Global perspectives on the 'orchestra'

(Tina K. Ramnarine – Royal Holloway)

Project overview | Project narrative | Workshops | Outputs

Project overview

Many kinds of large ensemble are described as 'orchestras', including the symphony, Bollywood film, gamelan and steelpan. All share a number of features and generate questions about the socio-musical aspects of their performance practices. They are often markers of power and status, within which musicians establish allegiances and hierarchical relations. Some orchestras have cherished and celebrated histories, but are shaped by various institutional, media, commercial and social environments and cultural policy-making trends.

Developing global perspectives through comparative and ethnographic approaches, this project considers how musicians work together in large ensembles, focusing on their training processes, creative and expressive choices, and communication skills (aural attention, gesture and coordination). The research methods support insights into diverse rehearsal processes and the creative roles of performers within large ensembles, resulting in new conceptual and cross-cultural perspectives on the ways in which orchestral performance traditions are shaped, greater understanding of orchestral practice as a global phenomenon, and enhanced appreciation of orchestral performance as a creative, political and social practice. The following methodologies are being employed over the five-year period:

  • multi-sited field research and participant-observation
  • ethnographic observation, interviews, documentation and analysis
  • historical study of recordings, film and archive materials, and written documents.

The broad, multidimensional scope of the project provides an ideal opportunity for uniting diverse specialists within five project workshops and the Performance Studies Network.