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Datum en locatie

van 16 juni 2014 tot 17 juni 2014
Department of Music, University of York

Musical Performance, Subjectivity and Experimentation: Artistic Perspectives

Eventvan 16 juni 2014 tot 17 juni 2014

ORCiM Seminar June 2014

A two-day seminar jointly convened by the Department of Music at the University of York and the Orpheus Research Centre in Music, Ghent.

Who is the ‘I’ that performs?

To ask this question in 2014 might seem strange, in the wake of Modernist crises of selfhood, the proclamation of the death of the author, and the games with identity that have characterised postmodernism in the arts. Subjectivity became a key preoccupation of critical theory from the 1960s onwards.

Musicological perspectives on subjectivity gradually emerged in the 1980s, with the focus gradually shifting in recent years towards reception and the listener. However, subjectivity in musical performance remains a neglected area: despite important texts by Nicholas Cook, Philip Auslander, Naomi Cumming and others, the discourse is still somewhat atomised. Moreover, there is very little practice-led, artistic research explicitly concerned with subjectivity. Musical performance is usually 'nonmatrixed'. Except in opera and music theatre, musical performers do not explicitly 'act' a character, and the action of performance takes place within various ritualised contexts rather than narrative 'settings'. Similarly, while a performer's creative activity may relate to expressive intentions and be structured in relation to the articulation of emotions, they rarely pretend to be experiencing those feelings personally. Nevertheless, musical performance usually evinces a deep sense of personal engagement and, often, identification. That engagement helps to shape the musical identity promulgated in performance; this is the case even in contemporary practices that avoid notions of expression conventional to Western classical music. The performance might not always be ‘about’ a self, but a musical persona is nevertheless projected, in part through that process of identification: as Auslander writes, ‘to be a musician is to perform an identity in a social realm’.

The seminar seeks to open up perspectives on the following questions:

  • How is subjectivity variously constituted through musical performance?
  • How is the performing self embodied in performance?

More specifically:

  • How is subjectivity produced in the performance of common practice era classical music?
  • What aspects of subjectivity contribute to the formulation of expressive strategies?
  • How is subjectivity produced in performance practices associated with contemporary music?
  • How does it manifest in processes of collaboration, when a performer is more closely involved in the initial stages of creative production?