The 2020-21 seminar series will be presented online. Find event dates, speakers and presentation details below.
10 Feb 2021
Liveness in a Pandemic
This essay will begin with a brief critical exposition of the theory of “liveness” given by Philip Auslander. Of note is the way that Auslander considers the categories of “live” and “recorded” as not oppositional , but co-dependent and symbiotically related. This relation has formed a type of historical dialectic that has evolved following various types of societal and technological change. Having said this, Auslander’s text arguably needs updating into the era of the internet and performance streaming, and also of course in relation to the more contemporaneous situation of the Covid-19 pandemic. Auslander’s ideas and methodologies are insufficient for the present moment, something which the chapter will aim to partly rectify.
Accordingly, I will argue that Auslander’s historical dialectic is currently undergoing and important new mutation, and I will explain this in a twofold sense, which involves both ontological and epistemological re-evaluations of the concept of “liveness” itself. On the former, I will interrogate what, in relation to a number of recent examples of pandemic and lockdown performances, constitutes the essence of “live” in 2020, especially regarding the proliferation of live-streamed events that are billed as “live” even if they have no audiences. These examples will include lockdown performances by Marina Abramović, Eugenio Ampudia, Anoushka Shankar, and Wayne McGregor. Using a phenomenological methodology that I have used in other recent work, I will examine how the concept of “co-presence’, which comes to us from Husserl, can be used to classify these various iterations of what we might call the new “Pandemic Live”. This concept is important in relation both to the perception of objects and also to the direct social perception of embodied others, and forms in addition a foundation for studying the related phenomena of intersubjectivity and intercorporeality (Merleau-Ponty). It will be argued that lockdown performances involve quite different manifestations of these phenomena than more traditional models of performance. On the epistemological level, I also argue that we need now to interrogate how the difference between “live” and “not-live” is importantly connected with the question of how certain beliefs about liveness arise, and how these affect the nature of the experience we have of certain lockdown performances.
17 Feb 2021
Emma Redding and Liliana S Araújo
The motivational and emotional impact of Covid-19 pandemic: Students and teachers’ experiences in music and dance training.
A cross-faculty research team of staff and students at Trinity Laban investigated the psychological impact of virtual learning and teaching on higher education experience within the performing arts as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. In this seminar we will provide an overview of key findings and possible avenues for action in HE performing arts contexts.
17 Mar 2021
Sam Hayden and Mieko Kanno (Sibelius Academy University of the Arts Helsinki)
Nexus: Live Notation as a Hybrid Composition and Performance Tool
The NEXUS live notation system, the latest product of the Hayden (composer/programming) and Kanno (solo violin) collaboration, contrasts with their previous projects which utilised live Digital Signal Processing and sound synthesis. As with previous Hayden-Kanno projects, the main goal is the real-time generation of a musical work during the performance, which is fluid and spontaneous, both in its global form and specifics of detail, yet maintains a sonic consistency and coherence, in this case existing in the symbolic domain as music notation. This presentation will outline the main functions of the Max-based system, how Guido Music Notation code is generated for rendering as Common Practice Notation during the performance. We will also discuss the performer’s Graphical User Interface which constrains the stochastic processes underlying the generation of specific musical parameters, general textual characteristics, and global formal shaping. The implications of performer reading and interpretation for system design are also explored. The challenge was to formalise Hayden’s compositional procedures so that the generated notations retain enough musical identity and interest, whilst leaving space for Kanno’s interpretative decisions and being technically simple enough to be sight-readable. The presentation will include a practical demonstration of the system and discuss some directions for future development.
24 Mar 2021
(Re)Conceptualising Western Art Music Performance Practices as “Acts of Play”
Music is played, but whilst the terminology of ‘play’ is used there is evidence that much conservatoire studio teaching in music is far from playful, but is instead rooted in behaviourist traditions of subject-centred transfer pedagogies (Burwell, 2012; Carey et al., 2013; Daniel & Parkes, 2017, 2019; Garnett, 2013; Gaunt, 2008, 2011; Nerland, 2007; Simones, 2017). This paper looks at professional music-making practices through the lens of play theory in order to help inform higher music education studio teaching and studio teacher education.
There is a substantial literature base on music play in early-years, playground, improvisation and digital contexts, but despite the ‘performative turn‘ (Cook, 2013) in musicology refocussing the academy’s attention on acts of music-making, there has not been significant investigation of the relationships mainstream western art music practices have with play. In the play literature, music is often mentioned as one of many related cultural behaviours, but with little attention to the specific properties, forms and roles of music play.
The study is based on semi-structured interviews of internationally-recognised virtuoso soloists, and autoethnographic narratives of the presenter, an experienced orchestral musician. It explores the characteristics, affordances and inhibitors of a playful musicianship and provides evidence of the ways in which professional music-making can be (re)conceptualised not just as playful, but as ‘acts of play’. Inspired by the evidence of culture as the societal manifestation of the play instinct (Caillois, 1961; Henricks, 2015; Huizinga, 2016; Sutton-smith, 2001; van Oers, 2012), this is an ontological re-examination of how an enactive, embodied musical cognition (Matyja & Schiavio, 2013; van der Schyff, 2015; van der Schyff, Schiavio, & Elliott, 2016) can be conceptualised as part of the spectrum of adult play behaviours, and how higher music education might best support studio teachers to develop pedagogies of play.
21 Apr 2021
“The Display of the Living” Recitative in Syllable
“So it happens, therefore in the world of matter . . . solid things, that every element says something. But one must perhaps make an exception for carbon, as it says—because carbon says—everything to everyone. It is not specific, in the way—in the same way—that Adam is not specific to anyone, uniquely as an ancestor.”
― Primo Levi
In January 2022, in partnership with Decipherer Arts Projects, Trinity Laban will premiere Syllable—an operatic sonic theatre work. The project is a collaboration between TL’s Opera Studies and a team of professional industry artists: a rich vocabulary of shifting projections from Akhila Krishnan (59 Productions/ENO/Met Opera), set within an evocative world by designer Molly Einchcomb (National Theatre/Bristol Old Vic) with direction from Joseph Alford (Theatre O/Royal Danish Opera Academy/Bolshoi Theatre/Festival d’Aix en Provence). Syllable’s aural design will be delivered by David Sheppard (Sound Intermedia), with integrated layering between recorded narration and vocal soloists.
In place of a more-conventional recitative storytelling, the experimental performance collective Bastard Assignments, tell the drama as recorded commentary. The opera is therefore conveyed by an interaction between prerecorded voiceover and stage characters who appear again and again. This combination of main and marginal action—the conversation between foreground and background—is fixed throughout the opera’s music, its movement, through its projection approach and through the shifting set design.
This ‘in development’ presentation will focus on the conversation aspect of Syllable, where the sense of aural layering (underscoring and prompts) and character behaviour, pleasantly obscures what is substantial and what is trivial.
28 Apr 2021
Tomas Challenger (Trinity Laban PhD candidate)
‘Dynamic Notations in an Improvised Practice’
This talk and performance/demonstration will focus on an area of my research that concerns itself with developing notation for the preparation I do as an improviser. The notations explore ideas that reconfigure various qualities of parts that contribute to my practice. Here I will focus upon the instrumental surface that I use: The Saxophone.
I embarked upon my research with a simple outlook that focussed upon the location of approaches that might unearth new sonic and methodological detail in order to further my work as an improviser. Since then, I have developed a number of works that explore ideas of improvised and structured curatorship alongside instrumental de-coupling.
By creating notations that are primarily for myself and for preparation, I have highlighted various configurations that provide a lens upon the links between actors within my practice, for example the relations between composition/improvisation, instrument/body and preparation/performance. As a ‘fuzziness’ between their distinctions begin to emerge in activity, I have used Tim Ingold’s notions of ‘correspondence’ to help develop further awareness of these ongoing relationships. As a result, I will expand upon the emergence of a separate actor, ‘The Carrier’ that is not reducible to either notation, instrument or improvisation. Instead, it concerns itself as an agent of the in-between, picking up parts of the practice that result from its particular situatedness.
Today, I will discuss how my work ’T-R’ (2020) which re-configures the instrumental surface, acts as a ‘dynamic’ notated surface, where its visual ‘determinations’ are also actively re-configured whilst being at play with other actors in the en-acted assemblage. Various aspects of its notation encourage myself, as an improviser, to place my physical self upon the instrumental surface in a way that approximates different levels of breaking (or dis-repair), where the saxophone is configured in a way that has not been traditionally approached. As such, by attempting various reflexive actions, the material agency of the instrument is foregrounded, in sympathy with my physicality and environment.
By providing an introduction to the work I do as a solo improviser, I will show how my work encourages the creative investigation of the space that is placed between ‘the known‘ and the ‘un-known’. Crucially, I am not proposing a departure from the methodologies and cultures that help define improvising traditions, especially Jazz. Rather I make the case for what is an ultimately additive approach to an improvised practice, focused upon the maintenance of (an albeit ‘leaky’) reservoir of knowledge.
5 May 2021
Cashing In or Selling Out?: Musings on a commercial art project
Being highly paid to create art might be the goal for any composer, but it is an elite few who reap substantial financial rewards while retaining artistic control. Anecdotal evidence, supported by a 2015 Sound and Music survey, suggests that the majority of UK composers who call themselves artists, actually earn a small percentage of their income, if anything at all, from their art. Commercial music is another matter: the primary difference being that success is measured in part by financial gain, and artistic quality is ultimately defined by the commissioner.
This seminar is a report on a project that I undertook for an advertising agency on behalf of a large company (who cannot currently be named!). I was invited to take part specifically because of my interests in esoteric sound and visual relationships and non-linear programming software, but had to find a way to create something that would appeal to a group who appreciate innovation only if it produces familiar results. I invited composer John Lely to join me in the process and will present a piece of interactive software that we designed to fulfil the commission.
As someone who has limited experience of commercial composition, this work has led me to re-evaluate some youthful ideologies and question the nature of artistic satisfaction as well as the issue of dissemination of practice as research.
9 Jun 2021
Contractions, Cries, and COVID:
The Traumatic Soundscapes of Lockdown UK Hospital Maternity Wards
Modern delivery and maternity wards present numerous human and technological sounds, but the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent global lockdown of hospitals in 2020 has variegated these soundscapes. While beeps and blips of medical equipment – and certainly, the cries of babies – remain, patients and staff have largely been silenced. The barrier of face masks stifles – both literally and figuratively – personal exchange, and the anticipated joyful conversations of visiting family and friends have been absent as mothers and babies spent their first days together alone, alienated.
This paper explores how new mothers during the time of COVID have harnessed technology to mitigate and re-exert control over the traumatic soundscapes of lockdown delivery and maternity. Music streaming, messaging, and video calls have helped to ameliorate the traumas of labour and/or surgery and the experience of forced separation from family and friends, as well as to silence pervasive medical technologies and the sounds of distress of other patients in situations of shared wards. I draw upon my own experience of giving birth in a London hospital in June 2020, and after developing preeclampsia, the subsequent week of feeling imprisoned within a maternity ward’s soundscape. In addition to drawing upon my observations of fellow patients, I consider accounts of lockdown maternity and birth shared on social media (from Instagram to #butnotmaternity on Twitter), and the healing communities that have been built online. I frame such testimonies using pain theory by Elaine Scarry and Joanna Bourke, and trauma theory by Judith Herman. Hospital sounds and patients’ use of sound technologies will then be further discussed in relation to Steven Goodman’s theory of sonic assault, and Marie Thompson’s concept of “reproductive sound technologies.” The use of and manipulation of sound technologies in these shared wards, I contend, corresponds to Deleuze’s observation of a shift from a form-imposing to a self-regulating mode of power, which he terms as shift from “molding” to “modulation.”
In addition to establishing intersections of trauma and soundscapes of lockdown delivery and maternity wards, this paper proposes new ways for understanding how women’s birth experiences have been silenced – not only through a silencing imposed by COVID restrictions, but also through the ways that women, even in shared spaces, can silence each other.
23 Jun 2021
‘Provoked City’- A commission from Crash Ensemble to the Covid 19 Pandemic
Crash Ensemble approached me halfway through the first lockdown to commission a duo as part of their ‘Reactions Series’, which was filmed in November 2020 during the period of second lockdown. ‘Provoked City’, for cello and double bass explores the nature of composing during this strained period in all our lives. In my presentation I will delve into the diaries, the sound collections, visual art and poetry that I created, which inspired this cathartic work.
The Research Seminar with Frances Clarke, originally scheduled for this series, will now take place next year, in 2021-22.
Wed 15 Jan 2020
17.15-18.15, Lecture Theatre, Laban Building
Collective entanglements: An exploration of collective effort in the dance technique class
In the dance technique class learners influence each other. Consequently, learning can be conceived socially as both an individual and collective process. In this paper the teacher/researcher exploresthe significance of peers in the studio-based process and how, through body interaction, ways of being with fellow learners builds learning communities. Collective effort (hooks 1994) is discussed as the means through which learning is stimulated by the contribution of all participants. The teacher/researcher expands on the deliberate ways in which collective effort has been privileged in the classroom through attentive-peer-observation of materials-in-common. Time spent at the side, not dancing, when students are dancing the materials in groups afford opportunities for learning through attentive peer observation. As such self-directed and inquiry-oriented learning is enabled through shared exploration of materials in particular and distinctive ways.
Learning collectively is to engage in acts of recognition of one’s peers that can expand, provoke and inspire embodied knowing. This can redefine the power hierarchies that may exist in the dance technique class. Through the utilisation of attentive peer observation, the learner might become aware of the reciprocity involved in seeing and being seen by peers. The discussion develops by considering the influence of behaviours by peers that are not perceived as contributing to collective effort. Disengagement is reflected upon as agential dissent.
Weaving through this pedagogical exploration are ideas about social interaction as interrelated threads of lives lived along lines (Tim Ingold 2011). As students learn together, they knot and tangle and enmesh. It is suggested here that through the torques and tension of threads as they pull away from each other that the vitality of the meshwork is realised. It is this vitality that is generated through the entwined influence of peers in the dance technique class.
Wed 4 Mar 2020
17.15-18.45, Café Meeting Room, Laban Building
East, Drink, Listen
The artistic juxtaposition of food and music goes back to the Futurists and probably earlier but in recent years it’s become common, if not fashionable, to create concerts with food or fine dining with accompanying sound. There is an increasing body of neuroscience that looks at this relationship which throws up complex creative and ethical issues. This session will include some bold tastes, demanding sounds and will blur the line between a research talk and the drinks event afterwards.
Participants will need to sign up in advance so the correct amount of examples can be prepared. It should be noted that dietary requirements cannot be catered for but participation without tasting is welcomed. Email email@example.com to book your place.
Dominic Murcott is an award-winning composer, educator and percussionist with a long standing interest in the culinary arts. In 2019 he presented The Ultimate Taste Test at the British Library with celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal.
Wed 6 Nov 2019
17.15-18.15, Lecture Theatre, Laban Building
Virtuoso Soloists’ views of Higher Music Education
Conservatoire curricula are contested spaces, where competing narratives of artistic success, professional skills, entrepreneurialism and creativity meet, in institutions criticised for celebrating performance rather than learning. This research project (in partnership with Dr David Baker from the UCL IOE) sought the views of renowned virtuoso soloists working with the resident orchestra in the 2018 season of a major international music festival in order to reveal their own experiences of higher music education, and their views of how conservatoires could better prepare students to become professional soloists. Whilst higher education was highly valued in general, and some aspects of a conservatoire training were considered invaluable, a number of recommendations were made, some of which contradict prevailing discourses in Western Art Music education.
Wed 4 Dec 2019
17.15-18.15, Lecture Theatre, Laban Building
Ann van Allen Russell
Cultural Economics and Music Business: The Bach-Abel Subscription Concerts, 1773-1775
The production and consumption of culture has been a central theme for researchers of the long eighteenth century (including Simon McVeigh, John Brewer, Robert D. Hume, and Susan Staves). However, a facet of historical music business practices in eighteenth-century Britain that receives limited attention is that of subscription concerts. Neglect of this area is not altogether surprising; there is a lack of extant accounts and other documentation associated with the running cost of subscription concerts. Account books held at the Royal Bank of Scotland Archives in Edinburgh associated with a ‘Subscription for a concert under the direction of Messrs Bach and Abel’, however, provide a rare opportunity to look inside the books of one of the most prestigious, and significant musical business ventures in late eighteenth-century London: the concert series run by two of its most formidable musicians, Johann Christian Bach and Carl Fredrick Abel.
This paper draws on new thinking put forward by Hume on the buying power of money and the employment of spread-figure (‘a basket of goods’) multipliers to convey more realistic approximations of value. Hume’s work applies this methodology to books, collections of plays, and chapbooks; I have extended this in a new direction to concerts, and with the existence of the Bach-Abel account books there is an exciting opportunity to apply and test this methodology with one of the most popular concert series of the era. This paper argues that these underexplored financial documents in tandem with Hume’s spread-figure multipliers provide a new and significant perspective and understanding of the economic realities of cultural production and consumption in eighteenth-century musical life, revealing that there were prominent musical entrepreneurs catering to the 1%.
Parallax is the Trinity Laban staff and Creative Practice research student showcase series.
Spring 2021 – Parallax 15 – Performance in a Pandemic
Fri 28 May 2021, 11.00-17.30
Curated by Prof Jonathan Owen Clark, Maya-Leigh Rosenwasser and Irene Fiordilino
A one-day online Research Symposium to collectively discuss and reflect upon the profound impact that the unusual circumstances of the past twelve months have had on artistic practice and research.
Download the programme pdf.
Please contact the Research Administrator, Angela Kerkhoff, with any questions.
Parallax 14 – Craft and Art Symposium
Wed 12 February 2020, 09.30 – 17.00
Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance
A one-day symposium curated by
Zoi Dimitriou and Jonathan Owen Clark
What is the relation between craft and the performing arts? What are the socio-political connotations these relations hold today and how do these challenge, redirect and nourish artistic, curatorial, pedagogical and social practices?
Craftmanship as an intimate working with materials and their transformation has recently been drawing attention in both the artistic and academic milieu. Notions of repetition, persistence, resistance, foresight and ‘following the materials’ are but some of our anchoring focal points. One line of theoretical inquiry can be traced through the work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, who suggest that to ‘follow the materials’ is to think from the materials – to find ‘the consciousness or thought of the matter-flow’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2004:454). Another way of approaching the subject is through Tim Ingold’s anthropological analysis of the embodied processes of enskillment that join both art and craft-making.
Practices of craftmanship have close links to the daily practices of the dancer, musician and artist. How can we discuss these processes from the viewpoint that even the smallest of ‘gestures’ (actions) can produce things, affects and change that encompass the potentiality for domain shifts and moving us through/across borders?
Download the full programme (pdf).
Please book your place by emailing the Research Administrator Angela Kerkhoff.
Parallax 13 – Melting, Shifting, Liquid World
16 Mar 2019, 17.30, 19.30, 21.30, National Maritime Museum, Romney Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NF
With the Trinity Laban String Ensemble
Composer Hollie Harding
Director/ Electric Viola Nic Pendlebury
The world premiere performances of Melting, Shifting, Liquid World on the iconic Great Map at the National Maritime Museum. This is a new immersive, site-specific piece written by composer Hollie Harding (PhD candidate Creative Practice, Music) for Trinity Laban String Ensemble and electric viola soloist Nic Pendlebury. The work explores themes of climate change and ocean pollution and includes a pre-recorded tape part delivered to the audience over bone-conduction open-ear headphones. Hear the composer talk about her work.
Parallax 12 – Moving as a thought process: studio development and creative encounters
Wed 21 Nov 2018, 17.15-18.15, Lecture Theatre, Laban Building
Through investigative practice involving stillness processes and relational moving, this artistic research, conducted by Naomi Lefebvre Sell, Tara Silverthorn and Lucille Teppa over an eleven year period, has fostered a methodology where a refinement of the “felt sense” (Gendlin, 2003) was embodied, articulated and documented. This has taken place through the writing and moving of scores, or ‘Pathways’; compositions of improvisational agreements/frameworks, designed collectively. All this has provided a framework for the consideration and examination of dance-making from a mindfulness perspective.
Naomi, Tara and Lucille will present a new film,developed in collaboration with Jason Brooks, which captures this work. The film exposes the research at a point in time, as well as reveals some of their engagement with various groups (Cando2, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Centre for Advanced Training). The presenters will share some of their current concerns, inviting questions and dialogue surrounding their practice.
Dr Naomi Lefebvre Sell, Tara Silverthorn and Lucille Teppa
Chair and mentor of the project:
Prof Sarah Whatley, Professor of Dance and Director: Centre for Dance Research (C-DaRE), Coventry University
Free and open to the public. External visitors who would like to attend are requested to book their place in advance by contacting the Research Administrator, Angela Kerkhoff.