CeReNeM Journal Issue 4

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CeReNeM Journal Issue 4: March 2014

Editor: Pedro Alvarez

Journal of the Centre for Research in New Music, University of Huddersfield

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Introduction Pedro Alvarez


Corporeal Navigation: Embodied and Extended Cognition as a Model for Discourses and Tools for Complex Piano Music After 1945 Pavlos Antoniadis


Staging Failure: Error as Compositional Material Mark Barden


Brian Ferneyhough’s Kurze Schatten II: towards an ‘auratic’ model of performance practice Diego Castro


Balancing misconceptions Matías Hancke


Intra-Agencies Scott Mc Laughlin


LIP OF THE REAL version II: Composing the noise of mind Pia Palme


Techniques borrowed from surrealistic art Lefteris Papadimitriou


TWO PIETÀS: William-Adolphe Bouguereau & Lisa Streich Chris Swithinbank


Translation as a Process for Pre-Composition Alistair Zaldua


Notes on the Authors


The copyright of the articles included in this volume belongs to the respective authors, who have kindly made them available through a Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). 2

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Introduction Pedro Alvarez

Since its inception in 2009 the CeReNeM Journal has reflected the broad context that research in contemporary music finds itself immersed in, beyond one particular line of scholarship or a local music scene. This approach has proved a fruitful way of documenting and encouraging the constant dialogue between an already diverse community of postgraduate researchers at the University of Huddersfield, and our colleagues from around the world with a similar interest in contemporary music.

This fourth issue of the journal consequently extends its scope to include articles by researchers/practitioners at different stages of their careers, reflecting on a variety of aspects of the making of contemporary music from the perspectives of both composers and performers.

Rather than having set a unifying theme, this issue was envisaged to reflect the multiplicity of concerns and perspectives found in authors whose research seems highly relevant in the frame of current contemporary music practice. It is not surprising, however, that such perspectives at times may cross one another or overlap, given the common international music milieu we situate ourselves in and interact with on a daily basis.


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Among the topics explored, a creative praxis informed by neuroscience, technology, and the instrument as a non-linear space for acoustic exploration somehow relates the works of Pia Palme and Scott Mc Laughlin, whose articles are pervaded by their experience as improvisers. In his turn, Alistair Zaldua's article interrogates the concept of translation as a source of compositional procedures, informed by linguistics and post-structuralism.

Although not represented as an author herself, the work of composer Lisa Streich (Sweden, 1985) is also present here as the subject of Chris Swithinbank's article, which proposes parallels of hermeneutic resonances with Bouguereau's art. A co-relation between the visual arts and composition is also the focus of Lefteris Papadimitriou's text, specifically showing how techniques borrowed from Surrealist Art are applied in his own music.

The work of Mark Barden, in its turn, presents an original approach to the concept of 'error' in composition, informed by queer theory and aesthetics, tracing the idea of 'expressive failure' in some of his pieces. On a different strand, MatĂ­as Hancke's article represents a very personal critical insight into a series of givens, interrogating the concept of narrative in music, and exploring the use of fragmentation as a possible alternative to teleological forms.

From the performer's point of view, a kind of gestural way of approaching the physical aspects of performance of complex music leads the works of Diego Castro and Pavlos Antoniadis, the former looking for possible traces of metaphorical co-relations between music and text in Brian Ferneyhough's contribution to the solo guitar repertoire, the latter with an emphasis on the cognitive process of learning complex piano scores for performance.


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On a personal note, I must say that it has been not only a honour, but also an enriching experience to have curated this volume, collaborating with colleagues I hold in the highest esteem. The vital support and constant encouragement of Prof. Liza Lim must be acknowledged in these pages, as well as the thorough proofreading of Tim Rutherford-Johnson. Finally, thanks are due to all the authors for generously making their work available, through this journal, to encourage critical discussion, and thus contribute to a stimulating debate that enriches the current state of this music and its study.


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Corporeal Navigation: Embodied and Extended Cognition as a Model for Discourses and Tools for Complex Piano Music After 1945 Pavlos Antoniadis

Abstract Notational complexity in post-1950 piano repertoire has invited distinct performative responses, which mystify it as challenging or critically engage with it as paradigmshifting. The paradigm-shift concerns the traditional model of understandingtechnique-interpretation: Learning as serialization of complete gestures, which unequivocally represent notated sound-images, occasionally allowing for personal expressive deviation. Questioning of this model privileges physical gesture as an indispensable part of the cognitive processes in learning, and substitutes the notion of "reading a text" with that of "navigating a space". I have described such an alternative as corporeal navigation: Learning complex scores manifests as a real-time gestural analysis and processing of the notation, which cuts through textual complexity. In this paper I provide an introduction to the multifaceted background informing such a model of corporeal navigation, namely embodied and extended cognition. The central themes unifying this interdisciplinary field of research will further elucidate the documented paradigm-shift in piano performance practice. As a result, the legitimacy of multiple interpretations for complex notation will come into focus from a performer-specific, embodied perspective.

Introduction: Aporias of Interpretation Today Traditional tropes of notation-based learning and performance remain mostly intact in contemporary performance practice, although postwar developments in composition clearly invite a shift of perspective. A comment by Pierre Boulez (2005) is indicative of this persistence. In the booklet of a relatively new recording of his three piano sonatas, he states: 6

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Paavali Jumppanen [the pianist] has an understanding of the texts of these sonatas and the technical resources to play them ... It’s been interesting for me to see how someone who grew up in a different time conceives these pieces. For me they were steps in my development, a part of myself; for him they’re an object he’s found along his way, and he must deal with and make something of it. (Boulez, 2005, p.7) Not only does Boulez here explicitly refer to the traditional model of understanding, technique, and interpretation, but he also foregrounds the model’s basic aporia: the allegedly objective and deterministic prerequisites of the notation (understanding and technique) still allow for the individual performer’s subjective and indeterminate expressive space (interpretation). Paradoxically, this interpretative space seems to make no claims on Boulez’s authenticity. The characterization of a work as a ‘found object’ sounds quite extraordinary given Boulez’s earlier predilections.1 The inevitable question is: what exactly can the player really add beyond those objective prerequisites? What does interpretation mean in the context of a notation as fixed as Boulez’s?

One of Boulez’s first interpreters, the pianist David Tudor, sets more urgent questions. In a later interview, he reports on the challenge of his preparation for the American premiere of Boulez’s second piano sonata: I’d always been well known for my ability to handle complex scores – but this time I found a sort of constant breakdown in the continuity … I became vitally concerned that it would be full of lapses and holes … Boulez had written no counterpoints, no second voices, and you couldn’t subordinate any voices at all, as there was nothing leading, nothing on which the music centered itself. (Tudor, 1972, cited in Holzaepfel, 2002, p. 170)

1 “The performer is simply faced with the problem of this deciphering [of the compositional coding] and must try to transmit the message as faithfully as possible” (Boulez, 1986, p. 88) 7

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Tudor’s confession communicates a performer-specific experience, namely the incomprehensibility of a complex score in the first phase of the learning process. What happens when the basis of understanding, and subsequently the one of technique, is in this way sabotaged? How is interpretation in the traditional sense still possible?

These questions become structural in the light of the most radical developments in composition after 1945: The presupposed transparent link between compositional aims (understanding) and performative solutions (technique) has been constantly problematized through self-reflexive notational complexity, either explicitly (as is the case in the work and theoretical texts of Brian Ferneyhough) or implicitly (as in the discussion of impossibilities, exemplary in the work of Iannis Xenakis).

What Ferneyhough calls the 'unstable interface performer/notation'2 becomes a locus of compositional reflection. The medium for Ferneyhough’s project is the employment of an almost impenetrable notation, thick and homogenous at every juncture, which invites prioritization and exploration of paths on the part of the performers.3

2 “A consequence of the increased emphasis on the unstable interface: performer/notation, the deeply artificial and fragile nature of this naively unquestioned link, is the constant stressing of the 'fictionality' of the work ('work') as a graspable, invariant entity, as something that can be directly transmitted.” (Ferneyhough, 1995, p. 5) 3 "...[A] notation which demands of the performer the formulation of a conscious selectionprocedure in respect of the order in which the units of interpretational information contained in the score are surveyed and, as an extension of this choice, a determination of the combination of elements (strata) which are to be assigned preferential status at any given stage of the realization process. The choice made here colors in the most fundamental manner the rehearsal hierarchy of which, in performance, the composition itself is a token." (Ferneyhough, 1995, p. 4) 8

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Along the same lines the cellist, composer, and theoretician Franklin Cox concludes that radical complexity has brought about a "fundamental paradigm shift" because of its pure quantitative properties, namely: extremes of textual density and fine details, as well as the combination of highly rationalized materials, notated challenges and compositional predetermination with extreme physicality and almost irrationality of the results. (Cox, 2002, p. 70) The paradigm shift consists in the transformation of the communicative chain (composer-interpreter-listener) "in an overlapping series of volatile conflicts between incompatibles" (ibid., p.76) and "opens up the possibility for a new sort of corporeal thinking, which transcends the means/ends- oriented traditional training" (ibid., p. 129).

Despite those perspectives, traditional aporias still appear predominant in actual performance practice. In my own critique (Antoniadis, 2011) of performers’ testimonies in Performing Xenakis (Kanach, 2010) I have already remarked that extreme physical involvement as core of a “philosophy of surpassing” (Hellfer, 2010) on the one hand, or an internalist, brain-oriented and disembodied approach which prioritizes an objective understanding of the sonic image4 on the other hand, are driving Xenakian performance practice. Those two poles are in fact complementary and reflect the cartesian dichotomy between technique and interpretation, body and mind, in very much the same way as the quote from Boulez at the start of this article does.

4 "The pianist must be prepared to deconstruct his/her physical reflexes in relation to the keyboard. ... Xenakis’s keyboard can never be considered as physical space in association with the physiology of one’s hands, nothing is there to reassure or stabilize one’s physicality" (Thomopoulos, cited in Kanach, 2010, pp. 127–28). 9

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Beyond understanding-technique-interpretation: t h e a l t e r n a t i v e o f corporeal navigation In this article I will pursue the description of the philosophical and cognitive background of a new model of interpretation beyond the traditional trope. Two themes are decisive for the suggested model: the focus on the corporeality of the performance, in fact the definition of this dimension as the performer-specific entry point per se to complex notation; and the substitution of the traditional notion of reading a text with the notion of navigating a space – that is, the substitution of understanding with an embodied and non-linear form of understanding. Next to this paradigm shift, a purely pragmatic way of dealing more efficiently with complex notation, without sacrificing its ambivalences, and without fetishizing its challenges as an expressive factor, is highlighted.

The two themes of corporeality and navigation merge into the suggested new model of interpretation: corporeal navigation. The background for this model is shaped from the presented developments in composition, as well as from the latest developments in cognitive science (CS). These developments are often resumed as embodied and extended cognition (EEC).

In the first section of this essay I will present these developments in CS. These offer an alternative to the dichotomies of body and mind, or to the watertight distinction between understanding, technique, and interpretation in musical performance. In the second part, I return to piano performance through the comparison of two traditional piano methods in the light of EEC. Finally, the results of this comparison will be transferred to the complex repertoire. The


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consequences and the potential of an externalist approach for the development of a model of corporeal navigation will thus be exposed.

1. Non-Cartesian Directions in Cognitive Science 1.1. Internalism and Externalism The movement from a traditional model of interpretation to the model of corporeal navigation corresponds to the movement from internalism to externalism in the philosophy of the mind and in CS (after the cognitive turn of the late 1960s). According to the philosopher and main exponent of EEC Mark Rowlands (2010), internalism draws attention to a structural, albeit often unnoticed, element of the cartesian dichotomy: the idea that the mind is located inside the bodily machine, somewhere in the head. Challenging this idea is vital for the development of a non-cartesian cognitive science.5

After the cognitive turn, internalism considerably influences standard cognitive science (SCS). According to SCS, mental processes are identical with brain processes or exclusively realized in the brain. Mental representations and rules for information processing in the form of an algorithm are its two central premises. Mental processes are in other words described as abstract programs (software), which are realized in the computer of the brain (hardware). 6 5 "Non-Cartesian cognitive science is based on a more complete rejection of the Cartesian view of the mind. This science is, of course, materialistic: there will be no reversion to nonphysical substances – that particular Cartesian ghost remains well and truly exorcised. However, non-Cartesian cognitive science also rejects Descartes’s second idea, the idea inherited by the mind-brain identity/exclusive neural realization model. That is, it rejects the claim that mental states and processes occur purely inside the brains" (Rowlands, 2010, pp. 12–13). 6 Developments in computer science and artificial intelligence have been driving the history of cognitive science from the very beginning, legitimizing this metaphor. Here is a definition by Gerhard Strubes, Centre for Cognitive Science, Universität Freiburg: "The subject of CS 11

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Subsequently, the aim of CS is to identify the programs (cognitive psychology) and to find out how exactly they are neurally implemented (cognitive neuroscience).

In opposition to internalism, externalism demonstrates a hybrid approach to cognition. Cognition proper is not located exclusively in the head, but it is rather distributed among the brain, the body, and the environment. The mental processes are partly enactive, embedded, embodied, and extended (what Rowlands refers to as 4E Cognition, after Shaun Gallagher7). Or in relation to the computer model: "Very roughly, to build a mind it is not sufficient that one builds a computer; one must build a robot" (Rowlands, 1999, p. 30).

1.2. Embodied and Extended Cognition (EEC) Shaun Gallagher defined the field of EEC as: a third wave in the history of cognitive science, after the early computational model (first wave-SCS) and after connectionism as a second wave inspired from neuroscience. (Gallagher, 2012, p. 320, my translation) is the research of cognitive systems, of their cognitively relevant structures and of the relevant processes. Through the basic premise, that cognitive processes are considered as computational processes, CS refers to both biological and artificial systems" (Strubes, cited in Natterer, 2011, pp. 104–5, my translation). 7 Rowlands’ virtuosity in drawing fine distinctions between these four strands cannot be properly summarized in the current article. In short: embodied cognition is a thesis of constitution of cognitive processes of wider bodily structures and processes, in contrast to embedded cognition which assumes only dependence of cognitive processes on extraneural structures. Similarly, extended cognition after Clark and Chalmers suggests that cognitive processes extend out into the environment, in the sense that they partly consist of actions in it. Its difference from enactivism by O’Regan and Noë lies in that, in the latter, it is rather actions as potential and knowledge, as expectations and possibilitites (sensomotoric contingencies), but not as real actions, which frame our cognitive activity. What is important here is Rowland’s conclusion, that enactive and embedded strands can be thought of as rather cartesian fallback positions, effecting then the reduction of the initial quartet in the duet we will be referring to as embodied and extended cognition (EEC) (Rowlands, 2010, pp. 51–84). 12

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Although the field of EEC is recognized as the point of convergence of disparate scientific fields,8 both the opposition to the first wave of computational models, as well as the meaning of connectionism as a step towards EEC are rather indisputable. Equally indisputable is the importance of earlier theories, such as the ecological theory of visual perception by Gibson, Vigotsky’s and Luria’s account of memory, Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology, and the role of The Embodied Mind by Varela, Thompson, and Rosch, as cornerstones for this third wave. According to Gallagher it is in the latter that for the first time a more articulate relationship to the phenomenology of the body comes into play, that is the idea that cognition is not pure brain process, but involves also the body and the environment.

1.2.1. Mark Rowlands: Towards a non-cartesian cognitive science Mark Rowlands’ concepts have played a triggering role in my development of the concept of corporeal navigation. According to his analysis "attenuation of the role of representations combined with augmentation of the role of action" (Rowlands, 2010, p. 49) is the landmark of all four strands of non-cartesian approaches as described above. The role of mental representations in earlier computational models is now partly taken over by external information-bearing structures, which the cognizing subject exploits, manipulates, and transforms. This external information processing may be energy-saving when compared to a purely internalist, mind-based process (Rowlands, 2010, p. 18). The idea is explicitly connected to Gibsonian psychology, and in particular to the idea of exploitation of the structure of light reflexion and diffusion (the so-called ambient optic array), through the navigation of the environment from the perceiving subject; as well as to the idea of the so-called affordances, that 8 Those include situated robotics and artificial intelligence, psychology of perception, developmental psychology, cognitive neuroscience, phenomenology, philosophy. 13

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means the properties of the environment which invite opportunities for particular sorts of actions (Rowlands, 2010, pp. 33–37).

In this sense, in the target task ‘Learning and performance of a post-1945 complex piano score’, learning as understanding, as brain processing of the graphic representation called notation, is partly substituted from manipulations in external structures: the score, the instrument, the performative corporeality, and even (as will be analyzed later) gravity. These manipulations are, according to Rowlands, constitutive of the cognitive processes. The exploration and evaluation of how someone can externally process the information contained in the score steadily changes the qualitative and quantitative properties of the mental involvement. This already points towards a feedback circle between the brain, the body, and the world.

1.2.2. Lawrence Shapiro: three themes of embodiment In his book Embodied Cognition (2011), Lawrence Shapiro offers an alternative overview of the field of EEC. Next to the theme of Constitution – mostly overlapping with Rowlands’ categorizations and with a special focus on philosopher Andy Clark’s (2011) functionalism – Shapiro identifies the themes of conceptualization and replacement.

Conceptualization refers to a group of theories, which share the hypothesis that: the concepts on which an organism relies to understand its surrounding world depend on the kind of body that it has, so that were organisms to differ with respect to their bodies, they would differ as well in how they understand the world. (Shapiro, 2011, p. 4)


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For my purposes, I will look at metaphor theory as developed in the field of cognitive linguistics by Lakoff and Johnson. They suggest that the role of metaphor is structural for the development of language as overlayering and network-like connections of concepts from various domains of experience (‘metaphor as cross-domain conceptual mapping’). At the beginning of this process we find ‘basic concepts’ (image schemata) associated with our basic bodily experience of certain properties of the environment. As we stand up, for example, we gain access to the motor programme which allows us to conceptualize up and down. Were we homogenous sphere-shaped beings outside of a gravitational field, ‘up’ and ‘down’ would be inconceivable (Lakoff and Johnson, 1999, p. 57, cited in Shapiro, p. 88). Current research in neuroscience, namely the research on canonical and mirror neurons,9 strongly reinforces this hypothesis.

Secondly, the theme of Replacement is a radical, anti-representational direction exhibited in the so-called Dynamical Systems Theory:10 the interaction of the body with the environment, a form of dynamic ‘dance’, can partly or even fully replace the very need for mental representations and rules of information processing. Thus, the algorithmic causal chains of traditional CS are being substituted from constant self-organized feedback circles. This causal circle involves mind, body, and the world as coupled elements of the dynamic system. The non-linear self-organization or emergence of phenomena can be

9 These categories of neurons were recently discovered in the premotor cortex of primates (including humans). They have to do with the preparation of voluntary movements and sequences of movements, that is actions. They are bimodal, which means that they are activated from two different types of stimuli: seeing and acting. That means that perception and categorization of objects is influenced not only from their qualities but also from their affordances: the tennis ball is perceived not only as a sphere, but as a sphere graspable with the hand, as opposed to the ping pong ball, a sphere graspable with the thumb and index finger (Shapiro, pp. 108–11). 10 Roughly, the theory of systems changing in time. 15

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described without resort to mental representations. Eventually, a mathematical expression materializes the hope to discover the unity in the multiplicity of dynamic phenomena. The most easily graspable example is offered by the subsumption architecture by Rodney Brooks (1991): mobile robots (mobots) achieve a satisfying navigation of their environments by replacing potential elaborate representations of those environments – a project that would require infinite computational power – with layers of simple competing behaviours. In such a creature, there is no precise dividing line between perception and cognition, or as Brooks puts it: “the world is its own best representation” (Rowlands, 2011, p. 48), the creature is “using the world as its own model” (Brooks, 1991, p. 139, cited in Shapiro, 2011, p. 141).

1.3. Four EEC ideas for corporeal navigation The directions already presented reflect the multiplicity of the EEC field and offer an introduction to the basic terminology for a model of corporeal navigation, applied to piano performance practice. Here are the four basic ideas towards a hybrid approach to cognition, as opposed to a science of symbols, rules, and representations: (1) Efficiency: The exploitation, manipulation, and transformation of

external structures facilitates cognition, offloading part of the mental effort in the environment. Performance is constitutive of learning, action is constitutive of cognition. (2) Dynamicity: Self-structured or self-organized feedback circles between

the senses and the motoric aspects describe better dynamical systems in time, often without the need for representations. (3) Conceptualization: Q u a l i t i e s o f o u r e m b o d i m e n t d e f i n e t h e

conceptualization of our world through language. 16

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(4) Navigation: Cognition can be defined as navigation with real-time

perception and action and as exploration of environmental affordances.

2. Applications of EEC in contemporary piano performance practice 2.1. Between internalism and externalism: Short comparative study of the piano methods by Leimer – Gieseking and Sándor In this section I will attempt to approach some basic themes of traditional piano playing through the externalist-EEC concepts presented above, namely the ideas of (1) efficiency and (2) dynamicity as detailed in section 1.3.

The chosen examples – the methods by Karl Leimer and Walter Gieseking (1931/1998) and by György Sándor (1981) – appear as antipodes in an EECinspired consideration of piano performance practice, although they both orientate towards rational and scientific principles of modern piano playing. What significantly differentiates them is the underlying cognitive paradigm, which appears to be internalist for Leimer and Gieseking and externalist for Sándor. Their comparison is led by Rowlands’ environmentalist (essentially a synonym for externalist) ideas, as presented in his The Body in Mind (1999), an extended analysis of which has initially appeared in my own ‘Learning complex piano music: Environmentalist applications’ (2010).

2.1.1. Internalist approaches: Modernes Klavierspiel by Leimer and Gieseking The method of Leimer and Gieseking (LG) prioritizes self-listening of the performer, with a strong prerequisite: memorization at the first stage of the learning process. Here is Leimer's and Gieseking's take on the issue of such ear-training and its association with memorization of the note image: 17

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An irremissible prerequisite for such training of the ear is the most exact knowledge of the note-image. It is thus necessary, that we master the notes completely before the beginning of the practice, and this is to my opinion only possible, when we have the note-image completely in the head, that is when we have learnt the piece flawlessly by memory. In order to achieve that, a special training of the memory is necessary. To this purpose I am using reflection in an exhaustive way. (LeimerGieseking, 1998, pp.16-17, my translation) Following my discussion of internalism in 1.1 it might be possible to consider the paragraph above beyond its pedagogical use, revealing the underlying cognitive paradigm: The learning process starts with "the head", without body and instrument (cartesianism) and occurs exclusively "in the head" (internalism). The notes are rather considered an obstacle which should be overcome as soon as possible, and only then can the actual practice of music begin. The first prerequisite of what I have named an understanding-technique-interpretation model is here almost algorithmically isolated from bodily and sonic states. Equally algorithmic is the description of what LG call reflection: note to note, bar to bar, the note-image is imprinted on the brain. A sort of episodic memory11 without any semantic qualities is the entry point to performance. And even more interesting, not only the score itself, but also the performing body and the instrument should ideally be uploaded in the head: according to LG, the technique itself can be processed internally and away from the instrument.

By the end of this process, one is in the position to prepare the technical execution through reflection, so that a piece can be prepared in very short time without prior practice on the instrument (ibid., p. 17).

11 After Rowlands’ analysis of the early study by Luria and Vigotsky on memory, episodic memory is the imprint of moment-to-moment details, which is substituted through the use of external forms of information storage (script or others, like the Peruvian knotting system knivu) and the subsequent development of semantic memory (Rowlands, 1999, pp. 119–48). 18

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As foreshadowed above (section 1.2.1): if we define the process of learning and of performing as a dynamic system, with its parts (the performer as embodied mind, the instrument and the notation) interacting in time, then the approach by LG appears to be the rejection of all external information-bearing structures in this system.

2.1.2. Externalist approaches: On Piano Playing by György Sándor An EEC-friendly alternative to LG is offered by Sándor’s method. Below I sample three main points in which the ideas of efficiency and of dynamical systems may be detected: (1) The identification of two sources of energy, namely gravitation and muscular energy, for piano playing.12 The basis of Sándor’s approach to technique is the aimed minimization of our own energy expenditure. The gravity itself can, in Rowlands’ sense, be thought of as an external structure, tapping into which minimizes the inner costs: in this case, the costs of corporeal effort, which is distributed between the body and the environment. (2) The prioritization of muscle coordination and interdependency. According to Sándor it is not only the use of gravity, but also the structure of the muscular system itself, which favours interdependency, complementarity, and energy-saving, and subsequently strongly rejects the idea of muscular development or force (Sándor, 1981, pp. 16–17). The performative body is in this sense already environmental information: information concerning its ideal embedding in the environment. This information is not to be constructed or retrieved, but

12 “In order to mobilize the playing apparatus and generate the desired speed in the hammers, there are no other but two sources of energy available: the force of gravity ... and muscular energy … Most of the time, it is the participation of both energy sources that provides the optimal solution. Our aim is to achieve the optimal results with the least expenditure of our own muscular energy.” (Sandor, p. 7) 19

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to be directly accessed. In Gibson’s sense, acquiring this knowledge is an exploration of affordances. (3) The development of a visuogestural code: after the consideration of gravity and of the body as external structures, Sándor integrates a third factor, namely the score, in the system of piano playing. Sándor’s simple but most significant contribution is the development of a typology of technical patterns in relation to notation.13 This sort of gestural alphabet prioritizes corporeal motion, continuity or discontinuity of the musical grouping, articulation, and dynamic (in opposition to the traditional prioritization of pitch and rhythm accuracy). This is a visuogestural code, after Rowlands’ notion of visuographic means as external information storage. The user of the code can (after years of proper training) achieve a direct translation of notation in gesture, without learning the notes by heart or understanding/analyzing the musical relations, but only through a process of pattern identification and pattern completion. In this sense gestures, instruments, and scores become intertwined in a performerspecific interactive schema.

The comparison above shows how discourse and conceptualization shape playing: in the case of LG, learning in the head through reading the musical text is the input to an algorithm, which is concluded with self-listening as output. What stands in between – the body, the notes, the instrument – are only means to an end. With Sándor on the other hand, all external structures (gravity, body, instrument, score) are combined in a hybrid navigational approach. From the very beginning the performer is involved in a selforganized feedback circle, in which not only does she play the instrument, but all elements drive the process and change the qualitative and quantitative aspects of the neural function in time: the feedback from the instrument, which invites specific corporeal adaptations; the feedback from the body itself as environmental information towards energy-saving through the appropriate

13 Sandor, "Summary of the basic technical patterns", pp. 115–40. 20

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muscular coordination and through exploitation of gravity; and the feedback of the notation itself, as interface, which is to be translated and transformed through Sándor’s code.

2.2. Corporeal Navigation: Conceptualization and Praxis In the context of my dissertation at the Hochschule für Musik Dresden, as well as in other published texts and lectures, I have presented the central elements of a model of corporeal navigation, which I will now redefine based on the EEC elements above: ‘corporeal’, because performative corporeality is a constitutive part of the processes of learning and performing; and ‘navigation’ as the conceptualization of a non-linear dynamic model, with roots in Gibsonian theory and in metaphor-theory, which builds on basic bodily experiences. The model can be thought of as the conjecture of the presented developments in cognitive science and of the aporias and challenges in musical interpretation today. The aim of this project is the seamless unification of learning and performance praxis, as well as of the understanding of compositional ideas, of their corporeal articulation, of their acoustical perception and of their meaning-producing qualities in the sense of music as cultural praxis. Such unity is definitive of the performative experience. The communication of this unity in a performer-specific discourse enables the formulation of a holistic approach to interpretation today.

As described in section 1.3 above, the cornerstones of this model are the concepts of efficiency, dynamicity, conceptualization and navigation. The first and second concepts have already been dealt with in section 2.1. Next I shall examine the meaning of conceptualization and navigation, before tracking


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some practical consequences and sketching some possible technological applications.

2.2.1. Conceptualization: Score-space The term score-space is a metaphor that points away from an understanding of the score as a timeline, and is thus crucial for formulating the notion of navigation. As already stated, research in cognitive linguistics suggests that the metaphorical language is structural for our conceptualization and hints at the grounding of musical phenomena in basic embodied structures that derive from recurring physical experiences, especially the experience of our own bodies.

In this sense, the concept of a score-space derives from the bodily experience of the performer with a work, and in particular with the medium of notation, from the very first moment she engages with it through the learning process and through various performances – in a nutshell, through the performer’s life with the piece. In contrast to a conception of the learning process as an algorithm with input and output, and of the performance as a linear repetition of the notated material, the concept of a score-space enables the formulation of the movement of the performer in space and time as navigation. The temporality and spatiality of this engagement seldom corresponds to the timeline of the real-time performance: two extreme cases of such linear engagement would be an algorithmic build-up of a piece note by note (as in LG), or a unique run through the piece for the first time (sight-reading). However, engagement with complex pieces composed after 1945 normally bears a more complex time-morphology of chaotic, flexible drifts for familiarization with the global aspects of the piece; of resistance because of the 22

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high viscosity of the polyphonic textures; of surgical static decoding of complex rhythms; of anxious formulation of fragile lines; of fallbacks in vicious circles; and of doubtful premieres because of a minimum of preparation time.

It was this multiplicity of performative experience that moved Danae Stefanou and I to define four dimensions, or degrees of continuity and discontinuity, pertaining to this score-space (Stefanou & Antoniadis, 2009, pp. 83–84): (1) The assemblage-view, as an outside-of-time, highly personalized

gestural template, which is produced through the very first scanning of the piece. (2) The forward-moving stratification, as the establishment of lines of

continuity in this template. (3) The resistance to the flow, as the projection of discontinuities within the

template. (4) The line of flight, as the real-time passage through these dimensions;

that is, a singular performance.

2.2.2. Praxis: Corporeal Navigation The notion of a score-space as a kind of multi-layered state-space 14 of the system embodied mind-instrument-score allows for the emergence of the notion of corporeal navigation as a metaphor for the hybrid process of learning as performance and of performing itself, which stems from the physical, gestural, sound-producing movement. The notion of interpretation


from the basis of physical motion, which never goes out of sight. The qualities

14 State-space: the mapping of all possible states in Dynamical Systems Theory 23

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of this movement, that is its speed, directionality, viscosity, intensity, and so on define the sonic outcome in a performer-specific way.15

In my research thus far I have been able to represent the first dimension of the navigated score-space, described above as a personalized gestural template outside of time, through multi-layered tablatures for complex music. The creation of a such a tablature is explicitly described in an earlier article on Mists by Iannis Xenakis (Antoniadis, 2011, pp. 7–10). From a disembodied, traditional notation of a Xenakian cloud, one moves through the representation of three types of physical groupings (fingers/edges, grasps or quasi-grasps, and neumes, in an extension of Sándor’s visuogestural code ) and through the rotation of the musical score by 90 degrees clockwise (to match the pianist’s perspective of the keyboard), into an accurate visual template of all possible movements and physical trajectories that embody this challenging notated form.

What this mode of representation fails to do is to represent the navigational act of learning dynamically, in real-time, and thus the transformation of the initial gestural template. This transformation would consist of a real-time processing of the notation down to the finest temporal grain (unfolding of the template) and simultaneously a sequential arrangement and/or merging into new gestures, propelling the piece forward (re-folding). In other words, the realtime navigation along lines of continuity and discontinuity (the aforementioned three dimensions of the score-space, next to the original gestural template). The other imagined implementation to be effected has to do with the model’s 15 Along the semantic polyvalence of the sound-image and of notation, for a number of reasons which are intrinsic to modern composition: complexity of the polyphony and other sorts of sound superimpositions; rhythmic complexity; complexity of the relationship between local and global aspects of the musical form; extremes of physicality; notations of independently-organized series of actions rather than sounds. 24

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visual nature as notation or rewriting: it would be highly desirable to produce instead a multimodal tablature able to represent and store different types of gestural data – not only visual – probably obtained from inertial measurements or force sensing resistors. The processed gestural template could even be imagined to have a distinct physical presence, thus acting as an additional interfacing device or real tool for the gestural control of complex piano notation.

In the context of a 2013–2014 Musical Research Residency at IRCAM, Paris,16 and in collaboration with the Real-Time Musical Interactions Team, I will have the opportunity to advance a technological realization of this corporeal navigational model, and in particular, to develop a real tool in the form of a personalized, malleable, multi-layered tablature and/or multimodal (for example graspable) interface. Through this, the player can process the notation in real time. The performative gestures of learning and performing cut through textual complexity. Dimensions (2) to (4) of the score-space thus become palpable. Through a thinking gesture, the navigation in the score-space becomes visible as gestural annotation of the text. The tool saves the intermediate states of the learning process and facilitates the deciphering of the notation. The only – until now – static part of the dynamic system (the notation) is mobilized. The architecture of this project is based on the architecture of the Gesture Follower by Frederic Bevilacqua, a system for the gestural processing of audio in real time (Bevilacqua et al., 2011).

16 Gesture cutting through textual complexity: Towards a tool for online gesture analysis and control of complex piano notation processing http://www.ircam.fr/1117.html?&L=1 (Accessed at 04.09.2013) 25

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3. Conclusions The potential technological manifestation of the model of corporeal navigation resonates with the idea of "a research approach which stretches over biological and artificial systems alike" (Strube, cited in Natterer, 2011, pp. 104–5), although Strube’s prerequisite "that cognitive processes are to be considered computationally" (ibid.) is obviously challenged. The suggested model is based, on the contrary, on very specific features of EEC: efficiency through the exploitation of external structures, elements of dynamical systems, metaphorical conceptualization, and navigation as exploration of notational affordances.

Corporeal navigation refers to the perpetual movement in between embodied structures of the immobile score-space. This movement produces a new and infinitely malleable space. The movement functions between learning and performance, between detailed and global aspects, and between the continuity of performance and the resistance of decoding. The qualities of this navigation – its directionality, its speed, its viscosity, and so on – define what can sound from the initial incomprehensible and/or unplayable image. Interpretation is then this diachronic movement, instead of the repetition of a frozen sound-image.

In this light I would like to supply some provisional answers to my original questions: ∑

What can the player really add beyond the prerequisites of understanding and technique, in the form of personal interpretation? Nothing. Interpretation occurs already with every single gesture as constitutive of every thought. Even the most abstract aesthetic ideas as 26

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prerequisites of an interpretation, i.e. in the context of a historical performance praxis or of the wishes of a living composer, can only be introduced in the self-structured feedback circle as parts of the system, and must in any case manifest themselves in flesh. ∑

In what exactly does the interpretation consist, when the notation already is so fixed? In the interaction of constitutive parts, which mobilizes the notation itself.

What happens when this first requirement of understanding and consequently of technique is thus sabotaged? How is an interpretation in the traditional sense still possible? One can start at a different entry point. Here is David Tudor’s own answer: “All of a sudden there was a different way of looking at musical continuity ... I had to put my mind in a state of non-continuity – not remembering – so that each moment is alive.” (Tudor, quoted in Holzaepfel, 2002, p. 171)

What remains is the elusiveness of the mental totality of the sound image and the meaning of the body not as medium, but rather as immanent and performer-specific layer of the work. Does this threaten the Werktreu? On the contrary, the force of a score as ‘found object’, in Boulez’s sense, is maximized through the legitimation of multiple possible interpretations.

References: Antoniadis, P. (2010) ‘Learning complex piano music: Environmentalist applications’. Paper presented at the International Conference Beyond the Centres: Musical Avant-gardes since 1950, Aristoteleio University, Thessaloniki. [Online] Available at: http://btc.web.auth.gr/_assets/_papers/ANTONIADIS.pdf [Accessed 4 September 2013]. Antoniadis, P. (2011) ‘Physicality as a performer-specific perspectival point to I. Xenakis’s piano work. Case-study Mists’. Paper presented at the I. 27

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Xenakis International Symposium 2011, Goldsmiths University, London. [Online] Available at: http://www.gold.ac.uk/media/07.3%20Pavlos %20Antoniadis.pdf [Accessed 4 September 2013]. Bevilacqua F., Schnell N., Rasamimanana N., Zamborlin B., Guedy F. (2011) ‘Online Gesture Analysis and Control of Audio Processing’. In: Solis, J. & Ng. K. (eds.) Musical Robots and Interactive Multimodal Systems. Berlin Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag. Boulez, P. (2005) The Three Piano Sonatas. Paavali Jumppanen. Hamburg: Deutsche Grammophon GbmH. 00289 477 5328. Boulez, P. (1986) ‘Time, Notation and Coding’. In: Nattiez, J.-J. (ed.) Orientations: Collected Writings. Translated by Martin Cooper. London and Boston: Faber and Faber. Brooks, R. (1991) ‘Intelligence without representation’. In: Artificial Intelligence 47: pp. 139–59. Clark, A. (2011) Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension, New York: Oxford. Cox, F. (2002) ‘Notes Toward a Performance Practice for Complex Music’. In: Mahnkopf, C.-S., Cox, F. and Suhrig, W. (eds.), Polyphony and Complexity. New Music and Aesthetics in the 21st Century Vol. 1. Hofheim: Wolke Verlag. Ferneyhough, B. (1995) ‘Aspects of Notational and Compositional Practice’. In: Boros, J. and Toop, R. (eds.) Collected Writings. Amsterdam: Harwood. Gallagher, S. (2012) ‘Kognitionswissenschaften -Leiblichkeit und Embodiment’. In Leiblichkeit. Geschichte und Aktualität eines Konzepts. Alloa, E., Bedorf, T., Grüny, T., Klass, T. (eds.). Tübingen: UTB Mohr Siebeck. Helffer, C. (2010) ‘On Herma, Erikhthon, and others’. In: Kanach, S. (ed.) Performing Xenakis, The Iannis Xenakis Series vol. 2. Hillsdale, NY: Pendragon Press. Holzaepfel, J. (2002) ‘Cage and Tudor’. In D. Nicholls (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to John Cage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


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Lakoff, G. and Johnson, M. (1999). Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought. New York: Basic Books. Leimer, K. und Gieseking, W. (1931/1998). Modernes Klavierspiel. Mit Ergänzung Rhythmik, Dynamik, Pedal. Mainz: Schott. Natterer, P. (2011) Philosophie des Geistes. Mit einem systematischen Abriss zur Biologischen Psychologie und zur Kognitionswissenschaft. Norderstedt: Books On Demand GmbH. Rowlands, M. (2010) The New Science of the Mind: from extended mind to embodied phenomenology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Rowlands, M. (1999) The body in mind: Understanding Cognitive Processes. New York: Cambridge University Press. Sándor, G., (1981) On Piano Playing. Motion, Sound and Expression, New York: Schirmer. Shapiro, L. (2011) Embodied Cognition. London and New York: Routledge. Stefanou, D.-Antoniadis, P. (2009) ‘Inter-Structures: Rethinking Continuity in Post-1945 Piano Repertoire’. In: Journal of interdisciplinary music studies, spring/fall 2009, volume 3, issue 1–2, art. #0931205, pp.77–93. [Online] Available at: http://www.musicstudies.org/JIMS2009/Stefanou_JIMS_0932105.pdf [Accessed 4 September 2013]. Thomopoulos, S.(2010) The Olympian Piano: Iannis Xenakis’ Synaphai. In: Kanach, S. (ed.) Performing Xenakis, The Iannis Xenakis Series vol. 2. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press. Tudor, D. (1972) ‘From Piano to Electronics’. Music and Musicians 20, pp. 24– 26.


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Staging Failure: Error as Compositional Material Mark Barden

Abstract This text traces deployments of ‘expressive failure’ in the performance, creation, and audition of six original compositions. Issues such as complexity, vulnerability, and effort as they occur in these instantiations of staged failure are contrasted with an aesthetics of failure based on a surfeit of information that has been championed by New Complexity. Musical, phenomenological, and performative aspects of ‘acts of intentional error-enabling’ are contextualized through recent writings by queer theorists José E. Muñoz and Judith Halberstam that imagine failure, especially when cast in relation to virtuosity, as a potential terrain for queer utopian aesthetic practices. Throughout the discussion the body writ large is a central focus; it is considered to be the medium through which staged failure necessarily transacts meaning and experience between the disparate bodies of performer, audience, and composer.

“Everything that is a failure is always a victory.” – David Foster Wallace Failure is inevitable. Every composition is an unfaithful transcription of the original idea. Every performance is a failure to capture the entirety of an interpreter’s vision of a work, every memory an incomplete record of a given event’s details. Every communication fails to transmit thought from mind to mind unscathed. We subsist in perpetual failure, in distortion, elision, and approximation. Everything that is a victory is always a failure.


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Staged failures differ wildly in content, method, and nature, and tend to resist simple dichotomic analyses (win/lose, good/bad, hit/miss). What follows is not only a discussion of failure’s deployment in six recent compositions, but also a preliminary and necessarily incomplete taxonomy of what I call ‘expressive failure’. Coalescing around compositional preoccupations with the body writ large as well as with sonic phenomena in which instability and fragility inhere, these instantiations of intentional error-enabling ask how physical bodies (i.e. those of listeners and performers) act, interact, and transact during live performance.1 My work understands expressive failure as a queer discipline of embodiment, one that must necessarily enfold oppositional relationships and ostensible paradoxes (e.g. intending the unintentional) within its practice to nurture an in-dwelling transformative potential.2

Contemporary music is well acquainted with a certain aesthetic of failure that relies on overloading a player with multiple strands of dense information such that error is effectively in-written. By problematizing the performer’s relationship to notation, this approach ostensibly destabilizes the aesthetic object, attaining the unnotatable through notation (or, more specifically, through a performer’s failure to realize notation designed to thwart, or at least redefine what is meant by, faithful execution). Regardless of performers’ actual or perceived accuracy, much of this work draws power from the sheer

1 Though both doubtless represent types of performed failures, intentional error-enabling and intentional error-making are fundamentally incommensurate. The former opens a space that fosters unscripted events (errors are genuine, authentic; there is actual uncertainty regarding their timing, nature, and morphology), whereas the latter scripts events (errors are faked, inauthentic; there is feigned uncertainty regarding their timing, nature, and morphology). Pretending to trip, for comic effect, is error-making; creating a situation in which you cannot help but trip (running barefoot over rocks, binding the feet, blindfolding) is error-enabling. 2 ‘Queer’ is here understood, in accordance with a not uncontroversial turn in recent queer theory, as encompassing many affiliated experiences and conceptions of alterity across relational lines, be they sexual, racial, national, gender-based, generational, or otherwise. 31

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physicality of its execution. Such enshrining of (hyper)virtuosity underscores the dissimilarity between the bodies of audience and performer, invoking a Romantic fascination with and glorification of superhuman mastery. (What is more, the overwhelming density of information precludes listeners’ ability to gauge accuracy, foreclosing any meaningful assessment of mastery.) These works, I would suggest, harness virtuosity and failure in an ultimately divisive manner that actively promotes audience estrangement and, in its refusal of collectivity, endorses extant power structures, be they linked to unreflective composer-performer relationality or to privilege more broadly defined (indeed, one might well add that composers associated with this aesthetic tend to be overwhelmingly, if not exclusively, white men).

Admittedly, some of my own works fit this problematic profile. Virtuosity and complexity often do dazzle me as both listener and composer, especially as a strategy to engender urgency (a sense of something unnamable and vital being ‘at stake’). In my work, an idolizing respect for and indebtedness to various manifestations of virtuosity and/or complexity in existing repertoire (from Scriabin to Ferneyhough to the devastatingly beautiful work of Josiah Oberholtzer) is, perhaps unsurprisingly, coupled with an idol-killing critique: beneath the dazzling surface, I am interested in mining virtuosity and complexity for their ability to self-efface and invert, to reveal themselves as anti-virtuosic and anti-complex. Recent works of mine attempt to divorce exertion from complexity, exposing compositional artifice through reduced textures, unveiled repetitions, and thresholds of endurance or perception.3

3 Crucial to all of these methods of exposure is a notion of duration closely allied to Bergson's: "Pure duration is the form which the succession of our conscious states assumes when our ego lets itself live, when it refrains from separating its present state from its former states." (Bergson, 1889, p.60) 32

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In contrast to the divisive nature of failure described above, my work endeavours to stage failures with which ordinary bodies can identify (if not directly experience as failures or distortions of perception, as with aural hallucinations), in the hopes of uniting the bodies present in a moment that is at once intensely collective and intensely individual. I am concerned with the immediate poignancy of bodies that struggle and fail to perform feats of execution or cognition that are either common or readily perceptible, engaging physical and perceptual thresholds to queer the commonplace through the body. Because a clear ground against which mistakes can be heard is nearly always present (again, in stark contrast to the aesthetics of failure outlined above), this work plainly exposes performer vulnerability. Error – perhaps even vulnerability itself – becomes compositional material, thereby posing unconventional questions to the interpreter: what is a masterful error? Can failure be practised or be made into a practice? How can one intend the unintended, sound the paradox? These questions gesture toward the need for an alternate virtuosity that undermines traditional conceptions of interpretative mastery and suggests new, horizontal frameworks for its relation to power.

Were one to identify the ever-present absence against which the presence of ‘failure’ is rendered comprehensible in my works, ‘success’ (or ‘victory’ as in the Foster Wallace epigraph above) might be an appropriate term. Acknowledging that such dialectical pairings are, at best, flawed models for understanding more complex dynamics, I would like to propose that a constitutive feature of expressive failure is that the ever-present absence against which it is defined would not be ‘victory’ but rather ‘hope’. It is, in a sense, a doomed hope, an impossible hope, that persists, ardent and sincere, not in the face of failure (as when struggling to realize impossibly dense notation) but solely through failure. Every staging of expressive failure thus manifests a form of hope as a 33

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present-absence, a pure and ineffable hope having no real object or intentionality that exists in an undefined, interstitial space between absence and presence.

By wedding virtuosic performance to notions of failure, hopeful exertion, and the commonplace in this way, my music might said to be engaged in the sort of “queer utopian aesthetic practice” or “queer art of failure” described, respectively, by leading queer theorists José Esteban Muñoz and Judith Halberstam.4 Queer failures that re-imagine commonplace actions such that they dislodge from accustomed modes of understanding or perception celebrate the strangeness and inherent transformative power of the ordinary, uniting bodies through corporeally empathic enactments. (Put simply, a performing body that fails in ways a perceiving body fails, or could easily imagine itself failing, unifies those bodies in and through the act of failure.) 5 Such instances of expressive failure in abstract music, to borrow from Gerhard Richter, comprise “fictive models” that articulate “a reality we can neither [hear] nor describe, but whose existence is implied” (Richter, 1982), thus demonstrating an awareness of potential, or, indeed, demonstrating potential itself.6 In embracing the ‘now’ as an essential fact while at the same time

4 In a discussion of Jack Smith’s influence on contemporary queer performance art, Muñoz outlines “two aspects of … a queer utopian aesthetic practice: failure and virtuosity.” (Muñoz, 2009, p. 169) while Halberstam underscores failure's role in imagining other futures in this passage: “The queer art of failure turns on the impossible, the improbable, the unlikely, and the unremarkable. It quietly loses, and in losing it imagines other goals for life, for love, for art, and for being.” (Halberstam, 2011, p. 88) 5 Here is a simple example of queering the commonplace that illustrates the in-dwelling transformative potential of ordinary materials: repeat any word to yourself out loud until it loses all meaning. Through repetition and duration, the signifier is transformed, disengaging from the signified, to become at moments; perhaps, pure sound. 6 "Abstrakte Bilder sind fictive Modelle weil sie eine Wirklichkeit veranschaulichen, die wir weder sehen noch beschreiben können, auf deren Existenz wir aber schließen können." (Richter, 1982) 34

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revealing its plasticity, expressive failure envisions the present moment as both undeniably structured and patently mutable through the actions of ordinary bodies. It is this combination of an intense awareness of the present, a critique of the present as somehow insufficient (which implies an imperative to improve it, if possible), and the present’s manifest mutability that emboldens Muñoz to use a term as lofty as ‘utopian’ to describe what is, in essence, quotidian and uncontroversial: a people united can, even in the smallest of ways, shift the reality we collectively structure, possibly improving it towards a more perfect society. The following discussion of musical examples, then, traces aspects of his and Halberstam’s readings of failure’s performance as a terrain of potential queer utopian transformation, emphasizing the centrality of the human sensorium, the concomitant array of temporalities inherent to embodied perception, and the various transactions of meaning perpetuated by productive and consumptive bodies.




My work titled die Haut Anderer [the skin of others] (2008), für e.h. for solo piano and optional video playback was seminal for my compositional investigations of failure. It was inspired by Emma Hauck’s unsent letters to her lover, Mark.7 In their obsessive desire to communicate, penciled words heap upon and elide themselves in dark, frantically amalgamated columns. Rendered illegible, they fail to convey cogent thought and instead take on an entirely different – and more immediate and poignant – expressive quality. Outlined

7 Hauck composed these letters in 1909 during her stay at the Heidelberg University Psychiatric Clinic, where she was being treated for schizophrenia. These and other artworks created by the mentally ill are now housed in Heidelberg’s ethically controversial Prinzhorn Collection. 35

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below are four instantiations of corporeal failure in die Haut Anderer that invoke these themes of obsessive repetition and transcendence.

Example 1: die Haut Anderer (2008), for piano solo, mm. 110–114.

The pianist is required to accelerate until her hands are literally out of control. As the speed increases, the deviations from the notated pitches become more extreme, resulting in clusters by the final repetitions. Losing all control risks injury, as the hands could land at an awkward, painful angle. Virtuosity in this context requires the performer to invoke, paradoxically, both discipline and surrender: she must gradually approach then audibly transcend her own physical thresholds, such that mistakes are genuine and increasingly severe, while somehow maintaining enough control to prevent bodily harm.


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Example 2: die Haut Anderer (2008), for piano solo, mm. 150–152.

Two forms of failure operate here. First, the performer inevitably fails to maintain a perfectly regular dynamic or pulse (quarter ≈ 72 M.M.). This pressure is exacerbated by the fact that, due to the sheer duration and the radically reduced material, listeners’ sensitivity to even the smallest inconsistencies is magnified. Second, listeners may experience a sort of trompe l’oreille: despite knowing, rationally and visually, that the repetitions are produced with relative uniformity, the ear fails to perceive the sound with relative uniformity over time, experiencing instead involuntary and individualized shifts in perceptual focus from the repeated pitch to the wooden attack sound to the aural hallucination of a sustained pitch. This imagined sustained pitch and the oscillation of perceptual foreground and background are related to the brain’s tendency to impose change onto static phenomena, a cognitive phenomenon discovered in early sensory deprivation experiments.


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Example 3: die Haut Anderer (2008), for piano solo, mm. 1–18.

The pianist silently depresses the keys, releasing them with sudden, audible accents on each rest. Due to the tempo, hand distribution, and strange fingering, some notes will sound involuntarily. These errors are then interwoven with intentionally sounded notes to create a sort of crescendo dal niente effect.

Example 4: die Haut Anderer (2008), for piano solo, mm. 89–94.


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Bars 89 and 90, despite the irrational meter, can be performed accurately with ease, but the awkwardness of the interlocking durational permutations in the subsequent four bars are intended to boggle the performer’s sense of pulse, inviting struggle and imprecision. On the surface, this boggling effect is similar to the destabilization effected by complex notation discussed earlier but the unveiled repetition of the pitch material combined with the relative simplicity of the first two bars establish such a clear ground that errors are utterly exposed.

Example 5: Chamber (2006–7), for three (untrained) amplified (male) voices, mm. 139–44.

Chamber is based on a simple idea: a voice tries to sing a note just beyond its uppermost range. The result is a fragile and richly textured shadow tone or ‘coloured air’ sound. This technique is most effective in the male falsetto range and untrained voices are preferred due to the considerable, possibly damaging, strain on the vocal cords. In its prolonged striving for the unattainable, this sound lays bare the anatomy of this species of failure: quiet tension ensheathed by hopeful effort.


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Example 6: viscera (2009), for viola, cello, and contrabass, m.168–69.

Flickering involuntarily between two pitches, this gentle failed multiphonic is the final gesture of a hitherto frenetic and aggressive string trio. Through slight adjustments to bowing parameters (speed, pressure, angle, proximity to bridge, amount of bow-hair), the interpreter attempts to sustain simultaneously two very high adjacent partials (c. 24th and 25th). Locating and sustaining this threshold sound is precarious (other partials easily intrude or the tone pales into an unpitched air sound) and this precariousness casts into relief the relative stoicism of the bassist’s slow, subtle movement.


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Example 7: viscera (2009), mm. 112–25.

As the score in Example 7 indicates: Contrabass has separate tempo. Synchronicities that would result from strict adherence to given tempi are shown with dotted lines. However, it is much more important to create a sense of audible friction and struggle between the contrabass solo and the viola & cello duo than it is to execute the temporal ratio and its verticalities with absolute fidelity.

Though errors within a texture of this density may not be as immediately apparent as they are in previous examples, failure to align disparate


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temporalities should suffuse this passage and the bodies interpreting it in live performance with a perceptible, if not easily locatable, tension.

Example 8: personÌ (2009), for bass flute and bass clarinet, mm. 104–22. 42

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In this closing passage, the bass flutist is asked to circular breathe throughout while sustaining a continuous pitched sound centred on the lowest C. At the low registral extreme, the technique of circular breathing will necessarily be perforated with instabilities (shaky breath, overtone glissandi, pulsations), especially when further destabilized by rolling the flute in and out to produce the microtonal glissandi, resulting in a highly exposed, gentle failure sound akin to the preceding contrabass example. More subtly, the unpredictability and plasticity of these involuntary disruptions engender a feeling of time that is audibly distinct from the more tightly controlled clarinet part. This creates, for me, a sensation of misaligned, incommensurate temporalities that somehow coexist in the same time, opening through synchronic failure a space of queer temporality.

Example 9: — caul — (2011–12), mm. 10–14, detail.


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The work — caul — is concerned with prolonged exposure to quasi-static phenomena: in the above excerpt, there is an irregularly but obsessively repeating cluster of natural harmonics that increases in pitch at a rate so gradual, as to be scarcely detectable (one quarter-tone higher per minute). This is a focused experiment on embodied perception, specifically on a physiological principle of perceived difference. It attempts to present movement at so glacial a pace that the ear perceives stasis in the local moment, but this consciousness is shattered by a sudden realization that motion has somehow occurred ‘under the radar’. This realization of perceptual failure will naturally come at different points for each listener over the work’s twenty-three minutes and the work, though situated in a traditional listening environment designed to homogenize sonic space, seeks to enable this perceptual heterogeneity.

Example 10: flesh|veil (2012), for octet, sketch for two celli.


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A sound collage for mixed octet, flesh|veil investigates ghosting and masking effects, largely within duo textures comprised of self-similar strands. In the above sketch, systems A’ and B’ are the imperfect spawn of A and B, malformed by an intuitive compositional process of unfaithful transcription. Due to their density and brisk tempo, near-unison duo passages such as this are almost impossible to play as notated. These ‘homosexualized’ musical materials, along with the in-composed likelihood of a failure to perform their notated near-alignments with fidelity, obliquely conjure a physiological response known as Delayed Auditory Feedback.8 In other words, the selfsimilarity of timbre, rhythm, and pitch is designed to interfere with the musicians’ ability to hear themselves, perforce eliciting error. It is this autophagic quality enacted by interpreters’ bodies – and its reliance on a common physiological response – that I would suggest emplaces this deployment of failure outside an aesthetic that merely showcases hypervirtuosic exertion.

Queerness is that thing that lets us feel that this world is not enough, that indeed something is missing. … [It] is essentially about the rejection of a here and now and an insistence on potentiality or concrete possibility for another world. (Muñoz, 2009, p. 1)

References Bergson, H. (1889) Time and Free Will. In: Pearson, K.A. and Mullarkey, J., eds., 2002. Henri Bergson: Key Writings, New York and London: Continuum.

8 A sonic cannibalization whereby the brain, upon hearing its own speech echo with a delay of ca. 200 milliseconds, is stunned into silence. 45

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Mu単oz, J. E. (2009) Cruising Utopia: The There and Then of Queer Utopia, New York: New York University Press. Halberstam, J. (2011) The Queer Art of Failure, Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Richter, G. (1982) Katalog Documenta 7, Kassel.


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Brian Ferneyhough’s Kurze Schatten II: towards an ‘auratic’ model of performance practice Diego Castro

Abstract Brian Ferneyhough’s seminal contribution to solo guitar repertoire, Kurze Schatten II (1983–89), takes its title from a sequence of texts by Walter Benjamin. Ferneyhough’s work contains seven movements, paralleling the seven pieces of text from Benjamin’s sequence. As far as previous studies on this work have not explored this relationship in depth, the aim of this article is to seek concord between both texts, channelling this relationship toward its possible impact upon interpretation and performance. Finally, a theoretical contextualisation of such an approach is proposed.

In an interview with Richard Toop (1998, p. 272), Brian Ferneyhough suggests that a score is not only “a visual representation of a possible sound” but “also an entire cultural artefact with an aura of spiritual resonance”. Accordingly, it seems that Ferneyhough’s Kurze Schatten II, with its direct reference to Walter Benjamin’s Kurze Schatten (II) is likely to pose a good opportunity to approach a score as such: “an entire cultural artefact”.

This study recognizes the necessity to develop what could be termed as a “metaphorical domain of interpretation”, as stated by Frank Cox in his revision of the High Modernist Model for Performance Practice: Those more “spiritual” aspects of interpretation such as “intuitive/energetic striving” and what one might call the metaphorical domain of interpretation (such as understanding of the composer’s basic 47

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intentions, and the expressive world and/or underlying metaphors of the piece), must be allowed a central place in any valid theory of performance practice (Cox, 2002, p. 104). Under these terms, this article will focus on the possible concord between Kurze Schatten II’s first pair of movements with its corresponding Benjamin texts and its possible impact upon performance, contextualizing such an approach in relation to Benjamin’s theory of language and Frank Cox’s revision of the High Modernist Model for Performance Practice.

Benjamin’s Short shadows In an essay about his solo guitar piece Kurze Schatten II, Ferneyhough states: “There is no Kurze Schatten I: the title is taken from an essay by German cultural philosopher Walter Benjamin” (Ferneyhough, 1998, p. 139). That claim is right and wrong, as the situation can be read in two different ways: there is no earlier musical composition entitled Kurze Schatten I, but, on the other hand, there is indeed a Kurze Schatten I insofar as Benjamin did write two versions of Kurze Schatten.

Benjamin published two aphoristic sequences under the title Short Shadows (Kurze Schatten), the first in 1929 in the Neue Schweitzer Rundschau and the second in 1933 in the Kölnische Zeitung. The former has eight while the latter seven pieces of text, which, in terms of literary genre, can be categorized as thought-images (Denkbilder); an often neglected literary genre employed by four major German-Jewish philosophers associated with what came to be known as the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory.1 1 According to Richter (2007), “the Denkbild is a poetic mode of writing, a brief snapshot-inprose that stages the interrelation of literary, philosophical, political, and cultural insights”. 48

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The only thought-image in common between both sequences is that of the title itself: Short shadows. Toward noon, shadows are no more than the sharp, black edges at the feet of things, preparing to retreat silently, unnoticed, into their burrow, into their secret. Then, in its compressed, cowering fullness, comes the hour of Zarathustra–the thinker in the “noon of life”, in “the summer garden”. For it is knowledge that gives objects their sharpest outline, like the sun at its zenith. (Benjamin, 1999, p. 702) The allusion to Zarathustra brings Nietzsche into play. In a recent study concerning the relationship between Nietzsche and Benjamin (McFarland, 2013), McFarland sees Short Shadows as a sort of “collaboration” between both authors. In fact, Short Shadows as a single thought-image does make mention of a “summer garden” and “noon of life” phrases from the first stanza of Nietzsche’s poem Aus Hohen Bergen (From High Mountains), the “aftersong” to the book Beyond Good and Evil: O noon of life! O celebratory time! O summer garden! Restlessly happy standing and looking and waitingI stay for my friends, day and night prepared Where are you friends! Come! It’s time! It’s time!”2 According to McFarland (2013, pp. 169–70), the poet is prepared to welcome his friends to the pinnacle he has discovered, in the remoteness of “high mountains”. But as the poem continues, the arrival of these friends provokes from the poet a series of rhetorical questions characterizing their antipathetic reaction to his new demesne. These former friends find no “summer garden” but a glacial waste, and they fail to recognize the poet. Poet and friends have separated. It is this misrecognition and rejection on the part of the poet’s former allies that the poem as a whole then inverts. The poet’s transformation 2 As cited in McFarland, 2013. 49

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requires him to find new allies, so the opening stanza returns toward the end but slightly amended: Oh noon of life! A second youth fullness! Oh summer garden! Restlessly happy standing and looking and waitingI stay for my friends, day and night prepared For new friends! Come! It’s time! It’s time!3 Here the poem arrives at a provisional end, but there is a coda: two final stanzas sing a new song. Lament becomes festival at the arrival of the “noontime friend” Zarathustra.

In Nietzsche’s poem, two almost identical calls emerge from the high mountains, but the friends addressed by these two solicitations differ. The repetition of Short Shadows manifests this transformation as well; the 1929 sequence can thus be read as citing Nietzsche’s first stanza while the 1933 repetition cites the latter. Moreover, the years between 1929 and 1933 pushed Benjamin into exile, which is a situation that, for a writer, proves more than a mere geographical notion and demands new thinking strategies and alliances. As McFarland proposes, in Short Shadows (II) Benjamin and Nietzsche communicate “under the sign of exile”.

Consequently, whether intended by Ferneyhough or not, the second sequence of Short Shadows seems to be a carrier of content marked by notions of rupture and search for new alliances.

3 As cited in McFarland, 2013. 50

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Ferneyhough’s Short Shadows Written between 1983 and 1989 for Swedish guitarist Magnus Andersson, Kurze Schatten II is published as a facsimile of the composer’s manuscript. There are no performance notes, but after the title a required scordatura is detailed (see example 1).

Example 1: Ferneyhough’s Kurze Schatten II, scordatura.

Precisely in this scordatura, in which the central strings (3th and 4th) remain in normal tuning while the border strings use semi and microtonal detunings (see example 2), it is proposed that here is a first representation of Benjamin’s thought-image. Those “black edges” mentioned in the text could be linked, as an almost literal representation, to the four de-tuned strings at the edges.

Example 2: Normal guitar tuning in the upper stave ‘against’ Kurze Schatten II’s initial scordatura, bottom stave.


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Afterwards, the quarter-tone detuned strings return to its ‘normal’ sonority across the large-scale form of the work – after each pair of movements – through a process of re-tuning that could be understood as performing Benjamin’s metaphor between sun and knowledge: “For it is knowledge that gives objects their sharpest outline, like the sun at its zenith”. Nevertheless, towards the seventh movement, the second string retains the B♭ scordatura. Indeed, the piece ends with a three-bar ‘solo’ on that string whose last note is a B♭ natural harmonic: “a pyrrhic victory, perhaps, for the defamiliarization principle over the ineluctable encroachment, from panel to panel, of 'normal' guitar sonority” (Ferneyhough, 1998, p. 152). But, as far as B♭ is B in German musical nomenclature, it could be seen as proper signature for Benjamin as well.

As long as there are aspects of the composition so literally related to Benjamin’s thought-image, my claim is that performance could intend to approach literally the Benjaminian source too.

Movement I, Secret Signs: on (guitar) shifts In this first movement, as Ferneyhough indicates (1998, p. 140) we have two distinct types of polyphonic structure: one is composed of two independent layers of natural harmonics, the other incorporates miniature figures that succeed each other. As Andersson suggests (1988, p. 129), those “microfigures” should be played as differentiated as possible, thus the perception of a global surface is avoided evidencing a space rich in diverse temporal and spatial layers.


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On the other hand, one of the main challenges is to avoid damping the natural harmonics due to the physical closeness with the strings in which the flurry activity of the micro-figures occurs. In this respect, Morris proposes a re-angling of the left-hand fingers, although many times “the natural harmonics would not resonate for the length notated even without the bottom stave� (Morris, 1996, p. 42).

The notation of pitch in Kurze Schatten II obeys the tablature principle, that is, the notated pitches are not the real sounds but are notated as if the guitar were tuned normally. For that reason, almost every note has a string assigned, or it is possible to deduce it from its context. However, it could be argued that such a tablature principle in notation is the carrier of more content than merely pitch. Let us take as an example the micro-figure in bar 3, example 3.

Example 3: Micro-figure, bottom stave, bar 3.4

Almost all the eleven pitches making up this micro-figure are asked to be played on the fourth string, with the exception of the initial note G, which is to be played on the third string. Thus, a distance of thirteen frets is covered between the natural E in 14th fret and the E-flat at 1st fret: a large portion of

4 All musical examples in this article are extracts from Kurze Schatten II (EP 7311) by Brian Ferneyhough, Š Copyright 1985 by Peters Edition Limited, London. Reproduced by kind permission of Peters Edition Limited, London. 53

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the guitar fingerboard.5 This fingering produces at least three longitudinal shifts for the left hand.

Longitudinal shifts are often an issue in guitar performance as they tend to be points where physical tension increases, deserving a careful treatment in favour of continuity and accuracy. Hence the tendency to avoid them; whereas a good fingering in the use of different combinations of stopped and open strings allows such shifts to be hidden. Upon listening to two published recordings of this piece,6 it is clear that this passage is not an exception to such criterion. Taking advantage of the semitonally detuned second string, it is possible to play this passage – respecting the pitches – on the second, third, and fourth strings, the fingering of which is likely to produce just one shift (or even better, hiding that shift in the hemidemisemiquaver rest). Such an arrangement seems to be highly beneficial, securing the passage from possible mistakes, easing the flow and saving energy. But, on the other hand, it can be argued that such a fingering ignores the actual gestural content, that is to say, the leaps implicit in the notation.

Example 4: Micro-figure, bottom stave, bar 2.

A similar request is found in bar 2, example 4: the last G♯ could be played on the fourth string, keeping left hand at fourth position, but it is asked to be 5 Nineteen frets in total. 6 Magnus Andersson, Disques Montaigne MO 782029 (CD); Geoffrey Morris, Etcetera KTC 1206 (CD). 54

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played on third string demanding a shift towards first position. Besides, there is a diminuendo, which somehow contradicts the physical nature of the shift itself.

Considering the velocity of the micro-figures cited above, original fingerings demand very quick, flutter-like leaps; a tendency to ‘outrage’ the physical level of the gestural realization, although sometimes attenuated by musical indications of contrary notions (e.g. diminuendo, sostenuto). This seems to be the kind of gestural behaviour that the composer is deliberately asking of the left hand through these particular allocations of strings.

It is to this extent that Benjamin’s thought-image corresponding with this piece, Secret signs, is very likely to be related with this interpretation: Secret signs. A word of Schuler’s has been preserved for us. Every piece of knowledge, he said, contains a dash of nonsense, just as in ancient carpet patterns or ornamental friezes it was always possible to find somewhere or other a minute deviation from the regular pattern. In other words, what is decisive is not the progression from one piece of knowledge to the next, but the leap implicit in any one piece of knowledge. This is the inconspicuous mark of authenticity which distinguishes it from every kind of standard product that has been mass produced. (Benjamin, 1999, p. 699) A literal translation of Benjamin’s concern with the notion of leap between pieces of knowledge could be that of avoiding the notion of progression in physical shifts (transversal and longitudinal, in both left and right hands) in guitar performance. Such a decision, which especially should be a concern in passages with longer temporal intervals between events, affects not only the visual information of performance; the fact of playing those events (harmonics and micro-figures) with no preparation considerably affects the potential expressive of the whole performance. It would tend towards a certain


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“outrage” of the gestural realization, which, on the other hand, perfectly matches with the string’s allocation tendency to increase the presence of leaps and could be understood as matching with the general context of “rupture”, as suggested in the Benjamin-Nietzsche connection.

However, this criterion could have an important exception. As Ferneyhough states (1998, p. 141), in this piece “there are four independently variable categories of micro-figures”, which are found exactly in the first four miniature figures in the lowest stave in bars 1–3 (Castellani, 2009). Thereafter, the third category of micro-figure always presents indications such as espressivo, molto espressivo, sometimes with vibrato7 (see examples 5, 6, 7, and 8). Accordingly, those micro-figures should be played more sul tasto, indeed allowing a tone production more espressivo, according to the performance tradition of the classical guitar. Moreover, the remaining material (the staves of harmonics, and micro-figures 1, 2, and 4; including notes plucked normally, pizzicati and bartok-pizzicati) could be played, unless specified otherwise, in a standard position for the right hand between soundhole and bridge. Thereby, this criterion will produce several shifts for the right hand too; those should also be performed with no progression in themselves, but stating the important exception of the micro-figures of category 3, which should be progressively prepared as possible.

Example 5: Micro-figure type 3, bottom stave, bar 3. 7 In fact, in the composer's sketches consulted at the Paul Sacher Foundation, those microfigures are referred as 'melodies'. 56

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Example 6: Micro-figure type 3 overlapped with microfigure type 1, bottom stave, bar 4.

Example 7: Micro-figure type 3, bottom stave, bar 6.

Example 8: Micro-figure type 3, bottom stave, bar 15. Under these terms, it is possible to map the score accordingly: non-progressive shifts will be marked with straight diagonals, progressive shifts with circular lines, distinguishing colours red and blue for right and left hands respectively. Example 9 shows how this would look; a criterion that could be applied to the whole movement.


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Example 9: First page of Kurz Schatten II, marking right and left hand shifts. Video example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TsmHKkF9Z7w.


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Movement II, A Saying of Casanova’s: performance tempo and density of material as opposite vectors “The second movement’s ‘topic’ is the potential distinction between performance tempo and perceived density of material” (Ferneyhough, 1998, p. 141). In fact, the piece is clearly organized in six “panels” of six measures each, in which the marked tempo for the crotchet decreases as following: 90; 83; 76; 71; 67,5; 63,5 (60). On the other hand, as the piece progresses, the notated rhythmic values of each panel become shorter and new pitch constellations are added in each cycle. In Ferneyhough’s terms, the result of this tempo/density opposition is, for the ear, to confuse the two toward the middle of the movement. Examples 10 and 11 show first and last panels respectively, using a spaced rhythmic transcription in which crotchet 90 equals 3cm and crotchet 63.6 equals 2.1cm, respectively. Thus, it seems clear that the tendency to increase the density of material at the rhythmic level dominates toward the end of the movement.

Example 10: 2nd movement: rhythmic transcription of first panel, bars 1–6. 59

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Example 11: 2nd movement: rhythmic transcription of last panel, bars 31–37.

Moreover, although in a very different realm, the corresponding thought-image by Benjamin poses an opposite tendency as well: A Saying of Casanova’s. “She knew”, Casanova says of a procuress, “that I would not have the strength to leave without giving her something”. A strange statement. What strength was needed to cheat the procuress of her reward? Or, more precisely, what is the weakness on which she can always rely? It is the shame. The procuress is venal – in contrast to the customer employing her services, who is ashamed. Filled with shame, he seeks a hiding place and finds one in the most hidden places of all: in money. Insolence throws the first coin down on the table. Shame follows it up with a hundred, in order to cloak it (Benjamin, 1999, p. 699). Benjamin himself develops this text in The Arcades Project, referring to this opposition as “the dialectical function of money in prostitution. It buys pleasure and, at the same time, becomes the expression of shame” (Benjamin, 1999 p. 492). Accordingly, it could be interpreted from Ferneyhough’s piece that money represents the material (its density) and that shame represents the


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performance tempo; then, it is insolence that increases the former whilst shame decreases the latter.

Besides stating a possible stimulus for imagination, this relationship highlights the importance of realizing both aspects in performance. Thus, on one hand, a correct realization of rhythmic notated tasks and tempi seems to meet the requirement of the increasing of density of material. On the other hand, however, such a realization does not ensure the perception of the decreasing of performance tempo by itself. It is to this extent that the use of gestures supporting the rhythmic structure, specifically for the vector of performance tempo, seems to be indispensable.

King’s study regarding supporting gestures (King, 2006) explores how breathing supports pianists in relation to tempo, music-structural gestures, and physical gestures in performance practice. After an experiment with three pianists, one of the conclusions was that: Physical movements regularly appeared to convey information about the tempo and phrasing of the music. For instance, body sway, elbow circles, wrist pulsations and head tilts were observed in accordance with the main beats in a bar. (King, 2006, p. 159) It is very likely that similar supporting gestures could be observed in a guitarist; and it is to this extent that, according to a performer’s own body vocabulary, supporting gestures should be employed with a certain level of awareness in this piece. In order to illustrate this, figures 4.3 and 4.4 show first and last panels of the piece, suggesting their main beats: this could be the base for performer’s construction of supporting gestures in relation to rhythmic structure, which should notably decrease in quantity across the piece.


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Example 12: 2nd movement: first panel, bars 1–6. Video example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heSsCa_abXU

Example 13: 2nd movement: first panel, bars 31–37. Video example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkzKmd63YPE


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Contextualization Ferneyhough’s interest in Benjamin partly relies on the fact that the German philosopher’s “primary concern was always the moment of modulation between one manifestation of meaning and another” (Ferneyhough, 1998, p. 246). It therefore seems pertinent to contextualize the approach of this article using Benjamin’s concepts, particularly from his writings on language.

In the essay On Language as such and on the Language of Man written in 1916, a young Benjamin introduces the notion of “pure language” or “language as such”: the language of immediate knowledge and pure name, that is to say, a language where there exists no distinction between the mental and linguistic entity, the language of man prior to the fall from the Garden of Eden. According to Benjamin, in Genesis God created the world by naming it, thus God’s language is the most perfect and pure because in it creation and knowledge are one. However, “God did not create man from the word, and did not name him. He did not wish to subject him to language, but in man God set the language, which had served him as a medium of creation, free” (Benjamin, 1996, p. 68). Thus, the name language of man – through uniting the mental and linguistic entities of things in the name – served to complete God’s creation and to allow man’s communion with the creative word of God. This is the paradisiacal state that knew only one language.

Nevertheless, man’s expulsion from Paradise marks the birth of the human word; the language of man is no longer pure and based only on names, but embodies also nameless judgments driven by ordinary signs culminating in a kind of “overnaming”, littering human language’s magical community with things. Benjamin indicates (1996, p. 71), “in stepping outside the purer 63

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language of name, man makes language a means, and therefore also, at one point at any rate, a mere sign”. On the other hand, the languages of things are imperfect and dumb; things can communicate to man through a more or less material community. After the Fall, “the language of things can pass into the language of knowledge and name only through translation – so many translations, so many languages” (Benjamin, 1996, pp. 70-71). This conception leads to a Benjaminian insight into the potential of art within this context: It is very conceivable that the language of sculpture or painting is founded on certain kinds of thing-languages, that in them we find a translation of the language of things into an infinitely higher language, which may still be of the same sphere. We are concerned here with nameless ... languages, languages issuing from matter; here we should recall the material community of things in their communication. (Benjamin, 1996, p. 73) Moreover, in The Task of the Translator, Benjamin sees in translation a seed of “pure language” that is supposed to be “inside” the foreign one (the language from which something is translated) and this seed must be saved by the translator for his own language. Benjamin exemplifies it using the analogy of the tangent and the circle: according to the law of tangency, the tangent touches the circle only at one point. The point the translation must touch is that of the sense of the original, so that it can follow the law of fidelity but with the own language’s freedom of movement. Moreover, in his revision of the High Modernist Model for Performance Practice, Cox (2002, p. 103) observes that each domain of the communicative chain between conception, notation, performance, and reception could be treated as a separate language, and their relationship should be recast as translation rather than direct (one-to-one) correspondence. Under these terms, it could be argued that the relationship between “translations” of each domain of the chain should maintain the “sense of the original”, and the performer’s physical manipulation of notated musical 64

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material – which can be founded in a certain “language of things” – should be not separated from such processes.

Conclusion The notion of a “language of things” and the assumption that in the communicative chain of music we find certain “languages of things” translated into higher languages can serve to approach what is is perhaps the most famous Benjaminian concept: the “aura”. One of its definitions is “appearance of a distance, however close the thing that calls it forth ...; in the aura, [the thing] takes posession of us” (Benjamin, 1999, p. 447). That condition of the “auratic”, in which the things perceive us, seems to be Ferneyhough’s concern regarding the figure: The idea of the figure ... should clear the path for aura, the visionary ideal of a work entering into conversation with the listener as if it were another aware subject. We, as composers, do not only manipulate material; it signals to us … what itself desires. (Ferneyhough, 1998, p. 41) Ideally, performance practice should allow material to manifest according to its own desires; this may be one aspect of its “auratic” condition. The concept of the score as an “entire cultural artefact” can serve to shape the performer’s manipulation of notated material from a “higher distance”, but the feasibility of such an approach will strongly depend upon particular compositional concerns and achievements such as those manifestly demonstrated in Ferneyhough’s guitar piece.


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References Andersson, M. (1988) ‘Brian Ferneyhough: Kurze Schatten II considérations d'un interprète’. Contrechamps 8, pp. 128–38. Benjamin, W. (1996) ‘On Language as Such and on the Language of Man’. In: Selected Writings, 1913–1916, vol. 1, pp. 62–74. London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Benjamin, W. (1996) ‘The Task of the Translator’. In: Selected Writings, 1913– 1926, vol. 1, pp.. 253–63. London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Benjamin, W. (1999) ‘Short Shadows (II)’. In Selected Writings, 1927–1934, vol. 2, pp. 699–702. London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Benjamin, W. (1999) The Arcades Project. London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Castellani, F. M. (2009) ‘Análise da obra Kurze Schatten II de Brian Ferneyhough’. Per Musi 19, pp. 24–34. Cox, F. (2002) ‘Notes Toward a Performance Practice for Complex Music’. In Mahnkopf, C.-S. et al., Polyphony and Compexity, pp. 70–132. Hofheim: Wolke-Verlag. Ferneyhough, B. (1998) Collected Writings. Ed. Boros, J. and Toop, R. London: Routledge. King, E. (2006) ‘Supporting Gestures: Breathing in Piano Performance’. In: Gritten, A. (ed.)Music and Gesture, 142–64. Hampshire: Ashgate Publishing Limited. McFarland, J. (2013) Constellation. Friedrich Nietzsche & Walter Benjamin in the Now-Time of History. New York: Fordham University Press. Morris, G. (1996) ‘Brian Ferneyhough's Kurze Schatten II: Performance approaches and practices’. Context 11, pp. 40–46. Richter, G. (2007). Thought-Images. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.


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Balancing misconceptions MatĂ­as Hancke

Abstract In this text, and by exploring the concept of narrative in music, I intend to describe and question the nature of musical givens. I ask myself what the meaning of narrative is in the context of a piece of music and I question whether it contains any value when applied to sound: is the composer telling a story when one listens to music? Is it only about telling a story or does it also include understanding that a story is being told? In addition to this, I present what I consider an alternative to teleological forms, which derives from a fragmentation in music, in which relationships between the piece’s present and its various pasts, as well as any eventual predictions, can be avoided. In the end, I will explain how this can be achieved if one decides to separate the compositional process from the perceptual experience.

How important is it for a composer that the sounding outcome of a piece of music matches the initial targets that were set at the beginning of the (pre-)compositional process? How much should the sound-result be a verification of the intellectual journey the composer traversed from the initial sketches all the way through to the concert/performance/playback situation? Why is it that a musical piece should be faithful to the initial ideas that created it? In other words, what sacred condition entails such conceptions that one cannot abandon them at any point during the compositional process? In addition to this, and when starting to work on a new piece, to how many musical assumptions that the composer will blindly take for granted do these initial thoughts eventually lead? These have always been crucial questions to 67

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me, in particular when considering the articulation of sound at different timescales (form and structure), rather than when defining the proper sound-palette (material). The following text will seek to outline some of the concerns I have been dealing with lately, in particular those related to the truths we composers sometimes take for granted.

Musical givens surround composers constantly. They constitute the foundations upon which we have to rely in order to progress in the acquisition of knowledge and the development of specific skills, both of which will ultimately contribute to forge an independent voice and artistic personality. These musical givens oscillate between the “technical” (music deals with sound, harmony, melody, counterpoint, form, gesture, etc.) and the “esoteric” spheres (music stands for some kind of expression and a revelation should take place once it has been experienced, music is political regardless of whether the composer is aware of that condition or not, etc.). As such, I believe these musical givens are problematic, in particular when, once acquired and assimilated (i.e. once they have fulfilled their pedagogical purpose), they are regarded as unmovable truths, so that the composer, consciously or unconsciously, avoids questioning, examining, and dissecting them.

Concepts such as “narrative”, which are deeply rooted in our musical vocabulary, doubtlessly pertain to that category of the musical given, especially when they are inserted within teleological forms. There are many definitions of narrative, but I would like to focus on the one suggested by Paul Anderson when he analyses Martin Boykan’s approach towards composition: “Simply stated, a piece of music tells a story, and it is the drama inherent in that story


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which gives the piece its significance, quite apart from structural considerations” (Anderson, 2000, p. 168).

The necessity of a narrative that spans over a piece of music seems to be, at first glance, a residue of a tonality-imbued thought where material and form intersect in order to orient the musical discourse towards the resolution of some tension created at a specific point of the piece. In other words, through the use of narrative the composer organises musical information and channels the energy contained in the sounds that will help to both acquire some level of cohesion throughout the piece, as well as include the work within a tradition that has its origins (at least) in Western tonal music. However, the problem may not rely on the use of narrative as a compositional device in itself, but in both the lack of reflection when organising the sounds and in not acknowledging any aesthetic consequences such a stance or method of work implies. One could naïvely presume that narrative is something indisputably “given”, that it needs to exist in order to produce a musical piece and there is no room for doubting its legitimacy. Perhaps what should be examined in the first place when pursuing a new work is the actual meaning of narrative and the intrinsic necessity for it to be applied to a piece of music. Furthermore, is it a fully musical term or is it something different?

I consider narrative to be a subsidiary term borrowed and adapted from other artistic fields, as can be verified in Anderson’s definition, in which he traces a parallel to literature; narrative is a musical justification for a thought or an idea that has its origins somewhere else. Klaus Huber states that he writes music because he looks to communicate through music as a medium: “[b]ecause I want to state something whose content, I believe, can be transferred only or


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just through music” (Huber 1999, p, 15; my translation). Narrative, it seems to me, corrupts the uniqueness and autonomy of such transference, as it implies that the fashion in which the sounds are organised refers to other artistic disciplines: by virtue of employing a narrative (i.e. by believing that the music will tell a story), the potential of the sounds are scaffolded by an alien system that substitutes the intrinsic value of the sound itself for a dramatic action. Narrative thus implies a container (introduction, development, ending) and a content (the story itself) in which sound ends up being a secondary element.

In addition to this, is the composer is genuinely telling a story, depicting an image or landscape, or translating an emotion? Is that all happening within a one-to-one correlation? Does narrative belong to the poietic or to an aesthesic1 category? The term’s problematic condition is also connected to its multiplicity of meanings, and thus looseness. It is so unclear and it symbolises simultaneously so many different ideas at so many different levels that it ends up meaning nothing, becoming an empty concept.

An attempt for emancipation from this term could involve a series of short musical “statements” or “aphorisms” in which any structural aim would be deliberately avoided. An aphorism in this context could be defined as a short unit of time that intends to deploy an independent musical idea, without any necessity of development within itself, or in subsequent parts of the piece. The singularity contained in each of these aphorisms would be their salient feature, and it would force the focus of attention to be in a constricted “constant present”. Any relationship with the past or future of the piece would not be at 1 Poietic and aesthesic are taken from Nattiez (1990). Nattiez describes the former as “the link among the composer's intentions, his creative procedures, his mental schemes, and the result of this collection of strategies”; and the latter as “the description of perceptive behaviors within a given population of listeners” (p. 92). 70

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the foreground of the compositional concerns, meaning that relationships between these statements would be established during the compositional process but there would be no intention of them being perceived as such.

A further aspect is that the notion of form would consequently dilute itself, or at least it would have to adopt a new dimension, as any perceivable overarching scaffolding would cancel the idea of a constant present. Form could be understood, as suggested by Bourriaud (2002, p.19), as “[a] coherent unit (independent entity of inner dependencies) which shows the typical features of a world�, where coherence would be defined by the composer’s inner necessity to express him/herself rather than by a concept (like narrative) that forces a determined unfolding of the music (such as introduction, development, restatement, and cadence).

If the nature of a piece would consist in a juxtaposed series of aphorisms, it would suggest that, in order to stress the singularity of the latter, some kind of disconnection would be necessary. The simplest alternative is silence, hence the following question: which function(s) would silence adopt in this context of short statements? Silence could be presented in either its composed shape (resonance, a barely perceptible layer of sound that was before at the very background, a sustained note, etc.) or as simply the absence of sounds deliberately produced by the instrumentalists; and if one added duration to these two categories, one could coordinate a whole taxonomy of silence, thus exploring its expressive qualities. As an example, the longer the silence, the more roles it would acquire: 1. a brief separation of two different statements could act as a simple nexus,


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2. a slightly longer one could both separate two statements (nexus) and allow some time for reflection on the statement just presented, 3. a long silence would include the two previous points and add the possibility of becoming a statement in itself. If aphorisms can address the problematic identified within teleological forms, that is not without any risks or new difficulties at all. I would like to stress two terms that I consider particularly relevant to work with: ‘balance’ and ‘context’. Let us assume that some degree of consistency in the relationship of the material and its deployment throughout the piece is pursued and that each aphorism contained within the piece will differ from the next one, thus not allowing repetition. There is an implicit necessity for balance between both the material as part of a particular sound-palette and the versatility of that material: if too many elements pertain within a single statement, a coherent musical discourse could be imperilled, whereas, on the other hand, if there are too few, or if the elements bear high degrees of similarity among themselves, there is a latent risk of falling into repetition. Balance would thus measure the degrees of stability or instability among the parameters, the elements contained within the constant present, and the aphorisms on a broader scale. In turn, context would be identified with what separates a brief silence from a slightly longer silence and from a long silence; it would specify the levels of similarity or difference among the aphorisms; and it would delimit the degree of tonality or nontonality2 within sounds. If, for instance, we composers were interested in working with micro-variations of sounds, context could be regarded as the thickness of the lens with which we would want to examine such micro-

2 Tonality is here employed as the degree of recognisability of a central pitch in one single sound: sounds whose spectrum tend to be less harmonic are less tonal than those sounds in which their partials are in a more or less harmonic relationship. 72

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variations. In other words, the context would define and delimit the soundcontainer.

Both context and balance are connected with form as they also have a panoramic view of the piece of music, but the difference is that the former term does not imply a functional hierarchy, or a system of subordination that could guide the musical discourse towards a determined direction or end. It actually implies relationships as it suggests that musical parameters, elements, and statements will enter into dialogue with each other throughout the piece. In fact, a composer could benefit from context and balance inasmuch as these terms helped provide both a level of discursive consistency to the music from the compositional perspective and tools to perceive that the music is taking place in a constant present.

In this article I have sought to examine some ideas with the hope that they will help us understand critically why composers insist on a determined terminology. I am aware that by questioning some musical givens I am taking for granted the meaning and the use of other musical terms, through which I am basing my argumentations (material and development come immediately to my mind). But I do not consider this contradiction as problematic as the terms in question themselves – as otherwise it would be paralysing for anyone inclined towards a critical view of reflecting upon today’s music. Nevertheless, what I find most interesting is the plasticity of the notion of music: all in all, music ends up being defined by those assumptions which one does not need to question. Those givens in which we, for whatever reason, have full faith define the limit of what separates music from anything else; and what provides


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such plasticity is the fact that every one of these kinds of givens differs from composer to composer.

Back to the initial point, I question the relevance of a plan or strategy set at the starting point of the compositional process that will administrate the information and energy of the music throughout a piece and that will help to balance the relationship between the sound-palette and its degree of versatility. I also question whether such a plan will facilitate the building of relationships that would create a determined context. More broadly, I don’t know where or when composers have control over the sounds; but I suspect there is some control somewhere. We have heard it already and we know it: “The composer makes plans, music laughs” (Feldman, 2000, p. 111). What I believe in now is the unintended casual, the non-hierarchic subsidiary, and the fragment as mere triggers; and in the extremely personal dialectic relationship that one establishes between one’s mind, hand, and paper, all in constant dialogue and friction. There is beauty within the paradox that any sound or silence could have followed any sound or silence, and yet there is only one result – which derives from that dialectic established with and against oneself.

References Anderson, P. (2000) ‘Echoes of Petrarch: Martin Boykan and Musical Narrative’. Perspectives of New Music. Vol. 38 (No. 2), p.168. Available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/833664 [Accessed 2 November 2013]. Bourriaud, N. (2002) Relational Aesthetics. Translated by S. Pleasance and F. Woods with the participation of M. Copeland. France: Les presses du reél.


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Feldman, M. (2000) Give My Regards to Eighth Street. Collected Writings of Morton Feldman, ed. Friedman, B. H. Cambridge: Exact Change. Huber, K. (1999) 'Vom Schmettern der Vögel am frühen Morgen'. In: Nyffeler, M., ed. Klaus Huber. Umgepflügte Zeit. Schriften und Gespräche, pp. 15–17. Cologne: MusikTexte. Nattiez, J.-J. (1990) Music and Discourse. Toward a Semiology of Music. Translated by C. Abbate. Princeton: Princeton University Press.


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Intra-Agencies Scott Mc Laughlin

Abstract In my recent practice I have developed a model of composition based on cybernetics, ANT, and interactions between human and material agencies. This model is a strict application of two overlapping processes enacted within a nonlinear and indeterminate acoustic environment. Typically this environment is musical/acoustic material that is metastable and extensible, affording stable patterns under certain conditions; multiphonics are a simple but non-exhaustive example of this. This article presents my current work-in-progress, a piece for solo cello, (1) discussing treatment of the instrument as a nonlinear space of acoustic continua (rather than event-based musical actions), and (2) outlining a theoretical basis for the performative exploration o f s u c h u n s t a b l e m u s i c a l m a t e r i a l s b y re f e r r i n g t o re s e a rc h i n t h e sociology/anthropology of science and technology (Lucy Suchman’s theory of Situated Actions), and philosophy of science (Andrew Pickering’s theories of human and material agencies).

1. Introduction Since 2011 I have been working on pieces that are open-form performative explorations composed around the balancing of two agencies in an unstable instrumental medium; these are the human agency of the player, and the material agency of the instrument. In this article, I will talk mainly about intraactions, my new work for solo cello – written for cellist Seth Woods – which is concerned with a continuous and indeterminate spectral exploration, revealing the partials of the open strings using the bowing hand alone.


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Human agency is (relatively) straightforward, comprising the intention and agency of the performer, guided by the field of their personal culture, the specifics of the score instructions, and their response to the instrument in performance. It is taken as a matter of course that the player performs with integrity towards the score. Material agency is a way of referring to what the instrument “wants” to do, as a co-constructor of the performance on an equal footing with the human actors. This agency is the instrument’s “preferences” and tendencies arising from its physical materiality, acting variously to both facilitate and undermine human agency in ways that may not be knowable outside the temporal frame of the performative “now”. The interaction of these two agencies involves a complex feedback of multiple and overlapping forces, which I characterise as a cybernetic system. Cybernetician Stafford Beer describes such systems as “exceedingly complex systems”, where the variables are too great and they interact in ways that cannot easily be analysed (quoted in Pickering 2010, p. 23). Andrew Pickering goes further, describing cybernetic systems as those “so complex that we can never fully grasp them representationally, and that change in time, so that present knowledge is anyway no guarantee of future behaviour … an ontology of unknowability” (ibid.). Of course such systems are not rare: most of the natural world falls into this category, from weather systems to human and animal behaviour to the interaction of bacteria in pond water. In this sense, cybernetics can be seen as being parallel to chaos theory and non-linear dynamics as a way of viewing complex systems. However, in most cases such systems are made analysable by modern science through modelling and simplification, reducing the variables until they are manageable, so the system can be, as Pickering describes it, “assimilated to [modern science’s] representational schema” (ibid., p. 24). A system is not objectively “cybernetic”, rather, cybernetics is a way to look at systems and interactions that does not try to reduce or represent, a 77

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phenomenal ontology that, as Pickering says, “confront[s] us, instead, with interesting and engaged material performances that do not entail a detour through knowledge” (ibid., p. 21). In musical performance, I find that cybernetics resonates with concepts of indeterminacy and open-forms, where the contingency of materials and environments are integrated into the compositional logic of the work.

2. The piece Intra-actions is presented as a text score that explains the two processes at work in performance: ∑

the local process, the material technique of performance on the instrument, and

the global process that structures the piece through feedback with the instrument.

The local and global are processes at two different timescales within the same sounding continuum, and they interact to generate the structure of the piece.

The local process is the collection of cello-specific techniques wherein the player uses the right-hand only to reveal and bring out partials within the spectrum of the open cello string: only open strings are used in the piece. This technique is described both procedurally, and in terms of the sounding objective: the player attempts to match, through repetitive application of the two processes, non-fixed pitches revealed as isolated partials on different strings. The available partials are then the local pitch-environment of the piece, a Markov system of available pitches and their different probability weightings.


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On string instruments, different strings will have different weightings of the available partials, meaning that some partials are more likely to sound than others: for example, the D-string may favour the 5th, 7th and 9th partials while the A-string always produces a clear 8th partial, but only produces the 7th partial if the 3rd sounds before it. This allows for an open-form composition, because the possible pitch outcomes of each iteration of the process are bounded and weighted but not predictable: a process that was first explored in my string quartet a metastable harmony (2012). This process is further discussed in section 3 below.

In a talk on architecture and materiality, Lars Spuybroek gives a beautiful description of the wool-threading processes of Frei Otto, in which a dense lattice of woollen threads is transformed once dipped in water. The water alters the materiality of the system and previously discrete threads merge to form clusters and paths. Spuybroek says that “they start as movement and end up as structure” (Spuybroek, 2012). The global process in intra-actions aspires to this. It is an algorithm that carries the sounding outcome forward in time, and alters the environment in a way that allows structure to emerge without changing the underlying “local” process; rather it alters the ground upon which the local operates. The global process is the continuous reiteration of the local process nested within a set of rules that periodically change the environment by both moving the local process to different strings, and by detuning the strings: detuning the string far enough will alter the weighting of partials in its spectrum and thus alter the availability of pitches, the environment. The global process, as presented in the score, looks like this:


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1. Continuously bow an open string (sul pont & flautando will probably work best) until one stable partial (between partials 2–20 approximately) dominates and the fundamental recedes or disappears completely. 2. Bow a string adjacent to that used in (1), but aim for a partial with the same sounding pitch as was achieved in (1). If a stable partial is achieved that is the same pitch as (1) then goto (3), else goto (4). 3. Return to the string played in (1) and attempt to play the same partial as was achieved in (1). Simultaneously, detune one string that was not used in (1) or (2). If the same partial is achieved then goto (2), else goto (4). 4. Detune the string currently being played, then end, begin process again with another string. Goto (1).

This process also attempts to replace the contingency of human preference with a material contingency, giving the player a reason for almost all of their actions by tying them to the instrumental response.1 The strictness of the process affords greater latitude for the agency of the material to affect the path taken by the piece. It is important to understand here that the player, in seeking or aiming for a pitch, is only given one attempt. Once there is a clearly isolated partial the player must move on to the next stage of the process. This

1 Only the choice of which string to detune in (3) is left completely up to the player, but this would most likely be strongly influenced by material agency in the guise of instrument care and maintaining even tension across the strings. A brief aside on detuning: This is always carried out with the left hand while the right hand continues bowing; any resultant “pings� as the tuning peg slips and sticks again are an expected perturbation of sounding surface. Detunings should always be as small as possible, almost imperceptible; however, the nature of the instrument means that some larger slips of tuning are inevitable. Also, detuning one string will almost certainly affect the tuning of other strings. The purpose of the detuning is to alter the string formant as this will alter the weighting of the partials for that string, and thus the pitch environment. 80

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can be understood with reference to anthropologist Tim Ingold’s concept of “wayfaring”, where he discusses walking as a continual motion through the world, adjusting your movement relative to the environment, and opposes it to “transport”, moving from point A to B and ignoring in-between places (Ingold, 2011). The performance of intra-actions is all about the revealing and exploration of these in-between places, the local teleology of the processes guiding rather than specifying.

3. Material A central premise of these pieces is that the material is non-linear2 and unstable to varying degrees, and this instability means that in repeating the same action there is the probability that the player will not produce the same pitches each time, though the resulting variability will be bounded by material agency. The material of the piece allows only a limited number of outcomes: or at least that only a limited number of outcomes are realistically likely. As an example of similar processes in my earlier work, the series of pieces called There are neither wholes nor parts (2011–) uses only multiphonics on singlereed wind instruments. Although multiphonics are highly variable in pitch content (even from player to player and instrument to instrument) most tend to have only one or two dominant pitches which can be isolated by the player, and a host of subsidiary pitches that are more difficult to isolate; most cannot be isolated. Each set of fingerings is a stable resonating column of air with a specific (inharmonic) spectrum of pitches. The player can apply any or all of a multitude of processes to filter this spectrum, altering breath pressure,

2 For sources that address fundamental non-linearities in sound production, see Chaigne, Touzé, & Thomas (2005), Fletcher (1989), Keefe & Laden (1991), Popp & Stelter (1990), and Touzé, Thomas, & Amabili (2010). 81

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embouchure, teeth position, vocal cavity shape, and so on to isolate partials or create subsets of partials within the multiphonic, depending on what the material agency of the instrument allows. There are neither wholes nor parts builds on the idea that each set of fingerings on the instrument is essentially a separate instrument with its own resonances, its own harmony, and that these different harmonies can be connected through common tones and so on; the situation becomes truly multi-dimensional once differences between players themselves are included. Each different player brings their own self to the piece via natural variability in vocal cavity and mouth shape, and this affects both the harmony and its affordances. Thus the player and the instrument form an assemblage of interacting parts that lead to a unique sound. When playing traditional music-with-notes, this uniqueness is the player’s “tone”, part of their musical personality, but it does not affect the availability of pitches. However, the unstable musical material of my works is chosen to maximise the potential for these differences to have a direct effect on the available pitches: because pitch is the medium through which I engage with the sonorities. The point – partly at least – of these pieces is that they enact the uniqueness of the player/instrument assemblage. Learning to perform these pieces is the act of exploring the uniqueness of the available paths through the possible pitches afforded by the performatively resonant assemblage. As Spuybroek again puts it, “we're not mastering matter, we're having matter solve our problems for us” (Spuybroek, 2012).

For quite a while I was unsure if it would be possible to continue this compositional idea into the domain of string instruments, the problem being that string instruments do not have available to them the same variety of spectral harmony. On wind instruments, the resonance is often fundamentally


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inharmonic, with each fingering offering a quantitatively different resonance and spectrum, but vibrating strings are always the same set of harmonic partials, merely transposed from string to string. I experimented with adding weights to the strings to alter the spectra, which was successful in harmonic terms3 by skewing the harmonic series into more interesting bell-like shapes. However, it was not very practical because the materials used to weight the strings were not reliable: blu-tack or fishing weights work fine on plucked guitars but the constant vibration of a bowed string is too much, the blu-tack simply falls off. The breakthrough, after several months of experimentation, required a shift of viewpoint. The wind pieces were built around the comparison of varying multiphonics that all contain a certain pitch as a pivot: the listener hears the pitch-thread from event to event and the changing multiphonics create ambiguity by either masking the common pitch (making the thread more obscure at points) or by suggesting other possible threads that may or may not be taken up in the piece. The string technique sidesteps the problem of limited harmonic variability by shifting the locus of ambiguity away from pitch content and onto timbre. The string player uses the right-hand alone to reveal partials through continuous bowing, a drone-like state where attention – in performing and listening – becomes focused on the weighting of the pitches in the spectrum. This trade-off shifts the ground of the environment, from one with many different pitch possibilities to one with mostly fixed pitch possibilities but more subtle shades of weighting between them. On wind instruments, the multiphonics each have only a very small amount of isolatable partials. The wind players I have worked with have been able to create subtle “ghosting” effects by varying the levels between multiphonic and isolated partial, but the system is still largely binary, either a 3 This resulted in a side-project, a work for solo electric guitar which is prepared with weighted strings. 83

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partial or a full spectrum, with limited shading possibilities between. On string instruments, especially lower pitched instruments like the cello, sustained tones allow a large range of spectral subsets with extremely subtle gradation of weighting between partials. It takes much more effort to isolate individual partials on a bowed string using the right hand only, and the partials don’t often “pop” out as they do on wind instruments.

Figure 1 shows a spectrogram of the technique on a cello C-string. The example clearly shows sections with prominently sounding isolated subsets of partials. The 7th, 8th, and 9th partials are strongly present in the first half of the example: as a sounding percept, these three nearby partials overlap significantly, the acoustic energy spills over and flows between them, making them perceptually ambiguous. At time-indices 200 and 204, the 17th partial is prominent as energy is reduced in the subset partials 7–9. At index 206 the 9th partial is strong enough to cause the 18th to resonate, implying its own series. Only at index 216 is the “C” percept present; the fundamental is not audible but is implied by the 2nd, 4th, and 6th partials.

Figure 1: Spectrogram of cello C-string showing subsets of isolated partials. 84

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The subtle differentiation of partial weighting in the string technique is also a function of the sustained bowing. The woodwind pieces rely on repetition and continuous presentation of similar multiphonics to create networks of difference and ambiguity. The string pieces can drone continuously and this allows the ear to concentrate on the internal structure of the spectrum, allowing partials to be exposed more easily, or affording greater levels of nuance and ambiguity. This almost didactic interest in exposing the inner structures of sounds has roots for me in the spectral school of composition, Grisey most notably, but more fundamentally in the work of Alvin Lucier.

4. Human agency Having outlined the physical materiality of the instrument, and its agency, I would like to turn to the performative human agency. Although the scope of this article does not allow a detailed examination, there are some brief points worth addressing which will illuminate both the above discussion and the piece as a whole.

While the global process is completely procedural, the local process must explain the basic sound production upon which the global process “procedes”. The indeterminate nature of the material agency obviates a performance practice based in aesthetics of control/specificity. Instead, and reflecting back on Ingold’s “wayfaring”, the score is not a plan that determines action causally, but is rather a set of principles to guide interaction between the player and the material-environment (instrument, space, acoustic): the global process is procedural, but this acts upon a local process of sound production which is less specific, is goal-oriented, but on a level more abstract than the pitch-specificity


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of staff notation. Lucy Suchman’s work on “situated actions” is relevant: the music here emerges from the performance of a set of instructions situated within two overlapping contexts, the player’s implementation and understanding of the local process, and their immediate responses to the material agency of the instrument. Both of these situations happen in real time, profoundly influence each other, and are only based in the instructions of the “plan” of the score text. Suchman says: “however detailed, the plan stops short of the actual business of [action] … The purpose of the plan in this case ... is to orient you in such a way that you can obtain the best possible position from which to use those embodied skills on which, in the final analysis, your success depends” (Suchman, 2007). The score here is an “orienting devices whose usefulness turns on [its] translation to action within an uncertain horizon of contingencies” (ibid.). The instruction of the local process in this work seeks to avoid specificity or representation and provide only principles for outcomes and continuation, as Philip Agre suggests: “instead of seeking foundations it would embrace the impossibility of foundations (positively)” (Agre, 1997). The score does not define specific pitches to be realised, but rather actions to be performed, with the outcome being a “determinately indeterminate”4 pitch in the form of an isolated partial or subset of partials. The outcome is performative, as the score calls for only a “stability” of sound given a specified input effort. The human agency is guided by the score but this is only one agent in a dynamic co-construction; the agency of the material is equal in guiding the performance.

4 “Determinately indeterminate” is a formulation I have seen attributed to Husserl’s phenomenology, but at the time of writing I have been unable to track down a specific source. 86

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The score defines goals in terms of audible pitch, this gives the player targets to aim for that are contingent on the material agency of the instrument. Because the musical material is unstable, the score here cannot be considered as a text for musical interpretation, the point of the score is not to create a set of specific sounds or musical representations, but to enact a network of agencies within an environment in a way that is self-perpetuating.

References Agre, P. (1997) Computation and Human Experience. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Chaigne, A., Touzé, C., and Thomas, O. (2005) ‘Nonlinear vibrations and chaos in gongs and cymbals’, Acoustical Science and Technology 26(5), pp. 403–9. Fletcher, N.H. (1989) ‘The nonlinear acoustics of musical instruments’, Journal of the Acoustical Society of India 17, pp. 78–92. Ingold, T. (2011) Being Alive: Essays in Movement, Knowledge and Description. London: Routledge. Keefe, D. H. and Laden B. (1991) ‘Correlation dimension of woodwind multiphonic tones’, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 90(4), pp. 1754–65. Pickering, A. (1995) The Mangle of Practice. London: University of Chicago Press. Pickering, A. (2010) The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future. London: University of Chicago Press. Popp, K. and Stelter, P. (1990) ‘Stick-Slip Vibrations and Chaos’. Philosophical Transactions: Physical Sciences and Engineering 332(1624), pp. 89– 105.


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Spuybroek, L. (2012) The Sympathy of Things. [Online] Available at: http://anthem-group.net/2013/07/06/lars-spuybroek-the-sympathy-ofthings/ [Accessed 21 August 2013]. Suchman, L. (2007) Human-Machine Reconfigurations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Touzé, C., Thomas O. and Amabili, M. (2010) ‘Forced vibrations of circular plates: from periodic to chaotic motions’, ASME/IDETC 2010 (International Design Engineering Technical Conference), Montreal, Québec, Canada, 15–18 August 2010.


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LIP OF THE REAL version II: Composing the noise of mind Pia Palme

Abstract This article reports on the creative process of the piece LIP OF THE REAL version II for flute/voice, percussion and live electronics from 2013. I introduce the concept “noise of mind” interlacing the definition of “mind” within contemplative practice with a scientific perspective on “noise”. My project observes the structures of the thinking process, reverting the noise/signal duality. Amplifying and “composing out” different levels of mind’s performative states, I draw on Baroque music. Prompted by the hidden polyphony of Telemann’s solo pieces, I define a five-tiered system for the solo part, on a scale from the internal monologue to extroverted vocality. I develop techniques, such as using a throat-microphone to capture composed “mental noise”, or using text as timing device. Voice extends into instrumental performance and is supported by a percussion part; via microphone and live-electronic improvisation, “noise of mind” is exploded into a “spatial basso continuo”. As an improvising performer I interact with the meta-identity of composed parts, inviting disturbance as ingredient of my compositional plan.

Driven by a lifetime’s experience as a performing musician, I have made the observation of “mind” during performance the subject of my recent compositional projects. The working process for my piece LIP OF THE REAL version II, for flute/voice (soprano) with a throat-microphone, percussion, and live-electronics from 20131 originated from several starting points; some of

1 LIP OF THE REAL version I was composed and performed in 2012 along a similar concept, but without a flute part. 89

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these were rooted in my musical practice, others in disciplines and areas aside from music.

In performance and improvisation practice I use both electronic and mechanical instruments, experimenting with new combinations of these, and looking into technologies and their backgrounds. The voice and possibilities of extended vocal performance in composition and improvisation are of particular interest to me; I explore ways of infusing vocality into instrumental performance. I have also been studying and performing Baroque music with the recorder, and since 2007 a newly designed contrabass-recorder – an innovative extension of historic models – is my main instrument. Accumulated experience in these fields contributed to the compositional form of LIP OF THE REAL, including live-electronic improvisation as part of the piece.

Additional starting points have formed in fields outside music. Buddhist philosophy provided insights by presenting detailed studies of mind and meditation; here I was inspired by the inclusive view of the mind and the multilayered structure of mind activity. I found corresponding themes covered in recent artistic work by contemporary authors Anne Waldman and Margret Kreidl. The scientific concept of “noise” as found in technical disciplines such as physics or machine learning contributed to a deeper understanding of the evaluation of mind’s activities, and fundamentally helped to define my own creative approach. I wanted to interweave contemplative concepts, scientific perspectives and personal experience to re-create the performative qualities of the mind, with a focus on its “noisy” aspects.


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Another pivotal point was meeting the outstanding flute and percussion duo Teyssier/Hepfer, for whom the piece was written. Flutist Alice Teyssier also is an excellently trained vocalist (soprano). From the perspective of my research, this unique combination suggested a multi-layered sonification of “composed mind”. An extensive solo part for voice/flute would provide a platform for showing layers of inner states – fields of vocal production interacting with and diffusing into instrumental and electronic performance. Social and historic aspects of vocal proclamation with drums prompted a percussion part.

The noise of mind – a contemplative exploration I began by observing the activity of the mind during performance to explore its performative and compositional potential for my piece. The spontaneous and continuous display of inner worlds has been noticed and investigated by numerous performers. However, it is largely seen as a disturbance (Gordon, 2005, p. 16). Apparently the “internal monologue” does not contribute anything of relevance to performing music. The pianist and composer Stewart L. Gordon describes an instant where he performed a piano recital in a state of great anxiety and heightened mental activity; after the performance it became evident that “the hell I have gone through simply didn’t come across” (ibid., p. 122). On the other hand, musicians hold continuous thinking activity responsible for distortion, blockage or stage-fright. An effort is made to avoid interference and reshape the mind through training and exercises, such as strategies of concentration which focus or narrow down awareness (ibid., p. 99). While heightened adrenalin production in performance stimulates mind activity, it is acknowledged that the internal monologue is ongoing and not reduced to


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performance situations only. It accompanies activities in daily life as well, but here it remains unnoticed or is taken for granted (ibid., p. 15).

In my performance practice I take a different, inclusive view that is equally workable: whatever appears in my mind is already an ingredient of performance and even potentially enriching. This attitude is inspired by contemplative practices, and is a key aspect of Buddhist meditation (Katagiri, 1988, p. 48).

I wanted to understand the discrepancy between the foregoing view and the inclusive perspective about working with one’s mind. I found it helpful to turn to the concept of “noise” as used in science. Noise has been simply and clearly described by the information scientist, electrical engineer, and attorney Bart Kosko as a “signal we don’t like” (Kosko, 2006, p. 3). In his scientific history of noise, Kosko looks at the phenomenon of noise from a variety of perspectives, linking mathematical and physical implications with social aspects. For my work the interesting point is that the concept of noise implies value judgements: preceding decisions determine what is relevant or wanted and what not. In scientific disciplines, part of the available information is labelled as noise in order to reduce and preselect the amount of data. By discarding unwanted data the focus on the desired aspects of an investigation is strengthened. The relative role of noise results in the noise-signal duality: “one person’s signal is another person’s noise” (ibid., p. 6). The border between noise and signal can be shifted to follow a change in values. This then leads to additional relevant information, data, or energy, and can result in new findings. Noise returns to a constructive role (ibid., p. 7).


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From this perspective, mind activity not directly connected with any performed action can be labelled as noise, an unwanted by-product generated by mind. This explains why the border between mind activity considered as noisy or as welcome is shifty: it depends on (personal) values. For my own creative process, I find the noisy areas of mind particularly interesting. Disturbances spark my creativity. Their ambiguous and interfering potentials challenge me as a performer and composer. I apply the noise-signal duality: I re-evaluate “noise of mind” as a constructive component of my compositional work. What I find interesting is that the scientific definition of noise makes the border between mental signal and noise clearly visible. I can now deliberately shift it to increase a flow of mind activity as material for composing.

In order to design a compositional structure for my piece, I returned to closer observations of my mind. These are linked to my own experience practising Buddhist mindfulness and awareness meditation. I consider the movements of my mind as a biotic2 process: I experience fluid fields of consciousness layered upon each other, and activity jumping between those layers as the focus of attention shifts. My mind’s movements involve vivid changes of energy and texture. Sometimes my mind appears to be more at rest, at other times restless. My experience further suggests that there are levels of engagement with the perceived “outer world”. My innermost part appears to be the monologue; thinking activity extends to the “outside” through non-verbal, verbal, and vocal communication; and finally extrovert expression of my mind results in physical action.

2 Of, pertaining to, or produced by life or living organisms, from ancient Greek βιωτικός (biōtikos, “of life”), from βίος (bios, “life”). Available at: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/biotic. [Accessed 11 August 2013]. 93

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As a form of supportive material, Buddhist philosophy provided me with analytic insights about the mind that are shaped by a meditative practice, accumulated over generations of scholars who were also practitioners. It contains observations about pursuing a practice in general that also apply to my creative and musical practice. In Buddhist philosophy “mind” (Sanskrit: chitta) denotes the “totality of mental processes and manifestations”. The thinking and discriminating mind, and all emotions and sense perceptions are included in this concept (Fischer-Schreiber, Erhard, & Diener, 1991, p. 47). The mind is said to have no shape or form of its own; it is devoid of any substance and, “basically speaking, somewhat blank” (Trungpa, 1993, p. 32). As the renowned Tibetan scholar Tashi Namgyal (1512–1587) wrote, formless mind brings forth unceasing appearances: All things appear as perfect reality to the mind. Apart from the mind no reality as such exists. (Namgyal, 1986, p. 7) All phenomena are thus considered to be dreamlike and transitory creations of the mind (Suzuki, 1985, p. 96). This directly corresponds with contemporary philosophical concepts inspired by modern physics, especially radical constructivism: thinking may be conceived as a biological function creating its own reality (von Glasersfeld, 2005).

Contemplative Buddhist practice does not exclude certain mental activities as unwanted phenomena. Disturbances in mediation practice – as well as in any other activity, including musical performance – can be integrated in the totality of the mind’s creations. Tashi Namgyal’s advice to meditators is: Do not view anything as being faulty. Perceive everything to be nonbeing. (Namgyal, 1986, p. 248)


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He emphasizes repeatedly that the mind should not be modulated: Ordinary awareness is simple in its own mode. Let it remain unblemished by any contrived ideas and images, for the mind’s innate purity does not need any modification. (ibid., p. 270) This view is different from the development of strategies of concentration to narrow down thought activity. Here, de-contextualization and relaxation work together: If the mind is under pressure, it succumbs to bondage; if it is released, distortions will clear by themselves. (ibid., p. 268) Some schools of Buddhist philosophy describe the process of the mind bringing forth all phenomena as happening in layers of consciousness: at the base is the so-called alaya-vijnana (Sanskrit), the innermost “storehouse” of all impressions; further layers contain the fields of sense-perceptions (FischerSchreiber, Erhard, & Diener, 1991, pp. 253–54). “Objects” of the sense perceptions, although being insubstantial, can be considered as “outside phenomena”; there is discussion about this in the various schools of Buddhist philosophy.

I would distinguish between “inside” myself and an “external” world outside my perceived body, that is, my skin. In my observation of performing, there is a flow from the innermost layers of my mind to the outside world to communicate sound, and back inside again through hearing. If I look closely at my creative process in the context of improvisation, there is a “first thought” accompanied almost simultaneously by a vague sense of longing to communicate (Trungpa, 1996, p. 106). This wish and longing seems to contain high emotional energy and precedes the actual expression, whether vocal or 95

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instrumental. Specifically when improvising my innermost layer radiates outside through the production of sound – which can be quite far physically, especially if electronic equipment is involved. There is immediate feedback via listening: through my ears the outward projection of the “first thought” returns back inside. Building on these investigations, I implemented the formation process of noise of mind as a composing principle.

Role allocations of voice, throat-microphone, and mechanical and electronic instruments The central role in LIP OF THE REAL version II is assigned to the soprano/flutist. The voice sonifies the activity of the mind, expressing an oscillation between “inside” and “outside”. I planned to multiply the voice as a platform to show layers of mind activity, starting from the innermost layer to the more extroverted. One of these layers incorporates the flute as an extension. The percussion part adds an aural texture and supports the soloist.

The concept guiding the electronic part corresponds with the idea that all phenomena originate in the mind. Here, the innermost noisy activities are used to generate a vast sonic environment. For the technical setting I looked into microphones that would pick up sound from the voice without recording the flute. I decided to use a throat-microphone that is worn by the flutist around her neck. This gadget was originally developed for military use, for communication in loud surroundings such as during combat or inside a tank. Vocal sound is picked up by two electret membranes that directly touch the skin at the throat. Signals can then be transmitted between persons via radio. Throat-microphones are currently also used by gaming experts or paintball-


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fighters for a realistic experience during game sessions. Discovering this microphone, buying it, and talking to specialists in shops about what I planned to do with the device was another interesting story that sparked ideas for my composition.

A PTT (Push-To-Talk) button was positioned on the floor, in front of the flutist so that it could be easily pressed by her with the tip of a foot. When the PTT was activated, sounds from the microphone were radio-transmitted to a receiver linked to my live-electronic setup and used for further live manipulation with my computer and an array of analogue machines. Finally, the sounds were spatialized among six precisely positioned speakers and two subwoofers.

I added a percussion part that featured the bass drum as the main instrument. The historic context of the big drum evokes and symbolizes proclamation: news was heralded by voice and drum. I wanted the earthy presence of the bass drum on stage, to provide a visual and aural balance to the electronic part. The percussion setup was positioned behind the soloist, to the right side of the stage. In the piece the drum also serves as a resonator for other percussion instruments such as selected Balinese gongs and bowls.

Baroque structures – an inspiration for the solo part The compositional architecture governing the combination of flute/voice was inspired by techniques found in Baroque solo sonatas for melodic instruments. Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Philipp Telemann, in their works for solo instruments such as violin and flute/recorder, enriched the texture of a melody with so-called “hidden” or “implied” polyphony (e.g. Bach, BWV 1006–1006 97

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and Telemann, Zwölf Fantasien TWV 40/2–13), such as can be seen in example 1. Two or more independent voices are condensed into one solo part. Respective voices are fragmented into particles interlacing with each other. In performing these pieces the soloist switches between layers while playing (Bukofzer, 1948, pp. 304–6); additionally Telemann used rapid jumps between registers on a recorder, creating the illusonary perception of two or more voices sounding at the same time – today this effect is easily confirmed by spectrograms (Clarke, 2005, p. 188).

Example 1: Excerpt from Telemann (2011), Fantasia No. 2 for solo recorder.

Baroque performance in general pays detailed attention to colouring the timbre of a movement, a passage, or even a single note according to its emotional content. In the case of implied polyphony this requires precise, well timed, and immediate switching between timbres, articulations, and expressions linked to respective voices (Quantz, 1789, p. 106). Such sudden


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changes of emotional content were of particular interest for my work, as they require switching between inner states, similar to what I had in mind.

For the solo part of my piece I explode this Baroque structure of implicit “voices”, spreading out the flute/voice score over multiple staves in order to create an explicit polyphony. I chose five staves corresponding to layers of mind activity: each one notates a different layer of consciousness and its textural content (see example 2). Changing visually from one stave to the other describes a change in inner attitude and activity. Usage of multiple stave systems is prevalent in a notation that opens up a “terrain of multiple possibilities” (Paddison, 2010, p. 218), and foregrounds the decoupling of instrumental and vocal gesture. What I aim at is a decoupling of dimensions of internal textures and emotional layers, rather than layers of physical actions. For my piece, the five-tiered system denotes the flow from “inside” to the “outside world”, reading from the top down to the bottom stave. The visual image of levels of the mind becomes directly apparent, and the sense of movement between different qualities of awareness in jumping from one layer to the other is highlighted. I use vertical lines for division; these lines are not bar lines in the usual sense. Here they signal the precise moments when awareness shifts or emotions flip. A vertical line in the piece denotes the “composed” mind jumping from one layer to the other, like the switch of levels in a computer-game or edit points in a film.


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Example 2: Diagram of the compositional form.

Notating layers of the mind In my notational system for the piece, the top stave of the flute/voice part represents the “watching activity� layer of consciousness, the mind reflecting on and watching itself. This intimate and hidden aspect of the mind seems to monitor every other activity, resulting in an ongoing surveillance and commentary. It has been thoroughly investigated by meditators over thousands


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of years. The Tibetan scholar and meditation teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche describes this mechanism as “the watcher’s game”, explaining: You have projections and a projector set up, and both projections and projector work together to try to point out their own existence as a valid thing. So each situation confirms its own existence. (Trungpa, 1991, pp. 39–46) I decided to link this layer with the function of the throat-microphone and the live-electronic part. Here I draw on the military background of the microphone and the idea of surveillance. The first stave consists of one line representing actions with the PTT button, and is labelled PTT. Written underneath is text that corresponds with those actions. All sounds and words that are notated here are to be performed with a closed mouth. Pronunciation should nevertheless be clear and distinct. Changes of pitch, tempo, and dynamics are indicated. Text is always spoken with the PTT button pushed to transmit sound via radio; the flute is usually held at a distance from the mouth.

The second stave, labelled Voice I, represents a more outgoing vocal expression. The music notated on this five-line stave recomposes the wish and longing to communicate rather than the actual content of communication. It illustrates the raw and immediate emotional quality of vocal exchange. Expression here remains somewhat diffuse, therefore, like a primordial breath out. Sounds or single words surface like raw ideas popping up from deep down. The main timbre is a highly energized, intense whisper. Here I largely use proportional time-space notation; vocal productions are to be performed at different relative pitches and dynamics, and in different colour domains.


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The third stave, Mix, is a two-line-stave that regulates the distance of the mouth to the embouchure hole and thus affects the mixture of breath/vocal sound versus flute/instrumental sound. The two lines indicate a range from the extremes of “holding the flute at a distance with breath not directed towards the flute” to “completely covering the embouchure hole with the mouth, the airstream completely directed into the embouchure hole”; a flexible line moves between these two extremes. The mix defines the fictitious extent of exchange and communication between inner and outer aspects of re-composed mind activity. It may be seen as the shifting border of the world of the imagination and the so-called real world.

The fourth stave, Flute, is an ordinary five-line system for the instrument. The deployment of the flute uses the instrument’s unique physical qualities to contribute additional form and shape to the breath. Touching the environment – in this case an instrument – literally with the lip and fingers is perceived to be an extension of the activity of the mind. Technical issues and instrumental skilfulness enrich the sonification of the thinking process, and sometimes demand a life of their own.

The fifth stave, Voice II, is located at the bottom of the system. Notated as normal, this part features pitched vocal production as yet another vocal expression. Here, the human voice appears in a complex form, combining pitched, voiced sounds with words that carry meaning. This structure guided the selection of texts for the piece.

Altogether, the two bottom staves for flute and voice respectively carry fragmented musical material spaced out in time, while the two top staves 102

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notate the recomposed noise of the mind. The arrangement of the staves from top to bottom corresponds to a transition of fictitious mind activity from noise to signal, that is, from disturbance to regular sound production. The third stave, the Mix, regulates the interaction between the two ranges. By means of the PTT stave and the arrangement of the microphone triggered by the performer only the most intimate noise of the mind is processed in the electronic part.

Creation of the libretto Following the construction of the score, I selected texts to represent different layers of mind activity. The complete libretto was created from texts by three authors: Anne Waldman, Margret Kreidl, and myself. This work formed an important part of the compositional process, during which the conceptional structure of the piece guided the selection, fragmentation, and “recomposition” of the texts. I deconstructed the texts into particles of different lengths, and condensed them during the compositional process – in a way similar to Baroque implied polyphony – into an entirely new libretto, that is, “recomposed” mind activity. This treatment of texts was conducted with great respect and gratitude, although it appears as a violent intervention.3

The title of the piece is taken from Anne Waldman’s book Iovis. It hints both at vocal production and the flutist’s embouchure. “Lip of the real” is the title of a section in which Waldman describes meeting an old colleague of hers (Waldman, 2011, pp. 385–92). I also chose a passage from this text for the final

3 Through personal exchange and explanations of my intentions I gained permission from the authors for this kind of work; I sincerely appreciate their generosity. 103

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part of the piece. Here, the author refers to the dreamlike essence of reality originating from mind, one of Waldman’s recurrent themes in writing: Exhaust appearance & get the so-called real the what-was hidden or what’s so-called real hit list like lisp got written gets written Lip of the heart Lip of the poet I saw your ghost voice for it was all voice old voice of mountain (Waldman, 2011, p. 385) The texts for Voice I and Voice II are translated fragments by the Austrian author Margret Kreidl. Her booklet “Meine Stimme” is based on her perceptions and inner comments while singing, and thereby documents another type of personal “noise” (Kreidl, 1995).

I wrote the texts for the top stave in English, as a result of my observations of the mind. I continued to document my mind’s activities surrounding the composition of LIP OF THE REAL. In this way I verbalize mental noise as a byproduct of the composing process. These texts are audible, but cannot be understood by the audience, as they are recited by the flutist with mouth closed. A second function of these recitations is to control timing, which leads to a discussion of aspects of performing.


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Performance aspects – timing by noise, improvisation and flow Many composers seek to control performance as completely as possible in order to prevent disturbance; performing a composition may create another type of “noise” from the point of view of the composer. I wanted to re-define performance interferences as a further layer of artistic material.

Composed “performative noise” serves as a tool for timing. I decided against writing longer periods of precisely defined rests for the solo part, which would imply the counting of beats or seconds. The mind’s activity seems to be ongoing; I actually play with the notion of “mind stopping” in my own text: Does it fade out? At times it seems to be less dense than at other times. Almost so thin, worn out, that I can see through the fabric of the monologue. The fabric of mind. Touch it. Echoes and counter-echoes of thoughts. Going on and on. Dancing lines of consciousness. Cheerfully going on and on. Does it ever stop? Stop! Stop! There are gaps. Or I think there are gaps, after all. Sometimes it seems to stop: when something strikes me. Surprises me, touches me deeply, at a moment. How long does it stop? I do not know. I just notice afterwards.


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That there was a gap. In the inner monologue. Nevertheless, the spacing of the musical material over time needs to be facilitated. Here, I turn internal noise into a constructive way to time other components of the solo part: instead of counting longer periods of rests, the performer has to recite – and sometimes repeat a certain number of times – pieces of texts with a closed mouth. When a text is finished, the soloist moves on and switches to another form of mental/musical texture.4

The solo part largely draws on the idea that awareness focuses on one thing at a time; all notated actions should be executed as precisely as possible. In daily life multitasking creates an illusion of parallel threads of thinking activity.5 Looking closely I have noticed that my awareness fixates on only one thing at a time; it quickly oscillates between concurrent thought operations.

Deploying the PTT button transmits sounds during periods of recitation; through this setting I not only achieve an organic way of dealing with time and space, but also gain a steady flow of raw material for further manipulation with the computer and selected analogue machines. These machines are controlled manually by turning knobs or optical sensors. The quality of fuzziness in operation here acts as a noisy contrast with the instrumental performance. 4 The use of text recitation for timing is common in Buddhist mediation practices. For example, to signal the start of meditation practice in the morning a certain number of strokes of a gong are spaced out by reciting – silently and inwardly – a contemplative text between each strike. This method is simple and effective, and can be done without a watch. 5 Recent research results in neuroscience seem to confirm this observation, as Prof. Dr. Torsten Schubert, psychologist at the Humboldt-Universität Berlin, argues. See: http://dasgehirn.info/aktuell/frage-an-das-gehirn/sind-wir-wirklich-faehig-zum-multitasking? searchterm=multitasking. [Accessed 23 August 2013]. 106

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In this piece, I invite improvisation to interfere actively with the ordinary performance of a composed piece. I chose to improvise the live-electronic part, which is not notated. I have a clear aural image of the emerging piece and the electronic part, and in performance I improvise the live-sound with that image. The piece itself starts with the inner monologue from the soloist; electronic live processing branches off from the first vocal sounds. In the beginning, electronic sounds are largely controlled in order not to cover the sound of the flute. Precisely placed noisy outbursts sharply disrupt this balance. My intention was to punctuate the sonic flow from the two instrumentalists with an aggressive disturbance demanding immediate attention. Interfering noise was heavily panned to shift the focus of listening to the surrounding space, and to provoke the “solitary experience of the listener” (Voegelin, 2010, p. 46).

Viewing musical improvisation as a performative act reveals a structural model for the creative process as a facet of the mind’s activity. The mind unfolds from internal sparks into the surrounding space of the concert hall, and reaches out to communicate with an audience. The process is immediate and direct; immediate feedback is also returned through listening. This aspect separates the process of improvisation from my compositional work; in composing, there is no simultaneous aural feedback for me from an “outside world”. Here I install improvisation as an ingredient of my compositional plan. For the audience, the composed and improvised musics merge – or interfere with each other – to create LIP OF THE REAL. My improvised part adds a random factor to the piece. I improvise as a composer while listening to the composed parts of my piece; a cycle seems to close here.6

6 Nevertheless, it would be possible for others to play the improvisation part. However, in this case I would notate necessary aspects of the electronic part. 107

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Conclusion Adding the concept of noise into the compositional process marks a shift in how I define my work. The noise–signal duality works to clarify my understanding of the role of mind during the creative process, in improvising, performing and composing. Here, it is entirely my own decision to evaluate what I discard as noise and what I accept as signal. I can actively shift the border and turn internal and external contextual phenomena into ingredients of the creative process.

The concept of “composing the noise of mind” is effective in terms of structural and timbral definition, both in composition and improvisation. It has also helped structure and enrich the texture of the baritone solo part of my recent opera ABSTRIAL. Now I am using it to create a long-duration live performance/installation improvisation with the contrabass recorder, in which I use four microphones and a five-tiered “improvisation score” following the principles of LIP OF THE REAL. I plan to further extend the concept of “composing the noise of mind” into ensemble music. Here, aspects of control might play a pivotal role; degrees of wanted/unwanted control or interaction between performers could be re-evaluated: what defines the “noise of collectivity”?

A live-recording of the premiere of LIP OF THE REAL version II in St. Paul’s Hall, University of Huddersfield with Alice Teyssier, voice and flute, Jonathan Hepfer, percussion, and myself performing live electronics is available at my website: http://piapalme.at/works/lip-version-ii/


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References Bukofzer, M. F. (1948) Music in the Baroque Era. London: Dent & Sons. Clarke, E. F. (2005) Ways of listening: An ecological approach to the perception of musical meaning. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Fischer-Schreiber, I., Erhard, F.-K., & Diener, M. S. (1991) The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen. Boston: Shambhala Publications. Glasersfeld, E. von (2005) Radikaler Konstruktivismus: Versuche einer Wissenstheorie. Vienna: Edition Echoraum. Gordon, S. (2005) Mastering the art of performance: a primer for musicians. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Katagiri, D. (1988) Returning to silence: Zen practice in daily life. Boston: Shambhala Publications. Kosko, B. (2006) Noise. London: Penguin Books. Kreidl, M. (1995) Meine Stimme. Graz: Edition Gegensätze. Namgyal, T. T. (1986) Mahamudra: the quintessence of mind and meditation. Translated by L. P. Lhalungpa. Boston: Shambhala Publications. Paddison, M. (2010) ‘Postmodernism and the Survival of the Avant-garde’. In: Paddison, M. and Deliège, I. (eds.) Contemporary Music: Theoretical and Philosophical Perspectives, pp. 205–28. Farnham: Ashgate. Palme, P. (2013) LIP OF THE REAL version II. [Online] Available at: http://piapalme.at/works/lip-version-ii/ [Accessed 27 August 2103]. Quantz, J. J. (1789) Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen. 3rd ed. Breslau: Korn. Reprinted in facsimile by H.-P. Schmitz (1978), 6th ed. Kassel: Bärenreiter. Riegler, A. (2011) The Heinz von Förster page. Available at: http://www.univie.ac.at/constructivism/HvF.htm [Accessed 5 August 2013].


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Suzuki, D. T. (1985) Essays in Zen Buddhism (second series). London: Rider and Company. Suzuki, Sh. (1982) Zen-Geist Anfänger-Geist. 3rd ed. Zürich: Theseus Verlag. Telemann, G. Ph. (2011) ‘12 Fantasias for Flute without Bass, TWV 40:2-13’. Available at: http://imslp.org/wiki/12_Fantasias_for_Flute_without_Bass,_TWV_40:213_(Telemann,_Georg_Philipp) [Accessed 21 September 2013]. Trungpa, Ch. (1991) Orderly chaos: the mandala principle. Boston: Shambhala Publications. Trungpa, Ch. (1993) Training the mind. Boston: Shambhala Publications. Trungpa, Ch. (1996) Dharma art. Boston: Shambhala Publications. Trungpa, Ch. (1999) Meditation in action. Boston: Shambhala South Asia Editions. Voegelin, S. (2010) Listening to Noise and Silence: Toward a Philosophy of Sound Art. London: Continuum. Waldman, A. (2011) The Iovis Trilogy. Minneapolis: Coffee House Press.


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Techniques borrowed from surrealistic art Lefteris Papadimitriou

Abstract This article presents an investigation of how local level instrumental and acousmatic techniques are related to some common surrealistic techniques. The main visual reference is the Chilean painter Roberto Matta, who employed most Surrealistic techniques in his work. Matta’s notion of non-Euclidean spaces is translated in my work as both motion in ‘perspectival space’ and space created through a re-evaluation of systems of coordinates established by multiple gestural vectors. Biomorphism is employed in mixed or acousmatic works in musical shapes that mix natural and cultural sound sources or human made and natural or mechanical/electronic sources. Automatic drawing through its relation to gesture and visual shapes may provide a more intuitive and improvisational alternative to more cerebral indeterminate or probabilistic processes.

In order to make clear my compositional intentions in middle level structures, I would like to trace some connections between some of the techniques that I employ and surrealistic art and painting. A composed sound object, whose temporal evolution is defined by the motion of a number of gestural vectors (parametric motions that define aural dimensions), or envelopes, which alter a number of sound parameters, may be perceived as a specific space-time system of coordinates. When this sound object is further altered though the imposition of new gestural vectors upon some parameters, the original system of coordinates is no longer operational. A new system of coordinates may be perceived when the previously established aural space is modulated or


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transformed. The listener is then continually re-evaluating the system of coordinates on which the modulating motion of gestural vectors are operating.

Chilean painter Roberto Matta, one of the main painters of the Surrealist movement, called his works of the 1940s “psychological morphologies” and offered new concepts of space related to inner psychological space (McNay, 2002). Matta states of his 1940 painting The Vertigo of Eros (figure 1): “The reference I was making once again, was to non-Euclidean space, where all the ordinates and co-ordinates are moving in themselves, because the references to the ‘wall’, shall we say, of the space, are constantly changing” (quoted in Parkinson, 2008).

Figure 1: Roberto Matta, The Vertigo of Eros (1944).


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Matta’s sense of space and depth is connected to my work not only through the continuous re-evaluation of coordinates established by gestural vectors, but also as a more real sense of depth in acousmatic music, which is the result of different reverb times or other reverb parameters applied to the same sound objects that then seem to move in perspectival space. For example, in the second part of Electric Serpent for piano and electronics, or in the second part of Liquid Glass for two percussionists and electronics, I have dispersed one sound layer into different tracks, armed with different types of reverb. This creates the illusion that the object changes in depth. The sound object seems as if it was actually moving or stretching in space. Abrupt panning effects also enhance this effect. In instrumental music, volume changes and filtering gestures applied to shapes lead to similar results.

Another characteristic of Matta’s paintings that is related to techniques that I employ in my acousmatic and mixed works is the concept of biomorphic forms (see figure 2). These are forms that, while abstract, refer to or evoke living forms such as plants and/or the human body. Biomorphism has to do with transformation and hybridization and is a concept explored by many surrealist artists before and after Matta.1

I tend to categorize sounds according to their references to the extrinsic matrix (i.e. the sounding world outside the musical work) (Smalley, 1997, p. 110), in natural sounds and human-made sounds. Furthermore, I tend to categorize human-made sounds in mechanical, electronic-digital, and instrumental sounds. Forms with a biomorphic resemblance can be created when sounds that have a clear human or human-made source-bonding are mixed together 1 I must note that my first exposure on the concept was through the popular ‘biomechanical art’ of Swiss surrealist artist H. R. Giger. 113

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with either natural sounds or mechanical/electronic sounds. Morphing of sounds can be easily achieved by mixing sounds with similar temporal behaviour.

In Electric Currents, the second part of Electric Serpent, I have employed two clearly separated sound layers; one is comprised of piano sounds and the other of synthesized sounds. The live piano part is a layer that morphs with the prerecorded piano. I have then one layer of piano sounds (which are made more human and real by the presence of the live pianist) and one layer of synthesized sounds. Many abrupt pauses are employed in this section, which fragment the shapes created by the sound layers. The listener may find it difficult to perceive a horizontal evolution of the layers; he would perceive instead a compound sound object that is comprised of piano and synthesized sounds (that sometimes simulate natural sounds), which starts and stops. In my view, the listeners, being denied a clear perception of layers (because of the extreme fragmentation of texture), attempt to perceive the nature of the various sound objects unfolding in time. By blurring the boundaries between different types of sounds, it is my intention to excite their imagination so that they may start thinking in terms of new sound sources, shapes, and forms that may resemble the surrealistic biomorphs.

Fig. 2: Roberto Matta, Elle loge la folie (1970), an example of biomorphic art.


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Another surrealistic technique, employed by Matta, is automatic drawing. Surrealist automatism can take the form of spontaneous drawing or writing. Andre Masson was one of the first artists to employ the technique, but it found its way into the work of most surrealist artists. Surrealists believed that automatism could express the creative forces of the unconscious. Mary Ann Caws states that: Surrealism should not be ‘treated’ like any other literary movement, which had its period of influence … It considers itself to be on a different level from ordinary traditional concerns, no matter how metaphysical they may be. It’s the hand pointing away from all we already know. (Caws, 1996, p. 21) Andre Breton defines surrealism in his first manifesto as: [P]ure psychic automatism by means of which it hopes to express … the real functioning of thought. Dictation of thought, in the absence of any control exerted by reason, outside all esthetic and moral preoccupation (Caws, 1996, p. 23) Automatism was probably the most radical surrealistic technique in that by claiming to abolish control by reason and traditional esthetic concerns it opened the gates to new approaches towards the notion of historical time in Western art, in a way that may be seen as a precursor of postmodern ideas about history and tradition. If we consider the unconscious mind to be a repository of images, sounds, words, signs, and so on that we have experienced in the past, then are our present thoughts just a recombination and rearrangement of older information, in the same way that we access information stored on the worldwide web through a computer, or can we continually create or access new information? In other words does new information really exist? If, for example, a person was locked in a prison for the rest of his life, would his imagination create new information or rearrange and


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re-access information already stored in his memory? These questions are rather philosophical and an objective answer may not be offered, but I think that they point to the ideas that interest me in relation to surrealist automatism. It is also interesting to observe the relation to similar techniques employed by spiritualists around the same time, such as mediumistic automatism (although Breton denies a connection with these techniques) and also with “Arthur Rimbaud’s formula for the experience of otherness within the self ‘Je est un autre’” (Conley, 2006, pp. 130–31).2

In my work I have employed a kind of automatism in my approach to improvisation and generative processes. In the acousmatic medium I have used virtual gestures (MIDI controllers) in a way similar to the surrealistic use of the pen in automatic drawing. I usually select a number of software parameters and assign them to MIDI controllers (the software may be either a sound production software such as a virtual synthesizer or a sampler, or an audio effect which transforms the sounds that are being “fed”). Having established the aural space in which I move, I then create virtual gestures within it. These are usually very free, uncontrollable, and intrinsically linked to physical gestural activity. It should be noted that I start to drawing shapes in the aural space I am usually aware of the kind of gestures that will produce certain types of sounds. Additionally, I may interact with the sounds that I am producing, and accordingly decide to change my gestures, in a way similar to traditional improvisation. In figure 3 we can see the shape produced by controlling reverb time in a reverb virtual audio effect. This shape was applied to several synthesized and pre-recorded sound layers in the first part of my piece Electric Serpent.

2 “I is another” or “I am another”. 116

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Figure 3: Shape produced through MIDI controllers.

At other times automatic drawing in my work is exactly that. In the instrumental medium, automatic drawing can be directly mapped onto instrumental gesture. In section 8 of my piece Liquid Glass for two percussionists and electronics, for example, I have employed a notation of free shapes in the bass drums (see figure 4). I have drawn a series of shapes in the staves that are to be translated by the percussionists as shapes drawn on the surface of their instrument with a wire brush. Although I was aware of the general spectro-morphologies that these shapes would produce when drawn on the surface of the instruments, the particular details of most of the shapes were drawn in a spontaneous fashion that aimed to emphasize curved lines, unity of shape, and connection with the electronic sounds. Some of the electronic sounds used in this part (prerecorded bass drum sounds and synthesized noise sounds) were also transformed by similar visual shapes or virtual MIDI gestures, which controlled software parameters.

In conclusion, although there are some important differences with the traditional notion of automatic drawing (mainly the fact that I did not consider the result of the

spontaneous drawing to be the final artistic work in its

entirety), there are some significant similarities. My approach to automatism, in this respect, similarly to my approach to other indeterminate generational processes, aims to generate large amounts of information (information fields or networks), to the extent that the final result becomes chaotic and unpredictable


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either in its low level structures, affecting sound/timbre; or in its middle level temporal behaviour, affecting sound patterns and shapes; or both. Spontaneity and unpredictability of results boosts my imagination and keeps the compositional process fresh and exciting in the same way that a recording of a lush natural soundscape excites the acoustic imagination. The results also usually exhibit a kind of natural/physical or human behaviour, which stems from the fact that they are the products of spontaneous (human-made) gestures inside limited aural spaces. Electronic sound is not presented in a “polished” state resulting from the perfection of the digital software but is rather presented as a “used”, somewhat “dirty” sound that is the result of human interaction and gesture. These types of sound exhibit similar morphological characteristics to instrumental sound and thus I have employed them in order to simulate instrumental sound qualities.

Figure 4: Liquid Glass, section 8, shapes drawn on bass drums with wire brushes.


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References Caws, M.A. (1996) Andre Breton, New York: Twayne Publishers. Conley, K. (2006) ‘Surrealism and Outsider Art: from the ”Automatic Message” to Andre Breton’s collection’, Yale French Studies 109, pp. 129–43. Parkinson, G. (2008) Surrealism, art and modern science, New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Matta, R. (1944) The Vertigo of Eros. [Online image] Available at: http://www.moma.org/collection/browse_results.php?criteria=O %3AAD%3AE %3A3842&page_number=9&template_id=1&sort_order=1 [Accessed 23 October 2011]. Matta, R. (1970) Elle loge la folie [Online image] Available at: http://www.matta-art.com/1970.htm [Accessed 23 October 2011]. Papadimitriou, L. (2012) Electric Serpent [Online recording] Available at: https://soundcloud.com/lefteris-papadimitriou/electric-serpent [Accessed 19 September 2013]. Papadimitriou, L. (2012) Liquid Drums [Online recording] Available at: https://soundcloud.com/lefteris-papadimitriou/liquid-drums [Accessed 19 September 2013]. Smalley, D. (1997) ‘Spectromorphology: Explaining sound-shapes’, Organised sound, 2(2), pp. 107–26.


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TWO PIETÀS: William-Adolphe Bouguereau & Lisa Streich Chris Swithinbank

Abstract Two Pietàs in different media, the first by French painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825–1905) and the second by Swedish composer Lisa Streich (1985-), permit an examination of the Pietà trope itself by laying open a range of its symbolic aspects. Bouguereau’s Pietà (1876) is discussed in terms of the grief and joy that are both present in the theological and mythological Virgin Mary at the crucifixion and allows us to touch on a potential functioning of the painting, while Streich’s Pietà (2012), for cello, motors and electronics, takes this apparent dichotomy and combines it with a more active reflection on Christ’s crucified body. This latter also allows us to ask: what is depicted in a piece of music? And suggests that the visual & physical dimensions – the instrument as canvas or stage – are as vital as the sonic dimensions in the apprehension of this work.

1. Mater Dolorosa – Joyous Mother? In William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s Pietà of 1876, the Virgin Mary’s eyes brim with tears, ringed with the shadows of mourning, while Christ’s limp body droops in her arms, mirroring the swoon of Michelangelo’s San Pietro Pietà. At her feet lies a bloodied crown of thorns, staining a white sheet, and a throng of sorrowing angels surrounds her. Painted in the year following the premature death of Bouguereau’s son Georges, the canvas’s depiction of the individualised grief of mother and attendant angels have been seen as an expression of his “private feelings of loss and anguish” (Wissman, 1996, p. 74)


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and as “a tribute to passionate parental love overwhelmed by despair” (Christie’s, 2010).

Ever since the early elevation of Mary from her rather scant presence in the canonical Gospels to the key position she now holds in Christian theology, she has been a multifaceted figure, but her motherhood to Christ, and by extension to all Christians, is probably her most persistent aspect in worship and art (Warner, 2000, p. 286). As early as the fourth century, Ephrem of Syria imagined a lullaby from the Virgin to her child, having her sing “with my nursery rhymes will I soothe thee” (Palmer, 1953, p.19), and less than a century later, when the council of Ephesus met and declared the doctrine of Christ’s divinity and humanity, they proclaimed the title of Theotokos for the Virgin Mary, the “one who bore god” (Fortounatto and Cunningham, 2008, p. 143). The strong attraction of the faithful to being mothered led Anselm of Canterbury in the eleventh century, and Bernard of Clairvaux in the twelfth, to transfer this attribute to God and Christ respectively (Warner, 2000, pp. 196–7).

Bouguereau’s portrayals of the Virgin overlap significantly with his depictions of more generic mother figures, so a reading of his Pietà as expressive of his personal, parental grief with the Virgin as allegory for a universal mourning parent is plausible. Earlier paintings such as L’amour fraternel (1851) and the Sainte Famille (1863) appear to be of the same subject: the Virgin, clad at least partially in her traditional blue, caring for Jesus and John the Baptist as infants. As her plump charges exchange kisses symbolic of fraternal love, she is demure and turns her tender gaze towards them. In the later painting, Mary is portrayed with spindles of wool, allegory for her role as mother, having spun the body of Christ (Mencej, 2011, p. 67). However, the similarity with the


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mothers of Bouguereau’s genre paintings of the same period is striking: his 1859 portrayal of La Charité adopts many of the same symbolisms; the peasant mother in Berceuse (1875) is also shown with wool spindles; while the mother of Le baiser (1863) sits in the same pastoral setting that is imagined to be the home of a modest, peasant Virgin in Bouguereau religious paintings.

In her wide-ranging analysis of Mariology, Marina Warner argues that general conceptions of the Virgin have, somewhat unimaginatively, always been “assumed from prevailing social conditions” (Warner, 2000, p. 288) and indeed that it is the ‘very cult of the Virgin’s “femininity” expressed by her sweetness, submissiveness, and passivity that permits her to survive, a goddess in a patriarchal society’ (ibid., p. 191). Feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether also notes the continued existence of a “Mary of the people”, a kind of “earth mother” (1975, p. 50) different from the Mary of theologians and churchmen, and it is this Mary that seems to simultaneously resonate with and form populist visions of motherhood. In his earlier canvases, Bouguereau aligns his Virgins with these ideals of motherhood, but there is a clear shift discernible from 1875 onwards. In La Vierge, L'Enfant Jésus et Saint Jean-Baptiste (1875), the gentleness of the children is a direct recreation of the brotherly embrace of the Sainte Famille of twelve years earlier, but the scene transposes the holy trio to a far more formal setting, with a pensive Mary seated on a marble throne and ringed by a solid gold halo. This became Bouguereau’s standard composition for paintings of the Virgin, including the sombre Vièrge et Enfant of 1888, in which the Christ Child’s intense gaze penetrates the viewer almost fiercely, and, a decade later still, in La Vièrge au Lys (1899). However, his Pietà stands out as the most dramatic of all these Virgins.


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In La Vierge Consolatrice (inscribed at the foot of the canvas with “Mater Afflictorum”), painted a year before the Pietà, a stern Virgin Mary raises her hands and eyes to heaven as mourning mother lays herself across the Virgin’s lap and prays for intercession. The Virgin’s black robes form an inky void at the centre of the canvas, and where both earlier and later Marys are infused with light, here – as in the Pietà – clouds seem to have gathered. Sympathy between grieving mothers links these two paintings. Implicit in the mother’s prayer for intercession is an understanding of shared experience: that despite the gulf in holiness, Virgin and mother are unified in grief.

An assumption about the Virgin Mary’s grief is, however, complex. Despite scant scriptural evidence that she was present at all (Warner, 2000, pp. 344–5), Christian tradition does most often present Mary as a grieving mother at the time of the crucifixion, as evidenced in just one example by the enduring popularity of settings of the Stabat Mater. However, when one considers the creeds of the resurrection of the body, and of life everlasting, there is a certain paradox in mourning, above all mourning the death of Christ – indeed rejoicing might be the more apt reaction. Warner writes, “with her gift of knowledge and her perfect sympathy with Christ, Mary could not have grieved, as she knew he would rise from the dead” (ibid., p. 218).

Far from being a necessarily problematic paradox, this divergence of imagined reactions in fact lends the image of the Mater Dolorosa its consolatory power. The Virgin exhibits all the traits of the grieving mother, or is attributed a universal parental grief – in Bouguereau’s Pietà, she wears a cloak of black and her eyes are wet with tears – emphasizing her closeness to mothers everywhere and her motherly compassion for Christ and mankind, but she is also assured in


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the knowledge of Christ’s resurrection. She is simultaneously steadfast and sorrowing. This sleight of hand is a reassurance and a comfort to the grieving parent. In her exhibition of familiar grief, the Virgin is placed close to them, and then with her leap to embrace the joyous resurrection, she is able to pull a parent’s grief towards contemplation of the life everlasting that is guaranteed by Christ’s dominion.

In this sense, a painting such as Bouguereau’s Pietà can be read as functioning like an Orthodox Christian icon. The icon is seen as permitting communion with profound truths concerning scripture and in fact Bouguereau’s Virgins of this period show some striking resemblances with Orthodox iconography, not least in their solid gold, circular haloes (Fortounatto and Cunningham, 2008, p. 136). Though the similarity of the Pietà’s Christ with that of Michelangelo is likely deliberate (Wissman, 1996, p. 74), the Virgin is notably different from Michelangelo’s girlish figure. Rather than the gentle, inclined face of the Michelangelo, Bouguereau’s Mary faces firmly outwards, her dark eyes gazing out past the viewer. Fortounatto and Cunningham note that “the figures depicted in icons always face the beholder, making spiritual communion possible” (2008, p. 137) and that in depictions of Mary with the Christ Child, “never do they exchange intimate regards that would exclude the beholder” (ibid., p. 145). While the Pietà is the only canvas that aligns fully with this tenet (though La Mère Patrie of 1883 shows another symbolic mother with a similarly penetrating gaze), the series of Virgins from 1875 onwards display nods towards Orthodox iconography. Art historian Gerald Ackerman notes that both the Pietà and La Vierge Consolatrice mix “Byzantine and renaissance traditions as if to insist upon the venerable age of Christianity” (1984, p. 248).


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It may seem a stretch to bring a nineteenth-century French academic painter into a relationship with ancient iconography from a church and theology distant from his own, but despite the divergence in practice, the Catholic Church’s own stance, defined by a meeting of the Council of Trent in 1563, that Images of Christ, and of the Virgin Mother of God, and of the other Saints, are to be had and retained particularly in temples, and that due honour and veneration are to be given to them; not that any divinity, or virtue is believed to be in them; … but because the honour which is shown them is referred to the prototypes which those images represent… (Waterworth, 1848, pp. 234–5) is in fact not so far from that of the Orthodox Church as expressed in John Damascene’s eighth-century response to iconoclast antagonists, which states that the veneration of images “is not veneration offered to matter, but to those who are portrayed through matter in the images. Any honour given to an image is transferred to its prototype” (1980, p. 89).

It is possible then to read Bouguereau’s Pietà as functioning as an icon, providing solace not only to the painter himself faced with the death of his own son, but also to a modern viewer seeking to reflect on the dual sorrow and joy inherent in the Easter rituals. Though it has been seen as “less successful because of the exaggerated grief of the Madonna” (Ackerman, 1984, p. 248), and potential accusations of mawkishness are not helped by the fact that two recent owners include Mel Gibson and Sylvester Stallone (Vogel, 2010), it is clear that the relatively unusual presentation of the Virgin in particular provides a fruitful departure point for contemplation of her role as the mother of Christ.


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2. The Body of the CrucifIed On the eve of Easter Sunday 2012, Lisa Streich’s Pietà, for cello, motors, and electronics, was given its première in a concert closing the ‘Cursus 1’ programme at IRCAM in Paris. A product of the intensive seven-month computer music course, Pietà is mostly quiet, combining held harmonics and thin rhythmic scrapes and taps, with occasional sharp, trilling interjections to build a still and meditative atmosphere, the limited range of materials placing the listener into a narrow and focused band of experience. New Yorker critic Alex Ross described it as “creating a mood of prayerful intensity” (2012).

While Bouguereau had a print of Michelangelo’s San Pietro Pietà pinned up in his studio (Christie’s, 2010), Streich had the modern equivalent while writing her Pietà: Bouguereau’s Pietà formed the background of her studio iMac during much of her time at IRCAM. Writing about her work, she states that it turns ”around that moment of thinking when the thought about life’s earnestness collides with the joy of everyday existence” (n.d.), which can be read as mirroring the unification of sorrow and joy that is present in the trope of the Mater Dolorosa.

Over the course of 2011–13, Streich wrote a series of religiously inspired works: Grata, for cello soloist and ensemble, which sets the text of the Gloria silently (2011); the Pietà for cello, motors, and electronics, written at IRCAM (2012); a second Pietà, this time for ensemble (2012); and Asche, a duo for clarinet and cello (2013). The first Pietà’s quietude can be read as “prayerful” or meditative, which – tied to the title of the work – gives us some traction with the idea of a piece addressing the iconography of the Pietà or at least a vague mystical connotation; but more than these, it is the performer’s instrument which plays 126

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the most significant role in communicating the image of the Pietà – and the fact that this instrument is the cello, which plays such vital roles in both Grata and Asche is not to be overlooked.

In the first part of 2011, with the assistance of a friend in Cologne, Streich adapted a cello to be used in a performance of a piece entitled Joie. Cutting holes in the body of the cello and placing microphones inside the instrument and motors onto its surface, they created a mechanical instrument, a machine whose music was rhythmic and which turned the cello inside-out, projecting the sounds of the instrument’s insides outwards to the listener (Streich, n.d.). In Joie – barring the title, which given the series of works that follows it, might be read as referencing some kind of spiritual joy – the instrument is yet to take on any clear symbolism, its motors moving across its surface in a seemingly abstract game of geometry. However in Pietà, where the instrument is combined with a cellist and a far more explicit title, this instrument takes on a new quality: that of the human body, most specifically the crucified body of Christ – the motions of the motors are “the turning of the screws into the flesh” (Streich, n.d.) – and the hands of performer who embraces this instrument become the hands of Mary cradling his corpse.

Despite the belief in a life everlasting impervious to the dissolution of the flesh (compare, for example, John 5:24), the body is in fact crucial in Christian theology. Warner writes, “Christian heritage … accords the body a very high place in the definition of human personality”, and notes that Thomas Aquinas “demonstrated that the soul’s personality is expressed by and through the body” (2000, p. 97). “The order of divine creation in fact depends on bodies … It is insofar as it is brought back to its body that the mind acquires immortality,


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the resurrection of bodies being the condition of the survival of the mind” (Deleuze, 2004, p. 332). The attachment to the body that Christian eschatology fosters reinforces the power of Christ’s sacrifice and indeed of the sacrifices of the numerous martyrs of the Catholic Church. The crucifixes hanging in churches around the world remind the faithful that Christ’s suffering was borne also so as to safeguard their own precious corporeal form, and not only their metaphysical state.

Addressing the discourse that surrounds the public execution, of which the crucifixion of Christ is of course an example, Michel Foucault argues that “it is to be understood not only as a judicial, but also as a political ritual. It belongs, even in minor cases, to the ceremonies by which power is manifested” (1977/1995, p. 47). Indeed it is the public exhibition of the criminal and their tortured, mutilated and eventually lifeless body that demonstrates not only power over the criminal, but implicitly power over the spectator were they ever to be seen to have transgressed themselves. However, the spectator, by being given the power to create the spectacle of condemnation, also possesses the power to reverse perceived guilt – if not necessarily to commute sentences – and to turn the condemned into a hero or martyr (cf. ibid., pp. 57–65). Such is the case with Christ, whose exposed body, bloodied on the Cross, was intended to assert the power of the Roman law, but instead was taken up as a symbol of his dominion, an act of revolutionary defiance reiterated down the centuries in the mutilation of martyrs from the severed breasts of Saint Agatha to the arrow-pierced body of Saint Sebastian.

The discussion of Bouguereau’s Pietà above focused on the aspects of the Virgin that are legible in the painting: she is protective, hugging her son’s pale


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corpse close, and so it is the Virgin, more than the body of Christ that reaches out to the viewer. However, in Streich’s Pietà it is – at least initially – the crucified body of Christ, represented by the mutilated body of the cello, that is placed in the foreground. When the tortured body is presented publicly, the spectator of course sympathizes by mapping the traces of torture onto their own bodies, and with the gesture they pass through a space of universalized bodies – the idea of the body that allows them to see in bodies of others, allegories of their own bodies. This idealization is also in play, if less dramatically, in approaching the socialized conceptions of what an instrument is. The cello in Streich’s Pietà is still a cello. Despite its apparent mutilation through incision, addition and subtraction, it remains the body of a cello, and the viewer is able to sense the tension introduced by the metaphorical torture that the instrument body has undergone.

Writing of his own cello work, Pression, Helmut Lachenmann underscored that the “beautiful” sound of the instrument as fetishized by a bourgeois society is the product of a repression of effort and resistance as categories of sound production (1996, p. 381). He sees the array of playing techniques employed in that work as ways of foregrounding instead the performer’s effort, by introducing sounds where the sounding result is minimal in relation to the effort – a reversal of the traditional ideal of a warm, rich tone produced effortlessly. This reversal is therefore a redistribution of the power balance in play in the spectacle of performance, liberating the work of the performer from the bourgeois desire to repress its importance. However, Lachenmann’s instrument remains unaltered: while the player’s actions actualize previously unexplored potentialities, the space delimited by the traditional body of the cello can be said to have contained these potentialities since its inception. Streich’s violent intervention in this space on the other hand preserves these potentialities to a 129

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great extent, but also opens a new series of potentialities tied to the action of motors and amplification.

In his work on the painting of Francis Bacon, Deleuze posits an understanding of the creative process in which a formal violence he terms the ‘catastrophe’ engenders the opening of new potentialities “like the emergence of another world”, citing Bacon himself who describes how this “unlocks areas of sensation” (2005, pp. 71–2). Deleuze stresses that while catastrophe suggests unbridled violence and upheaval, “the violent methods must not be given free reign, and the necessary catastrophe must not submerge the whole,” because it “is a possibility of fact – it is not the fact itself” (ibid., p. 77). Given this, we might understand the reconfiguration of the potentialities in Streich’s cello in precisely these terms: the symbolic torture (catastrophe) that is applied to the instrument body generates a field of possibilities whose tension derives both from their catastrophic relationship with the instrument’s original potentialities, and from the fact that this catastrophe involves the public exhibition of a bodily violence. Given the subject matter at hand, it is important to note that the Deleuze’s proposal of the catastrophe as a creative force forms an elegant parallel with the critical catastrophe of Christianity. Christ is said to have died for the sins of mankind (1 Cor 15:3), so just as the Deleuzian catastrophe is the site of creation, the messiah’s crucifixion is the site of salvation, marking again “the emergence of another world”.

Much of this reflection has been a fairly visual assessment of the instrument as a carrier of symbolic content and it is interesting to turn to what happens in Streich’s Pietà with the possibilities of “fact” established in the instrument. In the discussion above of Bouguereau’s Pietà, we touched upon the strange


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entanglement of sorrow and joy present in the Pietà trope, and it is this entanglement in particular that seems to provide an insight into how some kind of representation of the Pietà in a musical work is able to take shape. The entanglement of mourning and rejoicing in Mary at the crucifixion is directly tied to issues of matter and metaphysics – the mourning is for the tortured flesh; the rejoicing is for the liberated spirit – and it is this separation of worlds we find mirrored in the functioning of Streich’s Pietà. As we have seen, the modified cello can be read as a site of violence, as the body of Christ, but this is above all legible in the visual and the possible rather than in the sounding result itself. Just like the catastrophe in Bacon’s canvases, the catastrophe is generative but not of a representation of a catastrophe, it instead generates a new plane of possibilities. Here we can return to perception of the sonic expression in this work as “prayerful” or meditative.

Pietà is, for the most part, pervaded by a sense of calm. The gestures of both the cellist and the motors on the instrument body are measured and deliberate, taking time between events and rarely rushing. Repetition and iteration play a large part in maintaining this calm. Indeed repetition and small, local variation of this type can be seen as a performance of reflection or meditation – the slight change of an object in its restatement denoting small shifts in perspective as contemplation progresses. This calm series of iterations is most obvious in the held notes of the cello (whether high as in bb. 8, 21, 24– 6 and 32, or lower as in bb. 11, 15, 17 and 24–5, as well as elsewhere). The holding of these and the reoccurrence of specific pitches, permit a movement towards a closer contemplation, transforming them from flat surfaces into detailed topographies. This pervading calm is interrupted, fairly abruptly, in the middle of the work by sharply accented, distorted gestures that seem to rend holes in the fine fabric of the piece (bb. 33–70), but even these sonic eruptions 131

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are made to become objects of contemplation in their repetition, and this contemplation leads us back to the quietude of the work’s opening.

bb.7–22 (cello part) from Lisa Streich's Pietà. (Reproduced by permission of the composer) The work’s calm is also present in the mostly percussive material performed on the body of the cello by the four motors. Where in Pietà’s antecedent, Joie, the mechanical nature of the motors was exploited to build towards a machine-like vigour and volume, here it is restrained. There is a certain neatness to their markings on the instrument body.

Although these are “the turning of the

screws into the flesh”, the violence that that image suggests, and that as we have seen is in some senses realized in the insertion of the motor as a foreign object into the body of the cello, is not translated into an acoustic phenomenon. Rather, the resultant sounds of the violation of the cello’s body are in fact in direct opposition to that violence in the same way that the joy inherent in Mary’s certainty of Christ’s bodily resurrection is in opposition to her sorrow at his bodily death.

By way of conclusion, let us tie together how the entanglements that the Pietà trope brings with it when used as a referent could be understood as functioning in this specific Pietà. It seems fruitful to posit that this


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entanglement of sorrow and joy is manifested in Streich’s Pietà by dividing the work’s multidimensional space into sectors differently aligned with these attitudes. One sector, enfolding relationships between the visual, the physical, and socialized conceptions of these, displays aspects of violence and sorrow in its treatment of the body of the cello and in the Pietà trope is most closely aligned with the body of Christ in its public exhibition of these violences. Another sector, formed mostly by the performed gesture and auditory phenomena, displays an abiding and a calm acceptance of the salvation precipitated in the crucifixion and this is aligned with Mary, whose role is not simply that of the weeping Mater Dolorosa, but as the individual whose privileged role as Theotokos permits her, and perhaps her alone, to access a certainty of and assurance in the resurrection and therefore the joyous aspect of the Pietà. These sectors are inseparable and in fact their complex of relationships continuously redefines the whole when subjected to contemplation, which is perhaps why it remains a rich vein for exploration.

References Ackerman, G. (1984) ‘Review: William Bouguereau, Paris’. The Burlington Magazine. 126 (973), pp. 247–49. Christie’s (2010) ‘Sale 2322, Lot 120: William Adolphe Bouguereau (La Rochelle 1825-1905), Pietà’. [Online] Available at: http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/paintings/william-adolphebouguereau-pieta-5324539-details.aspx [Accessed 21 August 2013]. Deleuze, G. (2004) The Logic of Sense. Translated by M. Lester and C. Stivale. London: Continuum. Deleuze, G. (2005) Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Translated by D.W. Smith. London: Continuum. 133

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Fortounatto, M. and Cunningham, M.B. (2008) ‘Theology of the icon’. In: Cunningham, M.B. and Theokritoff, E. (eds.) The Cambridge Companion to Orthodox Christian Theology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 136–49. Foucault, M. (1977/1995) Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Translated by A. Sheridan. New York: Vintage. John of Damascus (1980) On the divine images : three apologies against those who attack the holy images. Translated by D. Anderson. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press. Lachenmann, H. (1996) Musik als existentielle Erfahrung. Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Härtel. Mencej, M. (2011) ‘Connecting Threads’. Folklore. 48, pp. 55–84. [Online] Available at: http://www.folklore.ee/folklore/ [Accessed 23 August 2013]. Palmer, P.F.J. (1953) Mary in the Documents of the Church. London: Burns & Oates. Ross, A. (2012) ‘Parisian Footnotes’. The Rest is Noise. [Online] 25 April 2012. Available at: http://www.therestisnoise.com/2012/04/parisfootnotes.html [Accessed 13 June 2013]. Ruether, R.R. (1975) New Woman, New Earth: Sexist Ideologies and Human Liberation. New York: Seabury Press. Streich, L. (n.d.) Lisa Streich. [Online] Available at: http://lisastreich.se/ [Accessed 13 June 2013]. Streich, L. (2012) Pietà, for cello, motors and electronics. Self-published. Streich, L. (2012) Grata, for cello and ensemble. Self-published. Vogel, C. (2010) ‘Lehman Plans Auction of Its Modern Artworks’. The New York Times. 4 June, p. C24. Warner, M. (2000) Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and Cult of the Virgin Mary. Reprinted, first published 1976. London: Vintage. Waterworth, J. (trans.) (1848), The Canons and Decrees of the Sacred and Oecumenical Council of Trent. London: Dolman. 134

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Wissman, F.E. (1996) Bouguereau. San Francisco: Pomegranate Artbooks.

Artworks Mentioned (Chronological) Michelangelo (1498–99) Pietà, marble. Bouguereau, W.-A. (1851) L’amour fraternel, oil on canvas. Bouguereau, W.-A. (1859) La Charité, oil on canvas. Bouguereau, W.-A. (1863) Sainte Famille, oil on canvas. Bouguereau, W.-A. (1863) Le baiser, oil on canvas. Bouguereau, W.-A. (1875) Berceuse, oil on canvas. Bouguereau, W.-A. (1875) La Vierge, L'Enfant Jésus et Saint Jean-Baptiste, oil on canvas. Bouguereau, W.-A. (1875) La Vierge Consolatrice, oil on canvas. Bouguereau, W.-A. (1876) Pietà, oil on canvas. Bouguereau, W.-A. (1888) Vièrge et Enfant, oil on canvas. Bouguereau, W.-A. (1899) Vièrge au Lys, oil on canvas.


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Translation as a Process for Pre-Composition Alistair Zaldua

Abstract My practice-led research has focussed on establishing the meta-instrument as a means of circumscribing dynamic spaces for composition. For me the term ‘meta-instrument’ can be defined as a relational network of outside-time structures, expressive and performative intentions, derived, or ‘translated’, from given instrumental materials, playing conventions, and cultural resonances. The research presented aims at establishing methods of layeredness in composition as a direct result of applying methods derived from Actor Network Theory and Derrida ideas about translation as part of the larger meta-instrument concept. In Actor Network Theory, translation means to make two dissimilar things equivalent, translation always involves linking terms as well as changing them, bringing to mind the aphorism, ‘traduttore, traditore’ (translator, traitor). Through a discussion of the preparation of a work in progress for solo percussion I will outline how the process of translation has been used to construct a network of ideas from which musical ideas are built. The role of this process of translation in pre-composition is the act of establishing a network traversed during composition. In addition, it relates to Derrida’s four definitions of his invented word disschemination which can be used as tools both for pre-composition and as a means of establishing both a workable network with which to compose as well as the environment, field of relationships, and context within which a piece can exist.

This article sets out to examine the role played by translation in my practice-led research and to investigate the iterative forms it takes. In my practice I have given central importance to the notion of the “meta-instrument” as constructive, generative, and non-static, and I also seek to establish where to place translation within this construct. I define the seemingly wide term “metainstrument” as a concept that creates boundary and identity for a work but 136

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that, during composition, can also remain dynamic or deliberately selfendangered. The term has meaning both during pre-composition and for the continuous transition between pre-composition and composition itself. Essentially, the meta-instrument is an empirical examination of the iterative processes belonging to my compositional method, and is distinct from, for example, live-composition. “Meta-instrument” as a term in my research has therefore been developed out of a deconstructive reading of Helmut Lachenmann’s now quite famous phrase that, “to compose is to build an instrument” (1996, p. 77) which, on closer examination, has several identifiable and related parts and stages. The work I will discuss here is a current work in progress for solo percussion and live electronics entitled Foreign Languages. I will draw upon ideas related to translation derived from Jacques Derrida’s comments on Maurice Blanchot’s (1998) short novel Death Sentence as well as Actor Network Theory (ANT), and specifically John Law’s work in that field. Once this has been explained I shall show how these theories have been applied within the pre-compositional process for Foreign Languages.

The Russian structural linguist, Roman Jakobson, distinguishes three types of translation: 1. Intralingual translation: a translation that happens within or inside a

single language, 2. Interlingual translation: or translation in the most common sense as

occurring between two languages, 3. Intersemiotic translation: in which “verbal signs are re-encoded in non

verbal sign systems” (Mahony, 1988, p. 95). From this list, the final definition is relevant and pertinent to interdisciplinary translation, although I can imagine that intra-lingual translation – the act of


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reformulating a given statement in the same language – could also be applied to creative work. Given the impure character of any language, spoken or otherwise, Derrida describes the complex process of interdisciplinary translation more as involving a “semiotic of decentered transformations” (ibid., p. 96). than anything like a simple process of one-dimensionally re-encoding any given text, since, for Derrida, writing can be considered as a “constantly transformed and transformative activity” (ibid., p. 98).

Derrida describes the story of the Tower of Babel as the first translation. Read in the original ancient Hebrew, Derrida noticed that the word Shem, the name of the tribe that decided to erect the tower, “already means ‘name’: Shem equals name” (Derrida, 1988, p. 100). The intention of the Shem people is to build a monument to make a name for themselves and to further establish universal power via the singularity of their language. This is, of course, divinely punished. In Derrida’s narrative, God condemns mankind to a baffling multiplicity of languages which confounds their speech, alienates the people, and scatters mankind from the tower. The word Babel itself becomes untranslatable as it can be taken both as a noun and as a proper name; this lack of clarity allows it to be both understood as, and signify, confusion. Derrida argues that the Babel story is useful as: “it can provide an epigraph for all discussions of translation” (ibid.), which implies that there will always be unbridgeable distances between every translated text and its original. Derrida's compound term, disschemination, goes some way to explaining these distances; the strange spelling reveals four meanings: 1. As being against the Shem (de-Shemitising) as a proper name – against

the act of “naming” itself, 2. Dissemination,


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3. De-schematisation: against making plans, 4. De-routing, or diverting from a path: chemin (French) means road or

path (Ibid., from footnote to p. 103). Derrida’s concept of disschemination has been useful in creating a field of signification to derive materials for the kind of inter-semiotic translation I am engaged in. In combination with this I have applied definitions and commentary on translation obtained from ANT in formulating the metainstrument in my work.

For Actor-Network theorists, the problematic of translation is central. In ANT – which, according to John Law (2007, p. 2), is less a theory and more “a disparate family of material-semiotic tools” – translation makes two dissimilar things equivalent. The Italian aphorism “traduttore, traditore” (translator, traitor) (Mahoney, 1988, p. 94), indicates that in order to render any language into another, making it understandable and idiomatically correct, one must obey rules specific to the new language that may not exist in the original. ANT is, according to its main founders Bruno Latour and John Law, “a relational and process oriented sociology that treats agents, organisations, and devices as interactive effects” (Law, 1992, p. 389). In a typical ANT analysis, social phenomena come to be interpreted as a heterogenous network: it is immaterial if the relational points of connection, or nodes, are human or non-human agents. For Rose Capdevila and Stephen D. Brown (1999, p. 38) “networks are assemblages of forces”; creating a network, itself a spatial metaphor and construct, is an act of translation: such networks reveal the structure (and the politics) of objects.


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As mentioned in the introduction the genesis and methods employed in Foreign Languages are influenced by Derrida’s interpretation of Maurice Blanchot. In Blanchot’s work a two-part story is related in the first person by a narrator (the gender of whom is not revealed) who encounters two women. The first of these is a close friend but is close to dying, the other is a translator whose mother tongue is a Slavic language and with whom the narrator forms an intimate friendship. During this second part the narrator describes an experience where uttering random words in the mother tongue of their Slavic acquaintance leads them to feel a loss of responsibility for what they are actually saying. In both situations within the text it isn’t even clear if the narrator is the same person, but both parts are related in their representing and describing two different types of intimacy and communication.

From these readings the task was then to establish how Death Sentence could be translated inter-semiotically avoiding reductive or representative treatments. My position is not that the only task of the composer is to translate short stories into music, rather it is important for me to establish and reveal relationships. The instruments used in the piece Foreign Languages are two hand-drums (which the percussionist is free to choose), one amplified cymbal wired to a Max/MSP patch, and a loudspeaker.

My initial pre-compositional work included making a network of a cymbal. Despite my initial result (see Figure 1) resembling more a primitive precompositional mind-map than a network as intended by ANT thinkers, it allowed me to envisage more firmly an oppositional form as implied by the Blanchot text.


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Figure 1: Cymbal network

With this cymbal network I focussed on the character of the cymbal sound itself; I became interested in using vessels similar to those used on the tam-tam in Stockhausen’s Mikrophonie I (1964–65) to establish a method of creating a musical language reminiscent of speech sounds. Stockhausen writes that by placing cups or other vessels (resonators of different dimensions) and by creating wah-wah effects there is an audible similarity to vowel sounds. 1 After some experimentation I found that the fine tuning of the cymbal passage depends greatly on the kind of microphone used, on where the microphone is placed, and on the dimensions of the cymbal.

1 “By resonator is meant a hollow container (a glass, mug, plastic flower pot, etc.) which one moves over the vibrating tam-tam surface – very close to it … in this way the timbre of the sound … is changed continuously from bright to dark (like the colouring of vowels [ i u ]” (Stockhausen, 1964, p. 14). 141

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Figure 2: Example of fragments with letter names assigned

From the larger perspective I decided on a two-part work beginning with the hand-drum music and ending with a section (of comparable, or longer) length for amplified cymbal using live interactive electronics. The music for the handdrums has already been completed and is built out of a large vocabulary of tiny fragments (for an example see Figure 2), some as small as a sixteenth, some only a little longer.


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I deliberately chose not to include dynamics for the hand-drum music. To perform this piece correctly the percussionist must decide how to shape and interpret the music – the only rule being that once a decision is made on how to shape one cell, or bar, that same decision should be avoided when the same bar or cell later returns.

The later passage of this piece is devoted to the amplified cymbal and includes a live interactive electronic component. Here the “language” is constructed less from combinations and variations of cellularly built sentences, and more out of a feedback model where both the percussionist and the electronics respond to each other. The sound of the cymbal is gradually filtered both by the electronics and by the percussionist using a single mid-hard beater and vessels. The percussionist activates the cymbal to focus in on a small number of pitches for the computer to respond to, and once the Max/MSP patch has successfully tracked the intended pitch(es) it gradually alters the shape of the filter accordingly, to which the percussionist responds by “aiming for” other harmonic regions on the cymbal. Ultimately, the percussionist is responding to the sound from the loudspeaker rather than directly from the cymbal itself.

The relation of Blanchot’s text to this piece at best follows the inter-semiotic type described by Jakobson. Beyond the most obvious two-part form of both Death Sentence and my work, my decision was to foreground the relationship between the instruments and to focus my listening on comparing both performative “languages” – resulting out of the natures of both instruments. Once the inter-semiotic approach has been established it is then valuable to examine how Derrida’s concept of disschemination could lend a greater focus to a description of this process. Here, disschemination has less to do with what


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happens over time and more to do with the approaches and strategies taken at the generative and structural level. An application of how one or more definitions of disschemination have, or have not, taken place must bear in mind the relationships established between both materials: metal cymbal and the skin of the hand-drum. The performative relations intended between the materials of the instruments are revealed in the nature of the musical material as well as the two situations the performer finds themself in. Due to their dimensions, the way their sound is propagated, their main mode of playing (i.e. with the hands and unamplified, as against using beaters, vessels, and amplification), both instruments “speak” in idiomatically different ways. The interest in the difference and divergence of their materially idiomatic “languages”, and what these languages end up looking like, provides a continuous relationship between them.

As for Derrida translation in this case signifies a confusion. Now that the material relationship has been established Derrida’s four definitions of disschemination can be applied. Derrida’s first definition, of being against the act of naming itself is the least useful but might be said to have been applied, however tenuous, by having employed an approach that avoids any musically descriptive or impressionist representation. The second definition, dissemination, could describe how the vocables, or cells and sentences written for the hand-drums, are disseminated over time, and how this version is mirrored and/or contradicted in the live interactive feedback model with the amplified cymbal and what the quality of the dissonance is between these playing styles. The third definition, that of de-schematisation or against making plans finds both an immediate contradiction and confirmation in the music written for the hand-drums and cymbal respectively. The notation for handdrums, while being very pre-planned and schematised, includes little or no 146

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dynamics. Here the performer is invited to structure their reading and interpretation themselves. The music for amplified cymbal relies heavily on empirical experiment at the pre-compositional level, on the fine tuning of the Max/MSP interface, and on how the performer responds in concert to the sound and the way the electronics respond. The fourth definition, of derouting, can be applied to an approach that eschews teleological dramaturgy in preference for a close listening to both languages these materials produce, as being the main aesthetic presented.

The difficulty of discussing these terms, and the way they are described as relating to each other, stems from the experience that the divisions between composition, translation, and pre-composition are not hard, fast, or always clearly identifiable. Often by necessity these aspects of the work flow into or interrupt each other continuously; they are re-considered, questioned, and reformulated, and can, as James Dillon conveys, be described as being “in a state of constant genesis that never really crystallises, and that if it does crystallise then you’re talking about something that gets close to [style]” (Toop, 1988, p. 50). In each case, pre-composition is something that accompanies the work without prescribing it. A parallel to this process can be drawn from John Law's description of social structure, where the word is employed as a verb instead of a noun: ”[s]tructure is not free-standing, like scaffolding on a building site, but a site of struggle, a relational effect that recursively generates and reproduces itself” (Law, 1992, p 385). Essentially this boundaried but fluid site of struggle, structure, and potential layered signification, is the projected vessel any inter-semiotic translation must aim for, and goes some way to defining what the the meta-instrument can be for specific works of composition.


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References Blanchot, M. (1998) Death Sentence. New York: Station Hill. Capdevila, R. and Brown, S. (1999) Perpetuum Mobile: Substance, Force, and the Sociology of Translation. In Law, J. and Hassard, J. (eds.). Actor Network Theory and After. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. Derrida, J. (Author) and McDonald, C. (Editor) (1988) The Ear of the Other: Otobiography, Transference, Translation. Texts and Discussion With Jacques Derrida, New York: Schocken Books. Lachenmann, H. (1996) ‘Über das Komponieren’. In Musik als Existenzielle Erfahrung, Wiesbaden: Breitkopf und Härtel. pp. 73-82. Law, J. (1992) ‘Notes on the Theory of the Actor-Network: Ordering, Strategy and Heterogeneity’. Systems Practice, 5. http://www.heterogeneities.net/publications/Law1992NotesOnTheThe oryOfTheActor-Network.pdf [Accessed 13 September 2012]. Law, J. (2007) ‘Actor-Network Theory and Material Semiotics’, Heterogeneities. http://www.heterogeneities.net/publications/Law2007ANTandMaterial Semiotics.pdf [Accessed 13 September 2012]. Stockhausen, K. (1964) Mikrophonie I: General Introduction. London: Universal Edition. Toop, R. (1988) ‘Four Facets of the New Complexity’. Contact, no. 32, pp. 4– 50.


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Notes on the authors:

Pedro Alvarez (Chile, 1980) obtained a PhD from University of Huddersfield under Prof. Liza Lim, receiving the “Vice-Chancellor's award for an outstanding Research Degree Thesis”. Previous degrees include a MPhil from Goldsmiths, University of London, MA and Licentiate from Universidad de Chile, as well as private studies with James Dillon in London. His work is mainly focused on the creation of contemporary chamber music that challenges traditional aesthetic ideals of processual fluency and development, aiming instead at new forms of musical experience based on contemplative approaches to static ‘objectivised’ situations. www.pedroalvarez.info

Pavlos Antoniadis (Greece, 1978) is completing his PhD in Musicology at the HfM Dresden under Jörn Peter Hiekel and Wolfgang Lessing, having obtained his MA in contemporary piano performance from the UC San Diego and his Ptychion in Musicology from the National University in Athens. He advocates the development of performer-specific discourses and practices for new music, with an interdisciplinary approach to the bond between notation and corporeality, influenced by cognitive science and cultural theory. His forthcoming research at IRCAM aims at the development of an interface for real-time gestural processing of complex piano notation. www.pavlosantoniadis.com

Mark Barden (USA, 1980) is currently finishing a PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London. He holds degrees from the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. His works have been commissioned by Ensemble Intercontemporain, the Witten Festival, the Donaueschingen Festival, the Darmstadt Summer Courses, the Akademie der Künste Berlin, Radio France, and others. Current projects include new works for Klangforum Wien, Ensemble Mosaik, the No Borders Orchestra, Ensemble Interface, and the 2015 Donaueschingen Festival. Barden's research takes the form of concert and live spatial installation works that focus on perceptual thresholds, failure, and violence. www.mark-barden.com 149

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Diego Castro MagaĹĄ (Chile, 1978) holds a Music Degree from the Catholic University of Chile and an MA in Guitar Performance from Universitat Ramon Llull, Spain. He is a second year PhD student at the University of Huddersfield under the supervision of Philip Thomas, while also studying electric guitar under Daryl Buckley. His artistic and research practice are focused on the performance of contemporary music of radical aesthetics, exploring performer's agency from the learning and interpretive processes to the performance situation. www.diegocastromagas.com

Matías Hancke de la Fuente (Argentina, 1978) pursued undergraduate studies at the Catholic University of Argentina and postgraduate studies at King’s College London. He has written instrumental and electroacoustic music and his current musical interests are centred around the concepts of continuity and fragmentation. Currently Hancke lives in London. www.matiashancke.com

Scott Mc Laughlin is a composer and improviser (cello, live electronics) based in Huddersfield, UK. Born in Ireland (Co. Clare) in 1975, studies include MA/PhD University of Huddersfield. Currently he lectures in composition and music technology at the University of Leeds. His research focuses on the physical materiality of sound and performance, combining approaches from experimental music with dynamical systems theory to explore performativity and recursive feedback systems in constraint-based open form composition. www.lutins.co.uk

Pia Palme (1957) works as a freelance composer and performing experimentalist (mainly contrabass recorder) in Vienna. Her compositional projects centre on vocal music, music theatre and interdisciplinary collaborations. Former studies include music at the Conservatory of Vienna, mathematics and projective geometry at the Technical University of Vienna (MA), pedagogy and Buddhist philosophy. In her PhD research at the University of Huddersfield under Liza Lim she weaves the strands of her artistic activities and experiences into a contemplative investigation of the 'noise of mind'. www.piapalme.at


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Lefteris Papadimitriou (1977) is a Greek composer and performer. He holds a PhD from the University of Huddersfield, which was supervised by Dr. Aaron Cassidy, with a CeReNeM-hcmf scholarship. He also studied composition with Iannis Ioannidis and is a graduate of the National University of Athens. Awards include the 2006 Gaudeamus Prize for composition. His works, for both acoustic instruments and electronic media, have been performed by ensembles such as London Sinfonietta, Asko/Schoenberg, and Elision. Research interests include the mapping of aural signals on conceptual and physical musical spaces, cognitive psychology, employment of surrealistic and visual techniques, improvisation and montage. www.lefterispapadimitriou.com

Born in the Netherlands to British parents, Chris Swithinbank (1988) grew up in Luxembourg before pursuing studies in music at the University of Manchester (UK), at IRCAM in Paris, and at Harvard University (USA) where he is currently a doctoral student in composition with Chaya Czernowin and Hans Tutschku. Following previous research on the music of Helmut Lachenmann, his current writing focuses on formal and thematic questions in the music of a younger generation, including the work of Lisa Streich and Piaras Hoban. Chris Swithinbank’s music is interested in the illogical, the peripheral, and in human presence. www.chrisswithinbank.net

Alistair Zaldua (UK, 1970) has received degrees from the Birmingham Conservatoire (BA) and Freiburg Musikhochschule (MMus), and is currently completing his PhD in composition at Goldsmiths, University of London. His research interests are in acoustic composition, live interactive electronics, audio/visual installation, translation, Actor Network Theory, sound poetry, and alchemy. His most recent work has focussed on translation as a process for sonification, and on establishing perceptual networks in performance. Alistair currently lectures in composition and analysis at the music department at Goldsmiths, University of London from whom he received a Fellowship to develop teaching of composition in 2012. www.alistair-zaldua.de


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