhythmic durations starting at downbeats and upbeats. A clustering analysis is used to define a hierarchy of frequently occurring rhythms. This rhythm space is then used to characterise participants’ rhythmic explorations.

Renee Timmers is Lecturer in Psychology of Music and director of the onsite and distance learning MAs in Psychology of Music at the University of Sheffield. She is editor with Nicola Dibben of Empirical Musicology Review and associate editor of Psychomusicology: Music, Mind & Brain. She was educated in the Netherlands in musicology (MA from the University of Amsterdam) and psychology (PhD from the Radboud University Nijmegen), and as a performer. Before joining the Department of Music in Sheffield in 2009, she was a research fellow at a number of institutes, including the AHRC Research Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music (CHARM) at King’s College London, the Austrian Research Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Vienna and the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour in Nijmegen. Her work is strongly interdisciplinary, combining theory and computer modelling with empirical testing and exploration. Her research focuses on expressive performance of music, emotion and meaning in music, and influences of emotion on music perception and cognition.

Creative dualities – the interpretative world of the accompanist

Roger Vignoles
29 April 2013

Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

In this illustrated lecture, Roger Vignoles will explore the ‘creative dualities’ involved in the piano accompanist’s profession: words and music, poet and composer, singer and pianist. Drawing on a wide repertoire from Schubert to Britten he will elucidate how to read the essential decisions made by composers in relation to setting a particular text, and the balance between analysis and imaginative empathy that goes into creating a performance.

Roger Vignoles is one of this country’s foremost piano accompanists and chamber musicians. In a career spanning more than forty-five years he has partnered many of the world’s greatest singers and instrumentalists in recitals and recordings throughout Europe, North America, Scandinavia and the Far East. He is also in great demand as a teacher and is Prince Consort Professor of Accompaniment at the Royal College of Music.

Performance in the studio

Simon Zagorski-Thomas (London College of Music)
20 May 2013

Room 104, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

In his book The Recording Angel, Evan Eisenberg described the paradox of recording as being ‘that [for the performer] the audience is not there…[is] the flip side of the fact that, for the listener, the performer is not there’. How do this and the other differences between the concert hall and the recording studio affect the way that musicians have to approach a performance? In many ways, the physical reality of recording is more like the process of rehearsal: long days repeating various sections combined with waiting around for others to do something that you may not be involved in. And yet the result is not only a product for public consumption but, unlike a concert, it can be listened to over and over again. Despite the fact that recording has been a vital part of a musician’s working practice for over a century now, conservatoires and other forms of performance pedagogy rarely treat it as central to musical training. This seminar will present some research on the ways in which musicians have to adapt their performance practice when they work in the studio. This will involve analysis of video footage from recording sessions and a discussion of the role of producers and engineers in the construction of the complex collages of performances that constitute modern recordings.

Simon Zagorski-Thomas is Reader in Music at the London College of Music, University of West London and Chairman of the Association for the Study of the Art of Record Production. He recently co-edited The Art of Record Production: an Introductory Reader for a New Academic Field with Professor Simon Frith and is currently working on The Musicology of Record Production for Cambridge University Press. Simon is a CMPCP Visiting Fellow at the University of Cambridge and is also currently running an AHRC Research Network, both on aspects of musical performance in the recording studio. Before becoming an academic he worked for twenty-five years as a composer, sound engineer and producer with artists as varied as Phil Collins, Mica Paris, the London Community Gospel Choir, Bill Bruford, The Mock Turtles, Courtney Pine, and the Balanescu Quartet.

On practising

Joanna MacGregor (Royal Academy of Music)
10 June 2013

Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

No pianist steps onstage without practising for, literally, years, yet it remains one of the most shadowy and guarded spaces of a musician’s life. If a performance is a glistening tip of an iceberg, beneath the water there lurks a history. Joanna MacGregor explores the physical, historical and psychological narratives of long-distance practising, and demonstrates with performances of music by Bach, Chopin, twentieth-century and contemporary composers. Is practising the most meaningful part of being a musician, or is it a means to an end? How do musicians deal with the necessary solitude of practising, and how does it affect their performances?

Joanna MacGregor is one of the world’s most innovative musicians. She is committed to expressing musical connections through increasingly diverse and original programming. Currently Head of Piano at the Royal Academy of Music, Joanna MacGregor was Artistic Director of the Bath International Music Festival from 2006 to 2012, and curated the multi-arts Deloitte Ignite Festival at the Royal Opera House in 2010. As a solo artist Joanna has appeared with many of the world’s leading orchestras, with such eminent conductors as Pierre Boulez, Sir Colin Davis, Valery Gergiev, Sir Simon Rattle and Michael Tilson Thomas, and has premiered many landmark compositions ranging from Sir Harrison Birtwistle and Django Bates to John Adams and James MacMillan. She made two appearances at the 2012 BBC Proms (Hugh Wood’s Piano Concerto and Messiaen’s Turangalîla), and made her debut at the Mostly Mozart Festival in Lincoln Center, New York in August 2012.

How creative can a musical practice be?

Daniel Leech-Wilkinson (King’s College London), Mine Doğantan-Dack (Middlesex University) with Diana Gilchrist (soprano)
24 June 2013

Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

Creativity in classical music performance, like freedom of speech, is welcomed so long as nobody is too upset: on the whole, the most successful performers are those who represent the score conventionally but who do so particularly vividly. A system combining education – from first lessons through conservatoire – and oversight – from examiners to critics, producers and promoters – aims to maintain the interpretative status quo. But in fact, and partly through those more vivid mutations, performance style evolves over time. The tradition is an illusion: our sense of a composer’s soundworld is temporary, shifting gradually. It follows that the notes in the score do not encode performance style. Do they nonetheless encode a basic characterisation (the calm of the ‘Moonlight’), which remains stable beneath all these changes? And whether they do or not, what would follow from a demonstration that scores can make convincing musical sense in radically different performances (the ‘Moonlight’ as tempest, for example)? Could the mutability of the ‘tradition’ combine with the possibility of very different readings to allow performers to be genuinely creative with well-known scores? Could style change be speeded up or redirected? Or should we go no further than recovering and reproducing recorded historical styles? By providing both an empirical and ethical basis for radical interpretation, and illustrations of it in action in scores by Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert, Brahms and others, we propose a basis for rethinking the obligations and freedom of classical performers.

Daniel Leech-Wilkinson studied at the Royal College of Music, King’s College London and Clare College, Cambridge, becoming first a medievalist and then, since c. 2000, specialising in the implications of early recordings, extending into musical communication. He oversaw a project on ‘Expressivity in Schubert Song Performance’ within the AHRC Research Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music (CHARM), followed by one on ‘Shaping Music in Performance’ within CMPCP.

Mine Doğantan-Dack studied at the Juilliard School of Music and Columbia University, and also holds a BA in Philosophy. She is currently a research fellow in Music at Middlesex University, and an associate of the AHRC-funded research centre CMPCP. Mine is the recipient of an AHRC award for her research in chamber music performance. She is currently contracted to edit two volumes: one for Indiana University Press (Music and Value Judgment) and one for Ashgate (Artistic Practice as Research in Music: Theory, Criticism, Practice).

Diana Gilchrist (Canadian soprano) was the Founding Artistic Director of Ottawa’s Opera Lyra. As a singer her career has taken her across Europe, North America and to the Far East. Her opera roles include the ‘Queen of the Night’ in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte which she has sung in Vienna, Paris and Berlin. She has appeared as a soloist with leading orchestras including the Royal Philharmonic and the Academy of Ancient Music. Since 1997 she has served as Musician in Residence for the Bader International Study Centre at Herstmonceux Castle where she also lectures. She is currently enrolled in a research/creative practice PhD at the University of Edinburgh where she is exploring portamento.