„Words are important because they are not the most important“
In the debate on artistic research, the points of view on the what, why and how tend to be highly divergent. Although this divergence can be considered as a sign of the discipline’s youth as well as its methodological potential – to some it is not even clear yet whether ‘artistic research’ can actually grow into a bona fide discipline at all – the need for a common methodological ground is urgent. This is not the place to explore this ground in depth, but some considerations on the subject may be useful for a better understanding of the way in which to consider musical creativity.
One of the recurring issues in the world of artistic research is the status of the so-called tacit knowledge that artistic practice may hold, and the ensuing question of if and how this tacit knowledge can be revealed. Central to this discussion is the complex relation between on the one hand, the artistic praxis itself (artistic research and development, creative processes, eventual outcomes) and, on the other hand, the language employed to delineate what happens throughout the different stages of the artistic praxis. Confronted with the task of writing on the complex world of a musician’s creativity, it is challenging to try and overcome the restrictions of verbal language. One method of doing so has been described by Aslaug Nyrnes in her (2006) article Lighting from the side.
Nyrnes proposes exploring a model for discussing artistic research from a rhetorical point of view, functioning as it were as a sidelight (a metaphor borrowed from Michel Foucault), extinguishing the spotlight of “scientific knowledge”. We know rhetoric to be a theory of verbal language, with classical rhetoric (how oral language is used in creating speeches) and new rhetoric (in which verbal language is a complicated world “that often turns out as a controller of the situation”) as the main classifiers. Between these two extremes, we should look for a position in which a non-linear style of communication emerges, based on a language that is embedded in the entire research process.
Nyrnes describes five premises on which this communication is based. (1) Form in language is the foundation for everything that creates meaning. (2) Different forms of expression have each their own register, history, grammar and topology. (3) Verbal language is not inherently poetical or logical: how it is used is the deciding factor. (4) Verbal language surrounds – and is embedded in – the creation and reception of art, the research process, constituting a guide for artistic research. (5) And – referring to Arild Utaker (1992) – “words are important because they are not the most important.”
Hendrik Vanden Abeele – to be continued