Seminars & Events

The Research Department regularly organises research seminars, symposia and other events. Please find below information on the current seminar series and other forthcoming events.

Research Seminars

Research Seminars take place on occasional Wednesdays from 17.15-18.15 in the Lecture Theatre, Laban Building and are followed by drinks in the Laban Bar - all welcome!

The programme for 2015-16 is currently being developed. 


In 2014-15, Trinity Laban's annual Research Seminar Series featured a particularly strong lineup of speakers around the theme of Art and Politics. Speakers were invited to contribute: specific historical topics; theoretical contributions on politics and aesthetics; critical pedagogy and the role of arts education in contemporary society. All the talks centred around political and/or ethical issues in the arts, and formed a companion to the Learning and Teaching Seminar Series


John Croft (Brunel University)

Let’s get Creative: Questioning Collaboration and Practice-as-Research

In academic and arts funding circles, composing – ‘mere’ composing – has become unfashionable. It has yielded to an over-emphasis on notions of collaboration, 'border crossing', and nebulous definitions of practice-based research that replace aesthetic originality with innovation in format or working method. This seminar will consider the possible sources of this fixation, including the culture of accountability, the adoption of business ideology in arts organisations and academia, the persistence of questionable ideas such as 'brainstorming', the 'mash-up' theory of creativity, and – more fundamentally – the assimilation of composition to 'research'. These have given rise to a situation where what is peripheral to music is treated as central, and music as a domain of thought in its own right disappears under aims, objectives, strategies, and milestones.


Douglas Finch (Trinity Laban)

Between Image and Sound: Finding a Role for Music in Jon Sanders' Films

Douglas Finch composed the musical scores for all four of Jon Sanders’ feature films (1999 – 2013). The most recent, Back to the Garden, was released in Curzon Cinemas to critical acclaim despite, or perhaps partly because of its small budget and limited resources. Douglas’ close working relationship with Jon Sanders on his films involves experimentation and improvisation in the early devising stages, performing music live on set in improvised scenes, and the employment of a very spare but highly exposed musical score in post production. Sanders’ use of live recorded sound exclusively (the most recent film uses an open, non-directional cardioid microphone), is a central feature of his style, and combines with music to create moments of quiet epiphany that resonate with Bresson’s direction in Notes on the Cinematographer (1975): “Build your film on white, on silence and on stillness”.The talk will feature extracts from all four films as well as examples from cinematic models including Bresson, Tarkovsky and Mizoguchi.


Louise Jackson (Trinity Laban) and Jonathan Owen Clark (Trinity Laban)

Aesthetic Education and Specialist Institutions

Hierarchical structures within the higher education sector are reflected in the current debates regarding the status and social construction of ‘The University’. These debates do not sufficiently take into consideration the way in which different sites within higher education may participate in the defence of this same idea. By focussing on the small, specialist higher education institution this essay seeks to do two things. Firstly, it aims to position these institutions firmly within the debate about contemporary higher education. Secondly, it aims to critique the currently posited role for the arts-based specialist centre as a site for the production of the ‘cultural entrepreneur’ which has become ubiquitous in the sector. This enables us to suggest a definition for a new type of 'artisitc leadership', which derives from the unique idiomatic nature of art itself; a nature that is rooted in the perceptive and sensory capabilities of the experiencer, but which extends to the manner in which the perceptual transformations enacted by art can cause disturbances, perturbations and ‘irritations’ into more general networks of communication in contemporary society.

Marc Steene (Director, Pallant House Gallery)

'Outsider Art'

In order for galleries and museums to represent and include their local communities they need to embrace a wider understanding of culture and creativity outside of current accepted art and cultural thinking. ‘Outsider Art’ is an often coined term, but is there a wider debate to be had about inclusion and the redefinition of culture that we should embrace? If we sidestep the art historical model when talking about art and artists, we enter the world of individuals who create for any number of reasons. Embracing difference may lead to a normalising of culture and challenge galleries and museums to discover the hidden creators and overlooked artists living in their communities.

 In 2006 Marc Steene established the award winning Outside In, a project which provides a platform for artists who find it difficult to access the art world, whether due to health issues, disability, social circumstance or because their work does not conform to what is normally considered as art.


John Irving (Trinity Laban)

Pondering the W, e, and F of Authenticity in Performance - can HIP help?

Julian Dodd’s ‘Performing Works of Music Authentically’ (European Journal of Philosophy, 2012) has offered a helpful recent contextualization of what it might mean to perform works of music authentically. While Dodd’s account is not specifically directed at Historically Informed Performances, which have in the past been associated with attempts at performance ‘authenticity’, its terms of reference provide much food for thought for those working in the HIP world.

The paper is ‘work in progress’ towards a chapter jointly authored by John Irving and Julian Dodd in the forthcoming Oxford History of Music and Philosophy. My contribution aims to nuance one of Dodd’s terms (‘score compliance authenticity’) through an engagement with an HIP approach to solo and chamber works by Bach, Haydn and Beethoven.​


Nicola Conibere (Coventry University)

Attention, Vulnerability and Being-for-Others: Spectatorial Relations in Choreographic Practice

The question of how some bodies appear to others, and how those bodies collectively relate with each other, is central to choreography and to concerns of the state. When the role of theatre spectatorship is discussed in political discourse, it typically invokes the binary of the passive versus the active; the passive is dismissed as socially worthless and the active as invigorating community. In this presentation, Nicola will share the findings of her doctoral research into more expansive experiences of spectatorship, in an attempt to articulate in what ways bodies relate beyond the representational operations that underlie these terms. Her approach in this research was to use choreographic practice to create particular conditions of appearance and relation, as discussion and experience of spectatorial exchange. It exists in a context of artists’ and scholars’ interest in the politics of theatre’s operations of appearance, and in choreography’s relational productivity. It asks why, given the spectatorial relations fundamental to everyday life, we repeatedly go to performances.

Nicola will address her theatre and gallery based choreographic works Count Two, Practice and Assembly, which discuss spectatorial relations through performance strategies exploring theatricality, recognition and the impulse to gather. These pieces provided an opportunity to explore how relations are experienced, as unstable relations, through our many perceptive capacities. They offer different qualities of opportunity to attend to our many grades of attention. Ultimately, choreography asserts itself as the production of situations of generative relating, through spectatorial experiences of choreography as a ‘being-for-others’.


Björn Heile (University of Glasgow)

‘Un pezzo … di una grandissima serietà e con una grandissima emozione … e con elementi totalmente bruti’: aesthetic and socio-political considerations and the failure of their integration in Mauricio Kagel’s work post-1968

Scholarship on new music is still characterised by advocacy: works are commonly explained in accordance with their composers’ stated intentions and their own theories; analysis is reduced to composition in reverse whereby the composer’s creative process is retraced and so forth. The result is a public debate on music whereby scholars appear as little more than spokespersons for composers and their works and where serious research is hard to distinguish from PR. It is my belief that, as in most comparable fields, musicology has to develop its own methods and theories, independent of the composers and repertoires discussed and that scholars have to retain a critical distance from their subjects. The result would be a more intellectually stimulating discourse on new music which would ultimately benefit composers too.

My discussion focuses on certain of Mauricio Kagel’s works from the late 1960s and early 70s. As I argue, these works often thematise failure, while at the same time, they themselves represent failure. They are characterised by the tension between aesthetic considerations and socio-political if not downright pedagogic intentions that had been a latent feature of Kagel’s oeuvre for some time but that came to the surface in the wake of the events of 1968. Although this tension was often productive and led to interesting results, Kagel proved ultimately unable to reconcile the conflicting imperatives inherent in his praxis. This failure led him to largely abandon socio-political ideals and withdraw into the comfort zone of pure art in the course of the 1970s.


David Kirsh (University of California, San Diego)

How Interactivity and Chance Improve Creativity

The idea explored in this talk is that chance and interactivity are powerful stimulations of creativity.  Interactivity stimulates creativity by helping people to see new things, or see things in new ways, and that in turn helps them to think up new thoughts based on those new seeings or feelings.  Chance stimulates creativity because it offers things that are not obvious. Ideation wants diversity - departure from tradition. Artists, scientists, designers and businesses often rely on techniques that incorporate chance. To explore these two ideas we look at the creative process in architecture, choreography and word discovery.

First, the simplest case where chance helps: in a basic word discovery task resembling scrabble we examined the value of chance by giving subjects a string of 7 letters and asking them to call out all the words they can think of. They performed in three conditions: static - letters are fixed, interactive - letters can be moved, and shuffle – hitting spacebar randomly reorders the letters. Subjects scored best in Shuffle condition suggesting that adding randomness can lead subjects to new ideas better than their own basic interaction, though the interactive condition too was better than just looking at the scrabble tiles (Static condition).

In the second case the focus is on seeing things in new ways. We observe seventeen architects and novice students as they work on a contrived task involving a set of blocks they are to use to design their dream house. Although the   blocks   seem   simple   they   are   filled   with   perceptual surprises. Manipulation led to seeing new things and these new seeings in turn led to thinking up new structural forms.  This is a case where interactivity opens up things to see, teaching us something about the endless richness of vision and other perceptual systems.

Finally, in choreography we observe both interactivity and chance at play.  We discuss a recent method used by Wayne McGregor working with his company Random Dance.  It involved presenting subjects with a large monitor with an interesting moving object.  This is a new task in a long line of tasks McGregor uses that involve a random component in the environment.  In each case the dancers look for interesting attributes in the objects and react to it.  This process helps them move beyond what they have done before

The element common to all these creative methods is that changes to the local environment lead subjects to notice aspects of a scene in new and provocative ways.  People probe and poke at the world; this helps them see things they never thought worth considering.  Sometimes this stimulates thought, sometimes, when manipulation is just right, it is actually a part of the thinking process.


J.P.E. Harper Scott (Royal Holloway)

Heroism, Truth, and Other Bad Words

Beethoven's heroic style has been the target of vigorous deconstruction and critique in the last few decades, particularly from feminist and anti-elitist perspectives. At the same time, Beethoven's position at the centre of the canon of Western art music since 1800 has encouraged criticism of a music history based on the canonic masterworks of the Austro-German tradition. Drawing on Alain Badiou's theory of history as a series of subjective responses to a truth Event, this paper will argue for a return to Beethoven's heroic style through the prism of an examination of developments in historiography and musicology of the modern period. Such a return can not only reveal the neoliberal underpinning of important strands in recent musicological appropriations of Beethoven, but can also reawaken an intellectual pursuit of the artistic witness to the claims to emancipation which have shaped the political, economic, and cultural landscape of modernity.

J. P. E. Harper-Scott is Professor of Music History and Theory at Royal Holloway, University of London. His work has centred broadly on analytical and philosophical interpretations of musical modernism. His most recent book, The Quilting Points of Musical Modernism (Cambridge, 2012), is at the same time a critique of existing historiographical and theoretical understandings of modernism and a proposal for an explicitly politicized new conception which draws on the leftist philosophy of Alain Badiou. He is currently working both on a monograph on Britten and on a history of music since 1789.


Seminars are free and open to external visitors who are requested to book their place by emailing the Research Administrator, Angela Kerkhoff,


Please contact the Research Administrator if you have any queries:


Find information on staff/student showcase events in the PARALLAX series here
Find information on Research Professional Development events here


Banner image: Artist Jaimie Henthorn, Photographer Rachel Cherry


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