[RESEARCH] Passionate about Performance

[ENG] “New research suggests that musicians may be at their most creative when they are not playing their instrument or singing. By studying musicians and asking them when inspiration struck them, researchers found that breakthrough moments often happened when players were humming to themselves or tapping out rhythms on the table or imagining dance moves inspired by the music.” (The Guardian, 1 October 2013, full article here)

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[ENG] Recitations and Reconsiderations [14/15] Saintly

Music for saints holds a special place in the repertoire of chant. In the first centuries of Christianity a cult of saints developed, and long before the invention of musical notation a considerable repertoire of music for saints had already been established. However, the bulk of that kind of music had yet to come, since in quite a lot of cases the composition of a mass or an office-cycle dedicated to the memory of a certain saint was delayed by some hundreds of years.

Throughout the liturgical year many saints are honoured in different ways. Some of them are simply commemorated, others have full cycles of chants dedicated to certain facts in (or after) their saintly life – this of course changing according to traditions at specific dioceses. Chants composed for these occasions usually have a close textual connection to one or more of the vitas describing the saint’s life, virtues, death etc. Zimmern (2007) has shown how these vitas give an insight into their political, social and cultural context, how they highlight the importance of  the cult of saints at all levels of society and how they demonstrate the value and versatility of hagiography as a means of storytelling.

As an example of this we can turn to the seventh-century ‘Belgian’ saint Lambertus (c.630-c.700). It was only two hundred years after the death of Lambertus (a bishop of Maastricht, murdered in dubious circumstances) that Etienne, bishop of Liège, composed an office for Lambertus. The texts for this cycle were based on a Vita that Etienne probably wrote himself (Auda 1923), in its turn based on an older, anonymous Vita. In a project called ‘Gesta Sancti Lamberti’, I have been revisiting the hagiologyst chant repertoire in general via the story of Lambertus – as a kind of case study. This was a logical step to take, for four reasons.

Continue reading “[ENG] Recitations and Reconsiderations [14/15] Saintly”

[ENG] Recitations and Reconsiderations [13/15] Recitation becomes chant

There is hardly any better training imaginable for a plainchant performer than a detailed experience of different forms of recitation. The art of recitation is at the heart of instruction and creative development. As described earlier, various rhetorical elements (as basic as the beginning and end of a sentence) and their translation into musical formulae, provide basic guidelines for rendering texts. With effective inflections, recitation becomes chant.

However, the core of recitational technique lies not in a performance faithful to prescribed formulae, but in its close relationship with speech and speech-rhythm, albeit (or precisely because of) the heightened speech of ritual and liturgy. As witnessed in ample examples of treatises on rhetorics from antiquity to the Renaissance, a pleasing (in the sense of accurate, clear and elegant) deliverance of text was considered to be of the utmost importance. Thus, syntactic matters of structure, overall form, phrases and verbal accentuation of a given text were related to the semantic matters, i.e. the meaning of the text. In this context, the humanist’s vision on the position of music in relation to text, with music being expected to subordinate itself to grammatical quantity, was nothing but a logical continuation of the already existent, well-known and universally taught tenets of antiquity (Cf. Harrán 1989). Continue reading “[ENG] Recitations and Reconsiderations [13/15] Recitation becomes chant”

[ENG] Recitations and Reconsiderations [4/15] Academia & writing

If the term artistic research is used “to denote that domain of research and development in which the practice of art […] plays a constitutive role in a methodological sense” (Borgdorff 2006: 21), then writing about artistic research should create the opportunity to show how this constitutive role of artistic practice actually takes place in the strategies and outcomes of the project as a whole. It is doubtful whether classical academic writing is suitable for this purpose. If ever there was such a thing as ‘classical academic writing’, it would be represented by characteristics such as clarity, honesty, neutrality and authority. Because of this requirement for neutrality, for instance, the use of the first person in academic texts is rather unusual. Gianni Vattimo expresses this in the first few lines of his book ‘Belief’ (1999: 20): “But what if I were to take the liberty not just to pun but to write in the first person? I am aware that I have never written in this way except in debates, polemics or letters to the editor. Never in essays or texts of a professional character, whether critical or philosophical.”

Continue reading “[ENG] Recitations and Reconsiderations [4/15] Academia & writing”

[ENG] Recitations and Reconsiderations [3/15] “Words are important because they are not the most important”

„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. Continue reading “[ENG] Recitations and Reconsiderations [3/15] “Words are important because they are not the most important””

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