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Find details of our previous Research Seminar Series below.

For Trinity Laban staff and students, most seminars are recorded and available to view on estream.


6 Nov 2019
Tim Palmer

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.

4 Dec 2019
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%.

15 Jan 2020
Jamieson Dryburgh

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.

4 Mar 2020
Dominic Murcott

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 a.kerkhoff@trinitylaban.ac.uk  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.


7 Nov 2019
Rebecca Stancliffe (Trinity Laban)
Video annotation as an analytic practice

In the past few decades, film and video have become the go-to method of documenting contemporary movement practices. Affordable and easy to use, these technologies capture instant records of dance. Despite their ubiquity, however, video records have not removed the need, or desire, to conduct and in-depth analysis of dance.

Since the late 1990s, a handful of researchers and artists have been exploring how artists’ practices can be articulated transmitted using video annotation. Annotation augments the visual data captured in video to draw out important details of dance and movement knowledge. Recent multi-media publications such as Improvisational Technologies (Forsythe et al.1999), Double Skin/ Double Mind (EG|PC 2004) Material for the Spine (Paxton and Contredanse 2008), Synchronous Objects for One Flat Thing, reproduced (Forsythe and OSU 2009), and the Motion Bank scores (2013) use this method with the hope of attracting a broad readership for dance. Using examples from a selection of these multi-media publications, this seminar introduces annotation as a method of analysis that offers the possibility to challenge what is seen, analysed, interpreted and understood about dance.

28 Nov 2018
Jonathan Owen Clark (Trinity Laban) and Louise H Jackson (Trinity Laban)
Aesthetic Education and the Phenomenology of Learning

This talk is based on a chapter in the forthcoming edited volume Educational Futures and Fractures: Time and Space in the Neoliberal University (Eds. Breeze, Costa and Taylor). Here we problematise the current limitations of temporal consciousness in contemporary UK-based higher education that has manifested in an accelerated neoliberal present. This is firstly achieved through a phenomenological and pragmatist reading of meaning-formation, learning and temporal consciousness. Further to this, we adopt critical approaches from aesthetic theory and arts reception, and connect these to the positing of a suitable ‘aesthetic education’ that exposes and makes visible neoliberal narratives that are temporally and pedagogically suppressive, thereby linking the phenomenological with the political. We end by examining polylogical pedagogies, particularly in the arts, that are fundamental to ways of resisting and fracturing the foreclosure of potentiality in both learners and educators.

16 Jan 2019
Dominic Murcott
How Long is a Piece of Music? Inventing The Harmonic Canon

The Harmonic Canon is a 42 minute work for a 1/2 tonne double bell plus an array of obscure metal percussion played by two percussionists. It’s becoming quite successful having already had a premiere at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival with a release on the nonclassical label and a tour coming up at Easter 2019. It appears to be engaging non-musicians as well as experimental music lovers and recently won a British Composer Award in the Solo or Duo category, beating 66 other entrants. This seminar explores the construction of the piece, considering the continual dialogue between artistic ambition and practical considerations. In particular, it will discuss questions of musical structure and the passing of time, and as a result engage both musicians and dancers alike.

6 Feb 2019
Sam Hayden (Trinity Laban)
Pre-compositional strategies and computer-mediated notation in the recent music of Sam Hayden

My recent acoustic instrumental works have all involved different solutions to the same broad initial compositional problem of how to enable the proliferation of diverse surface materials whilst maintaining an underlying formal coherence, through computer-assisted composition techniques created using OpenMusic. This presentation will discuss such techniques inherent in my pre-compositional strategies, focusing on recent works such as those written for Christopher Redgate and Cikada, ELISION, Quatuor Diotima and Ensemble MusikFabrik. I will also discuss my collaboration with Mieko Kanno investigating the real-time algorithmic generation of notation.

1 May 2019
Becka McFadden (Trinity Laban)
& Mary Ann Hushlak
Dancing Between Memory and Built Space in Movement/Architecture

This practice-led talk will discuss the genesis and development of Beautiful Confusion Collective’s interdisciplinary and site-responsive project Movement/Architecture. Comprising both improvisational and choreographic strands, as well as accompanying sound, photography and video elements, Movement/Architecture emerged from Becka McFadden’s tenure as an artist-in-residence at Hornsey Town Hall Arts Centre (2015-2017). In the context of the building’s pending redevelopment, Movement/Architecture was first conceived as an embodied practice for storing, mapping and (later) evoking spaces with uncertain futures due to gentrification or dereliction. With examples from three years of working on the project across numerous sites, McFadden and Movement/Architecture’s dramaturg Mary Ann Hushlak will discuss the project’s dialogue with architectural theory, including works by Juhani Pallasmaa and Sam Jacob, as well as the emergence of a methodology informed by these perspectives, choreological practice and Ann Bogart’s and Tina Landau’s Viewpoints.

Movement/Architecture’s initial period of research and development was supported by Arts Council England. The project has worked with Gočár Staircase at Open Air Program 2018 (Hradec Králové, Czech Republic) and University of London’s Senate House for the 2018 Being Human Festival (with support from University of London’s Leading Women programme). Work undertaken in Prague Creative Centre, a repurposed complex of Renaissance buildings adjoining Old Town Square, will be programmed as part of the 2019 Prague Quaddrennial.


1 Nov 2017
Dr Liliana Araújo (Trinity Laban) and Prof. Emma Redding (Trinity Laban)

Musicians’ health and wellbeing: a consequence or an enhancer of music making?

Performers’ health and wellbeing is often considered in relation to performance-related problems or injuries and as a lateral issue in the education and training of performers. Empirical and experiential evidence points to high prevalence of physical (e.g. musculoskeletal injury and pain) and psychological (e.g. anxiety and depression) problems among musicians. However, how equipped musicians are to tackle these challenges is yet to be fully investigated. This presentation will focus on recent findings on musicians’ health and wellbeing from Musical Impact, a Conservatoires UK study on musicians’ mental and physical fitness to perform. In particular, we will report on 1) the physical and mental demands of music making, and on 2) current levels of wellbeing, perceived health, and health-promoting behaviours of higher education music students. Supported by this recent evidence, we will discuss the value of health and wellbeing has an enhancer of performance, and the need for whole-systems and shared responsibility approaches to increase health literacy in the conservatoire sector.

29 Nov 2017
Dr Michelle Meinhart (Trinity Laban)

Music, Community, and Healing in the English Country House During the First World War

During the First World War, many stately homes were converted into hospitals to treat British and dominion soldiers. At the forefront of activities in which soldiers engaged to occupy time, boost morale, and foster healing while convalescing was music. While soldiers—English and dominion alike—were certainly accustomed to singing and listening to musical performances at the front, the raucous musical and social worlds they brought with them was new to the formerly-elite space of the Edwardian country house.

Previewing Dr Meinhart’s monograph-in-progress of the same title, this seminar will showcase music’s role in recasting these stately homes as centres of community building and healing for soldiers and civilians. Drawing on country house sheet music collections, soldiers’ and civilians’ life writing, and hospital gazettes, it will focus on two houses in Wiltshire, Stourhead and Longleat to highlight the collision of these musical and social worlds of the trench and country house. It will demonstrate music’s seminal role in the formation of new transnational and trans-class communities of British and dominion Tommies, hospital staff, and family members (particularly ladies of the houses)—networks that not only disrupted the elite pre-war musical world of the Edwardian parlour, but also that complicated former boundaries of class, gender, and empire. Finally, music’s role in the remembrance of wartime caregiving and healing experiences in these spaces will also be addressed.

17 Jan 2018
Prof. Jonathan Owen Clark (Trinity Laban)

Digital Art and Historicity

This seminar will embark with a discussion of recent attempts to create art based on machine-learning, big data and informatics. In developing an ethical critique of such projects, the focus will on those mechanisms of the production and reception of art that are resistant to automation, which leads to a discussion of artworks considered not merely as aesthetic objects, but as historical objects as well.

21 Feb 2018
Dr Patricia Holmes and Janet Munro (Trinity Laban)

Investigating Awareness and Incidence of Acid Reflux among UK Conservatoire Student Singers

There is mounting evidence that a relatively high incidence of Acid Reflux occurs among conservatoire singers, compared with other student musicians. This is of some concern, since the tissues of the larynx and oesophagus are not equipped to deal with stomach acids and the damage resulting from chronic reflux can cause ongoing problems, which manifest as serious vocal, and other long term health issues. Based on the literature, we hypothesized that performer lifestyle and possibly technical strategies and practice may be contributory factors. Through a qualitative, semi-structured interview format we examined student awareness of the symptoms, and possible long-term effects of severe and/or chronic reflux, and sought to identify possible indicators of susceptibility, together with exploring students’ perceptions of their own anxiety levels.

Data from the interview study revealed that both lifestyle choices and breath management strategies appear to be contributory factors in causing higher than average levels of reflux. All participants recognized the significance of diet as a causative factor and the two with highest reflux scores reported suffering from stress and anxiety. All knew that reflux is a significant issue for singers, but none understood the full implications of the symptoms and how these might affect the singing voice.

We highlighted a general lack of awareness of the significance of symptoms of reflux, including correlations between stress and reflux, breath management strategies and reflux and poor lifestyle choices, including diet and sleep patterns. Anxiety also may encourage upper chest breathing, whereas lower abdominal breathing appears to mitigate against symptoms of reflux. We hope that through further similar research these findings might inform more enlightened training methods.

This study formed part of the recent UK Conservatoires Musical Impact Project.

2 May 2018
Prof. Gwyn Pritchard (Trinity Laban)

‘Lost in the Forest’: Pathways in the Creation of an Orchestral work

‘Forest’, Pritchard’s most recent orchestral work, received its premiere in Germany on April 8th. In this seminar the composer will focus on some of the ideas that lay behind its conception, and examine some of the techniques by which its materials were generated. These concerns will, briefly, be placed within the context of two previous orchestral works, and, more broadly, within the wider range of stylistic references that have informed Pritchard’s work over the last 30 years.


9 Nov 2016
Jonathan Owen Clark and Charles Linehan (Trinity Laban)

Shadow Drone Project. Movement, Kinetics, Film

In this joint presentation and film showing, Jonathan Owen Clark and Charles Linehan discuss recent work of the latter that utilities drone technology (including a recent showing at the Brighton Festival 2016). This work raises a number of important issues and concepts that relate the praxis of choreography to visual art, film and more general definitions of what defines the ‘choreographic’ at all. The presentation will touch on three themes:

1. When we talk about choreography today, and in the relation between choreography and screen dance, Linehan’s recent films may provide clues at to a certain direction of travel, namely the extension of the ‘choreographic’ via the deliberate juxtaposition of planned and random elements, to both natural and non-human kinetics;

2. Thus automatically brings into play questions about reception. In addition therefore, what can we say how how such films are experienced and received? Here we will use ideas from affective and embodied cognition, and from film and visual arts theory; what can these films say about these same theoretical approaches to contemporary art, especially digital or internet-based art?

3. The drone technology involved in making these films has obvious connotations with illegality and surveillance, but how are the films examples of perhaps a new type of political art?

23 Nov 2016
David Leahy (Trinity Laban; PhD candidate University of Westminster)

Underscoring a Performance Ecosystem

David’s presentation will focus on Nancy Stark Smith’s Underscore and the Music-based Underscore, which was the product of his MACP project, focusing on how these two practices have come together to shape, not only his PhD study but also, his approach to music and dance collaboration. He will discuss the potential of viewing this work within the context of a ‘Performance ecosystem’, where the traditional divisions of performer, audience member, performance space, etc., are removed to recognize the active part that they all play in the creation of the performative experience. Additionally, he will examine this work as a model of co-existence that is built on the acceptance of difference rather than the need to conform to one set ideology.

11 Jan 2017
Emile Bosejen (University of Winchester)

A Philosophical History of Education: Renaissance to Realpolitik and Beyond

What are the practices available to us in our teaching and in our educational institutions? What are their histories and what kind of pedagogical lexicon do they provide us with? This lecture will attempt to contextualise the variety of ways in which we think about institutional education. It will illustrate how quite often even radical or critical pedagogies share many of the same intellectual histories and resources as those that are more seemingly traditional. In terms of education in England, a line will be traced back to the Sixteenth Century, where the influence of Renaissance Humanism drew together classical and religious educational practices which would set much of the tone and spectrum of educational discourse from then on. This will lead to a sketching out of a range of contemporary phenomena which might be seen as putting an end to the practice-based components of this long standing educational discourse, while suggesting that it lives on as a ‘ghost’ which assists in validating ‘educational’ processes which are otherwise entirely alien to it. It will conclude by asking if a contemporary radical educator far more traditional than they might think? And whether or not there are alternatives to tradition which do not simply give in to our contemporary exigencies?

1 Feb 2017
Guy Harries (Trinity Laban)

Live Electronic Sound as a Performance Discipline

Electronic sound is an integral part of contemporary music across a vast array of genres and fields: dance music, pop, rock and experimental music as well as film music and applied sound design. With its specific modes of production, based on innovation in the field of sound production as well as instrument design, it is clear that electronic music employs unique methodologies that are not present in the traditional vocal-instrumental tradition. The discussion of live electronic music, both in the academic and more public domain, tends to focus on studio production, interactive technologies, composition aesthetics and cultural context. However, the area of actual performance has often been neglected. My research seeks to address this, providing a holistic view of live electronics as a performance practice and exploring the elements of live performance and its dramaturgy: space, the body, audience and narrative.

As well as practice-based research, which includes my live performances and compositions for other performers, I am also investigating the work of other artists and their approach to creating live performance using electronics. I have been interviewing artists since 2013, and have recently launched a website to provide open access to this growing archive. In this seminar I will present the main themes and methodologies that this process has revealed, including examples by artists featured on the website.

15 Feb 2017
Patricia Holmes (Trinity Laban)

Towards a conceptual framework for resilience research in music training and performance: a cross-discipline review

Resilience has become an increasingly ubiquitous term during recent decades, resulting in a prolific and eclectic body of literature. In this paper I explore the potential relevance of the concept of resilience to the lifeworld of the musician. Drawing on conceptions of resilience and critical arguments from fields of study as diverse as social ecology, sociology, psychology, anthropology, sport and political economy, I define resilience in a way that might carry meaning for the musician practitioner. I then attempt to establish to what extent musicians are likely to embody or acquire the characteristics associated with resilience, and to what extent this is actually desirable within an artistic medium. With this caveat in mind I seek to identify risk factors, together with stabilising and destabilising forces that might impact on the musician’s ability to survive adversity. Protective factors are also identified. Following this and in line with current thinking in social theory, I offer some cautions regarding the over-reliance on standard approaches to resilience at the expense of more creative and productive management of adversity and trauma. Finally, with a view to fostering resilience in the individual musician, I suggest approaches that might inform educational practice can reshape it in someway.

1 Mar 2017
Leah Gordon (Independent Artist)

Vodou and Art: a museology between the altar and the market place

Leah Gordon explores the multifarious links between Vodou and art, in both Haiti’s art history and current contemporary practice. Leah will discuss the use of image and artefact within Vodou ritual and the often-interchangeable role of artist and Houngan (Vodou priest). Gordon will explore the liminal space that contemporary artists currently inhabit maintaining their ancestral histories and cultural antecedents, whilst trying to negotiate a contemporary art market which still has a conflicted relationship toward ethnographic and ritual objects.

Gordon will discuss the possibilities and problematics of exhibiting Haitian art from her experience of co-curating ‘Kafou: Haiti, Art & Vodou’ at the Nottingham Contemporary, on the curatorial team for ‘In Extremis’ at the Fowler Museum, UCLA, Los Angeles, as one of the directors of the ‘Ghetto Biennale’ held in Port-au-Prince and as the adjunct curator for the Haitian Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale.

Finally Gordon will talk about her own photographic and film practice, which increasingly attempts to highlight the intervolved economic and political histories of Britain and Haiti and how this links with her curatorial practice.

15 March 2017
Sam Hayden (Trinity Laban)

Complexity versus Clarity in British Orchestral Music

This article discusses how normative perceptions of British contemporary orchestral music can be underpinned by a residual binary of ‘clarity’ versus ‘complexity’ as positive and negative value judgements respectively, informing public discourse around the orchestra by reviewers, audiences and performers alike. A post-war valorisation of ‘clarity’ is traceable to the transparent neo-tonal harmony, melodic invention and approaches to orchestration characteristic of the post-Britten tradition. The adoption of such a valorisation by ‘mainstream’ contemporary British composers, exemplified by Faber Music, has generalised an aesthetically specific compositional approach. Using the examples of Thomas Adès and George Benjamin, the article shows how certain residual normative approaches to material and notation are defined against the tendencies of ‘complexism’ as exemplified by Brian Ferneyhough. This binary has engendered conservatism towards traditions of radical new orchestral music that do not conform to normative expectations of ‘clarity’, as the immediately perceptible separation and identification of musical elements.

03 May 2017
Owen Underhill (Simon Fraser University, Canada)

Collaborations with Music and Dance – A Composer and Artistic Director’s Perspective

Owen will give an overview of his work, focussing on examples of different kinds of collaborations he has been involved with, from the more ‘traditional’ choreographic approaches to more experimental projects.  His experience is extensive, collaborating with ballet and contemporary dance companies, and independent choreographers in Canada.  As a composer he has worked with Ballet BC, the National Ballet, and choreographers such as John Alleyne, Wen Wei Wang, and Henry Daniel, among others.  As the Artistic Director of Turning Point Ensemble, he has regularly mounted new and historical interdisciplinary productions that have involved live music by large ensemble with dance and other media including a rare remount of Satie’s late work ‘Relâche’, and the supervision of multiple collaborations between composers and choreographers.


25 Nov 2015
Vicky Hunter (Chichester); Rachel Sara (UWE); Alice Sara (Trinity Laban)

Book launch and seminar for new Routledge volume on site-specific dance: Moving Sites

Moving Sites explores site-specific dance practice through a combination of analytical essays and practitioner accounts of their working processes. In offering this joint effort of theory and practice, it aims to provide dance academics, students and practitioners with a series of discussions that shed light both on approaches to making this type of dance practice, and evaluating and reflecting on it. The edited volume combines critical thinking from a range of perspectives including commentary and observation from the fields of dance studies, human geography and spatial theory in order to present interdisciplinary discourse and a range of critical and practice-led lenses through which this type of work can be considered and explored. In so doing, this book addresses the following questions:

  • How do choreographers make site-specific dance performance?
  • What occurs when a moving body engages with site, place and environment?
  • How might we interpret, analyse and evaluate this type of dance practice through a range of theoretical lenses?
  • How can this type of practice inform wider discussions of embodiment, site, space, place and environment?

This innovative and exciting book seeks to move beyond description and discussion of site-specific dance as a spectacle or novelty and considers site-dance as a valid and vital form of contemporary dance practice that explores, reflects, disrupts, contests and develops understandings and practices of inhabiting and engaging with a range of sites and environments.

2 Dec 2015
Zoi Dimitriou (Trinity Laban)

The Chapter House

The research seminar will focus around my latest work The Chapter House (2014), an interdisciplinary dance piece with intricate choreography and live video documentation/installation by inventor of the Isadora software and co-director of Troika Ranch, Mark Coniglio.

I intend to use experts from this work to further discuss notions of live documentation in performance through digital media and the body as a living archive and site of discourse open to shifting angles of gaze and interpretation. This presentation will be responding to questions around how documentation can be a source for inspiration and creation of new work and unpick notions of newness and the value of commemorating what is by nature ephemeral.

Workshop: ‘Performing Documents’

Following the research seminar there will be a workshop called ‘Performing Documents’ open to all (you do not have to be a dance practitioner), which will be looking at documentation as practice through a physical exploration. Participants are encouraged to bring cameras, i-phones, notebooks and any other devices that can be used for documentation.

27 Jan 2016
Lizzi Kew Ross (Trinity Laban)

Choreographic practice and the nature of the poetic image

An exploration into the nature of the poetic image and a view of choreographic practice.

This will bring together personal and ‘constellation- like’ examples from a number of art forms, exploring the nature of the ‘poetic’. Drawing from the writings of Berger, Benjamin and Pallasmaa, the films of Tarkovsky and Donnersmarck, the artists Burri, Rothko and Frost, and the poets Brooke and Maxwell, it will explore critical thinking and influences that the poetic image can bring into choreographic research and practice.

2 Mar 2016
Ann van Allen-Russell (Trinity Laban)

‘Labours of the mind’: Bach, Abel and the emergence of musical intellectual property in eighteenth-century England

When legal issues related to music are discussed, scholars generally consider a single legal case and its distinct but localized impact on a specific event or action such as copyright infringement, bankruptcy or theft. Rarely has an array of legal cases been the focus of research in order to explore how those in the music profession, specifically composers and publishers, employed them to reorganize the law to acknowledge intangible works such as music as property and thus gain some form of clearly defined protection under the law.

This seminar explores a set of three lawsuits brought by two of eighteenth-century London’s most well-known composers – Johann Christian Bach and Carl Fredrick Abel. The three suits were filed in quick succession – within a few months to several weeks of each other – against the same publishers, James Longman and Charles Lukey. The two suits filed by J. C. Bach have been the subject of previous work but only as individual cases revealing the struggle to prevent unauthorized publishing and selling of compositions; the Abel suit has never been studied in much detail. When, however, these three suits are considered collectively it raises three deceptively simple questions:

1) Were these two composers attempting to clarify and re-shape English law to grant property status to ‘mental labour’, extending the argument beyond protection of the physical manuscript as a form of property to the very ideas themselves (‘intangible expression’) applying the literary arguments to musical compositions?

2) How did this change happen?

3) Do these suits point to the emergence of the concept of musical intellectual property?

By approaching these lawsuits collectively rather than singly, we can chart the evolution of approach amongst the Bach and Abel Chancery suits in seeking relief from the predation of unscrupulous publishers, from the mere pursuit of compensation to resolving the fundamental legal principle of ownership of both the physical property and the ‘labour of the mind’. By this approach we can consider the intersection of the legal and the musical in a new and different way.

16 Mar 2016
Dominic Murcott (Trinity Laban)

Reliving a Crisis: Cunningham and Nancarrow 1960 and 2015

In 1960 the Merce Cunningham Dance Company used the superhuman player piano music of Conlon Nancarrow in the piece Crises (with costumes by Robert Rauschenberg). The highly dramatic work was described by Cunningham as ‘an adventure in togetherness’ and contributed to Nancarrow’s work becoming internationally known. With only a poor quality recording of the original edit surviving, I was asked in 2015 by the Cunningham Trust to create a new recording using an identical player piano to Nancarrow’s. This talk will uncover the bizarre process of recreating the soundtrack and invite the audience to get up close to the player piano and hear the pieces the way Nancarrow did. It will also examine some of the exceptional qualities of the Cunningham/Nancarrow work using archive footage.

22 Mar 2016
Erin-Johnson Williams (Trinity Laban)

Visualising Evangelism through Musical Notation: the Tonic Sol-fa Movement in the Victorian World

For nineteenth-century British missionaries, music was often employed as a ‘tool of control for evangelism and civilization’ (Charles McGuire, Music and Victorian Philanthropy [2009]). Indeed, the use of hymn-singing as a medium for communal bonding and as a means of enhancing if not accelerating the process of conversion to Christianity, has been well established. Yet the relatively elapsed pedagogical tool employed by many Victorian-era missionaries and singing school teachers that has hitherto received less scholarly attention was the alternative notational system ‘of the lower classes’ known as the Tonic Sol-fa method. First invented by Sarah Glover (1785-1867), and made into an unprecedentedly lucrative music publishing venture in the later nineteenth century by John Curwen (1816-1880) and his son John Spencer Curwen (1847-1916), the Tonic Sol-fa system resonated with missionaries in particular because the Curwens emphasized its accessibility to musically illiterate converts by replacing standard staff notation with simple alphabetical letters representing solfege scale degrees. Additionally, the low reproduction costs of a visually simpler notation system enabled the cheap mass-production of hymnals. However, the accessibility of Tonic Sol-fa notation was also a means of musical limitation, especially as Tonic Sol-fa singing schools in colonial outposts such as nineteenth-century South Africa became increasingly associated with ‘black’ worship, and singing from ‘elite’, ‘white’, and what became constructed as the ‘secular’ alternative of standard staff notation became progressively more politicized. This paper draws upon archival material from Cape Town, South Africa, as well as Victorian newspapers to contextualize theological representations of race through Victorian missionary singing schools.

2 Jun 2016
Charles Edward McGuire (Oberlin College & Conservatory, Ohio)

London Driven: Celebrity and Spectacle at the British Musical Festival, 1784-1838

The unifying theme of the British musical festival in the years between 1784 and 1838 was the culture of celebrity. As Pippa Drummond, Brian Pritchard and others have noted, festivals during this time shifted from small, local gatherings to national events: they featured star soloists famous throughout Britain and even the European Continent, were discussed in the national press, and required a great deal of time, money, and effort to execute. All elements of the festival were geared towards creating a sense of spectacle, be it the star singers’ lavish salaries, the increasing fragmentation of sacred music programmes to feature excerpts instead of complete works (save, of course, for Handel’s Messiah), and an effort to both contextualise and historicise festivals via publishing lavish, detailed histories immediately after their completion. All of these elements were advantageous to the singer, and all of them stemmed directly from practices disseminated from festivals in London to the provinces.

Between 1784 and 1838, there were significant, if irregular festivals in London. Yet London is not usually a focus point for the study of the British musical festival. This is curious, since London festivals helped define how others in the provinces were organised, programmed, and even considered for the next fifty years. London festivals remained central to the infrastructure and the trends of the British festival in general, and presaged a number of debates about the purpose and place of the festival that would continue for the remainder of the Long Nineteenth Century. At one end, the Commemorations held in Westminster Abbey and the Pantheon between 1784 and 1791 began the vogue for “excerpting” that composers works to suit the growing power of singers’ celebrity – the so-called “Westminster Abbey Selections.” At the other, the festivals of the 1830s, whether given at Westminster Abbey or Exeter Hall, invigorated debates on the propriety of holding festivals in the grand churches of Britain, the place of the composer versus the singer at the festival, and even whether or not the British festival should remain nominally a state religion exercise. Examining contemporary programmes, press reports, and theological tracts reveals that just as London created the festival as celebrity spectacle, it also brought the phenomenon to its close.

22 Jun 2016
David Kirsh (University of California, San Diego)

Using the Body to Think Creatively

To explore the idea that the motor system – like the visual and auditory systems – can be used for thinking, I consider first what properties a medium must have to support thought. These include either malleability or compositionality, and a controller that can operate fast and reliably. I next ask what kinaesthetic or motor thinking might be like.  We know about visual thinking but next to nothing about motor thinking. I finish with a discussion of how bodies in motion can supply hints for designing dance movements and how we can also harness technologies outside ourselves to further stimulate creative ideas.


The 2014/15 Research Seminars were grouped 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

5 Nov 2014
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.

12 Nov 2014
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.

11 Feb 2015
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.

18 Feb 2015
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.

4 Mar 2015
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.​

18 March 2015
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’.

13 May 2015
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.

20 May 2015
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.

27 May 2015
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.


5 Nov 2013
Prof John Irving (Trinity Laban)

Revisiting An Eighteenth-Century Conversation: filming Mozart’s “Kegelstatt” Trio

In 2012 John Irving made a documentary film with Ensemble DeNOTE about performance practice issues in Mozart’s ‘Kegelstatt’ Trio for Clarinet, Viola and Piano, K.498 (composed in 1784 for Mozart himself, his colleague Anton Stadler and his piano pupil Franziska von Jaquin). Among the issues discussed were the scaling of performance gestures and sound production in chamber music played on period instruments; performer creativity (especially improvised embellishment); and the relation of period instrument technology to Mozart’s musical language.

This seminar will introduce the film documentary, including the preparatory stages, scripting and editing, and attempt a reflective assessment – one year on – of what it set out to achieve, touching inevitably on the question: ‘So how would we do it differently next time?’ The documentary will also be screened.

26 Nov 2013
Dr Sam Hayden (Trinity Laban)

Composer-performer collaboration and computer-generated notation: (pre)compositional strategies in Sam Hayden’s ‘surface / tension’ (2012) for oboe and piano

‘surface / tension’ (2012) for solo oboe and piano was composed in a close performer-composer collaboration with Christopher Redgate, as part of his AHRC-funded project New Music for a New Oboe. The piece evolved from a dialectical relationship between the sonic possibilities inherent in new Redgate-Howarth oboe (an instrument developed specifically for the performance of contemporary repertoire) and computer-generated notation using IRCAM’s OpenMusic. In particular, the underlying material for this piece was the product of two distinct (pre)compositional strategies, yielding two different kinds of ‘found objects’ which became the starting points for the piece: (a) the spectral analysis of multiphonics unique to the instrument was used to generate microtonal pitch fields; and (b) the algorithmic generation of artificial (inharmonic) spectra and complex rhythmical structures. As well as discussing (and demonstrating) the OM patches themselves, this paper will show how the collaborative process overall and the (pre)compositional strategies in particular, shaped directly both the notation of hyper-virtuosic material and approach to form, taking the piece in directions unanticipated by the composer. Much computer-music research has focused on aspects of digital sound synthesis. In this case, the composition of an entirely acoustic piece is nevertheless inseparable from computer-assisted compositional tools and new instruments. The use of such digital tools aids the creation of new musical ideas, sounds and modes of expression, beyond existing paradigms of musical culture. Such musical formalization creates a hyperawareness of the structural constraints within which one is working, and therefore the possibility to transcend them.

10 Dec 2013
Charles Linehan (Trinity Laban)

Charles Linehan’s recent commissions include Dance Umbrella, Brighton Festival, Probe, and work for his own company of dancers. In this seminar, which introduces the speaker as the new Reader in Dance at Trinity Laban, he will show and discuss some of his own work in addition to that of some of his influences, which include Trisha Brown and choreographers working in the Central European tradition. Charles will also discuss the importance of lighting in his choreographic research process and work in general.

8 Jan 2014
Dr Tomas McAuley (University of Indiana)

Roll over, Wackenroder: Friedrich Schlegel’s Position in the History of Music

Tomas will speak on how earlier theories of rhythm came to be seen, in the early nineteenth century, as purported explanations for how music allows humans to access the Absolute, with a focus on changing conceptions of unity and variety in the writings of Sulzer, Kant, and Schelling.

29 Jan 2014
Dr Jonathan Owen Clark (Trinity Laban)

Aesthetics and Historicity

This paper concerns the intersection of art and aesthetics with what is termed ‘historicity’- the ways in which human subjects have access to their own cultural and personal past. It will cover two ways in which this term is commonly understood in phenomenological history, namely both as the immanent sense of the past and present in first-person experience, and via the handing down of cultural narratives, which create layers and sedimentations that are handed across generations. We also suggest a third understanding of this term, provided through the historical survival of works of art and other artefacts. Drawing on the work of Alois Riegl, Jakob Burckhardt and Edmund Husserl, we define the role played in historicity by aesthetic ‘cross-sections’ of the past, which, it will be claimed, afford transhistorical linkages between ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ historical experience.

19 Feb 2014
Prof Richard Wistreich (Royal Northern College of Music)

Music Books and Sociability

In The Order of Books, published in 1992, the French historian Roger Chartier pointed out that scholars risk misunderstanding the cultural function of early modern books by ignoring two interrelated aspects of the act of reading itself: first, that reading is an embodied practice and second, that at that time it was almost always a social one. Modern musicians, of course, know this still through their everyday experience: written music orders not just the sounds but also the interactions of most classical, and many other performers. And ‘using the music’ is a form of reading aloud of a particularly dynamic variety. This talk uses the evidence of sixteenth-century literature, pictures and notation, to throw light on the sociabilities that written music both enables and shapes.

26 Feb 2014
Prof David Kirsh (University of California, San Diego)

Creative Cognition: how we think in groups and with things

In dance and music, cognition happens at both an individual and group level.  Choreographers and composers regularly think privately and then pass on their ideas to companies and ensembles.  But that is not all that happens before a performance.  Dancers and musicians have a role to play in determining the creativity shown in a performance.  In this talk I will explore how the intense interactivity between choreographer and dancers, and conductor and musicians is part of the creative process that goes into the final performance.   There really is a distributed version of creative cognition.  It happens whenever we work with our partner to perform a duet ‘just right’.  It also happens every day when  we make sketches – whether on paper or in our bodies.  Distributed creativity is not confined to groups of people. To discuss this I will use footage from an extensive study of Wayne McGregor | Random Dance, as well as other research studies I have done on sketching and collaboration.

5 Mar 2014
Wayne McGregor (Wayne McGregor | Random Dance)

In conversation with Dr Jonathan Owen Clark (Head of Research, Trinity Laban), focussing on the choreographer’s creative process and collaboration with cognitive scientists over the last ten years.

23 Apr 2014
Dr Kate Wakeling (Trinity Laban)

“Returning to a new self”: Transformation, memory and the ‘virtual’ self in older people’s music and dance

This seminar outlines current research into Trinity Laban’s ‘Retired not Tired’ programme, a dynamic and exploratory outreach scheme which offers creative dance and singing activities to older people. The seminar will discuss the possibilities and processes of transformation which the programme has initiated among participants. It will explore the means by which performance can ‘actualise’ potential memories in older participants, examining how and why this kind of expressive activity has been found to animate the idea of ‘virtual’ selves among the programme’s participants with such intensity. Drawing together theoretical approaches in gerontology and performance studies, the seminar will consider how these expressive interactions might shed light on existing theories of ‘actualisation’ and ‘becoming’, while also offering a fresh alternative to the impact-driven studies so ubiquitous among research into older people’s arts activities.

4 Jun 2014
Dr Julia Beauquel (Université de Lorraine, Nancy)

How Dance Thinks 

Dance has a history of being considered or reduced to an exhibition of graceful movements illustrating narratives and/or musical structures. Nowadays, it is equally likely to be conceived as a messenger of ineffable, affective and personal experiences. On the one hand, dance is reduced to an expression that is not autonomous or meaningful in itself; on the other, dance is identified as an impenetrable art, manifesting subjective states that cannot be intellectually understood or linguistically expressed. We will suggest that both these two broad perspectives tend to misconceive the nature of dance. Dance is neither an empty, purely technical and formal accompaniment for music, nor an abstruse form of the expression of deep, mysterious or hidden entities. Rather, the idea of a kind of “thought in action” is particularly relevant to dance. We will defend the rationality of dance learning, practice, creation and interpretation as artistic activities. Dancing involves dispositions and capacities that, although practical and seemingly hard to language, reveal a complexity that is proper to rational beings. An application to dance performances of the concepts of thought and rationality, we will maintain, is a benefit for both philosophy and dance, in encouraging to abandon traditional dichotomies (intention/action, expressed/expression, mental/physical, internal/external) and to refute the widespread tendencies to underestimate or to overcomplicate dance.


23 Jan 2013
Dr Jonathan Clark (Head of Research, Trinity Laban)

Dance and Intrinsic Significance

This talk will follow on from one given at the end of the Seminar Series in AY 2011/12, which focused on the relationship between aesthetics and phenomenology. It will preview some forthcoming research on the ‘intrinsic significance’ of expressive human movement, and consists of a reading of the work of Husserl and Sheets-Johnstone on the perceptive modality of kinesthesia. Six Theses are then formulated as to how, prior to any semiotic or hermeneutic clarification of what a dance might ‘mean’, movement becomes to be meaning-bearing at all. As a consequence, we also interrogate what aesthetic phenomena can say about standard accounts of meaning in philosophy which emphasize the propositional and/or conceptual. The talk therefore also previews those later in the series (13/2; 27/3) that focus on Performance Philosophy, and I will give an interpretation of the aims of this emerging field.

13 Feb 2013
Dr Steffi Sachsenmaier (Middlesex University)

Articulating processes of performance-making – towards a philosophy of performance practice

This seminar will discuss issues of theorisation concerning contemporary performance-making, which involves methods of devising or experimentation and works according to a logic of ‘discovery’. The enquiry will engage with the problematics of an analytical approach to a theorisation of ‘creative processes’, and argue for a necessary process-sensitive approach, which takes into account aspects of ‘time’ and ‘duration’. It will draw on theoretical models borrowed from the disciplines of ‘process philosophy’ and ‘practice theory’, in order to establish a practice-philosophical model of contemporary performance-making, which will be related to examples from my ongoing collaboration as researcher to choreographer Rosemary Butcher.

27 Feb 2013
Dr Liliana Araújo (Superior School of Music and Performing Arts, Portugal; and Leonardo Da Vinci trainee at Trinity Laban)

Pathways for Excellence in Science and Dance: Personal and Social Factors

Interest in people who demonstrate exceptional mastery in their own fields is shared by researchers in the most diverse areas of knowledge, in the attempt to discover which factors are responsible for attaining and maintaining superior levels of performance. This subject has been explored throughout history with particular regard to eminent scientists, athletes and artists, analysing the psychological characteristics (how they are) of these individuals, as well as the strategies (what they do) they use to push through their limits, develop skills and achieve optimal performance. However, much of psychological research on excellent achievement takes a predominant outsider perspective, favoring quantitative inquiry, but actually little is really known about experiences and personal meanings of exceptional individuals. Therefore, a qualitative case study was carried out to explore the insider perspective of being excellent and contribute to deeper understanding the personal and contextual factors in the pathway to excellence. Four dancers and six scientists were consensually nominated by a panel of experts for displaying excellent performance. Participants were interviewed and a qualitative content analysis protocol was constructed to assist data analysis. Results suggest that scientists and dancers stressed the importance of passion, devotion to work and persistence in their paths to excellence. Social factors such as the role of significant others and optimal experiences as well as several psychological skills and strategies were described by participants as crucial to the development and demonstration of superior performance. Data also demonstrates some differences specific to each domain and the individual variability in the development of excellence, confirming the uniqueness associated to excellent performance. Finally, some reflections on this study are presented, some limitations are pointed out, and the main contributions to research on excellence are discussed.

13 Mar 2013
Dr Sophie Fuller (Trinity Laban)

‘ “Old, wise and furiously heretical”: Women and music after 50’

In 1949 at the age of 42, the Welsh composer Grace Williams wrote to a friend: ‘There does seem something revolting – and perhaps a bit pathetic – in the thought of a symphony by a woman of 50’. Over 40 years later, at the age of 47, Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell sang with resignation ‘Must I surrender / With grace / The things I loved when I was younger… What do I do here with this hunger… Oh I am not old / I’m told /But I am not young / Oh and nothing can be done …’ (Mitchell, ‘Nothing Can Be Done’ from the 1991 album Night Ride Home).

The worlds Williams and Mitchell occupied, like the world that I am living in today, had, and still has, little place for older women, who are mostly invisible and rarely recognised as artists with creative force and potential. The stories and creations that post-menopausal women tell and make are not ones that anyone, male or female, young or old, seems to want to hear.

But for many creative women, the age of 50 and beyond turns out to be a pivotal moment which ushers in a period of freedom and potential. Scholar Jacqueline Zita has written:

To deconstruct the meanings of menopause in a male gerontocracy is to construct a social and cultural space for the empowerment of crones. … My hope is that more powerful and unruly women will emerge from this conceiving – old, wise, and furiously heretical.

(Zita, ‘Heresy in the Female Body’ inThe Other Within Us: Feminist Explorations of Women andAginged. Marilyn Pearsall (Colorado: Westview Press, 1997), 110)

In On Late Style(2006), Edward Said explores artistic lateness as ‘intransigence, difficulty, and unresolved contradiction’ in the works of various writers and musicians – all men. In this paper I will explore and celebrate the unruly and defiant musical creativity of the older woman, including Joan Armatrading, Diamanda Galas, Minna Keal, Madonna, Patti Smith, Maude Valerie White and Grace Williams.

20 Mar 2013
Prof David Kirsh (University of California, San Diego)

Practicing: Marking vs Full out, Which is Better?

27 Mar 2013
Dr Laura Cull (University of Surrey)

What is Performance Philosophy?

The talk will reflect on the idea that we are currently witnessing the emergence of a new field: Performance Philosophy. Performance Philosophy, Dr Cull will suggest, is not just a ‘turn’ within Performance Studies, but potentially a rich interdisciplinary field involving philosophers and researchers from a wide range of disciplines. As well as outlining this recent development, she will also question to what extent we might wish to consider performance as a philosophical activity in its own right: not as the mere illustration of extant philosophy ideas nor according to a predetermined definition of philosophy (such that performance is called upon to produce logical arguments, rational deductions and so forth), but more as a practice that thinks in its own way, and indeed in ways that might equally call upon philosophers to reconsider what counts as philosophy. Drawing from the notion of non-philosophy (or non-standard philosophy) outlined by François Laruelle, as well as from relevant work in the field of Film-Philosophy, Dr Cull will endeavour to articulate some of the myriad ways in which we might say that performance thinks and philosophy can be staged.


  • 7 Dec 2011, Jonathan Clark (Trinity Laban), Aesthetics, Voice, Historicity
  • 8 Feb 2012. Imogen Walker (Trinity Laban), Commitment, adherence and dropout among young talented dancers: A longitudinal, mixed methods investigation
  • 22 Feb 2012, Gavin Morrison (Curator), What we know of ignorance
  • 7 Mar 2012, Dominic Murcott (Trinity Laban), Conlon Nancarrow: an introduction to the composer and his lost percussion orchestra
  • 21 Mar 2012, Patricia Holmes (Trinity Laban), The performer’s experience: psychological, philosophical and educational perspective  (PhD by prior publication)
  • 2 May 2012, Kathy Dyson (jazz guitarist and composer), Jazz, Music and the Brain: theoretical and practical possibilities for enhancing performance, practice and teaching approaches in jazz, from a musician’s perspective


8 Nov 2010
Nicola Conibere (Trinity Laban RDP Student) and Dee Reynolds (University of Manchester)

What levels of kinesthetic empathy do spectators experience when watching dance?

Do spectators who are not trained dancers, but are familiar with watching dance (‘experienced spectators’) have greater degrees of kinesthetic empathy than less experienced and novice spectators? And in philosophical terms, what role and space might a spectator occupy?

25 Nov 2010
Jonathan Clark (Trinity Laban)

What is the relationship between Music and Dance?

The session will explore different methodologies for approaching a question of this type in academic research and in so doing, contributes to one of the main themes of the module- appropriate research design. Different answers will be discussed in the context of existing literature, as well as a discussion of how certain collaborations, such as Cage-Cunningham, complicate the question further.

3 Feb 2011
Joao Duque (Trinity Laban RDP Student)

A conversation between Jonathan Clark and Joao Duke on his interventionist art practice

In what ways in our ‘postmodern’ societies are political acts linked with aesthetic acts, and vice versa? Does the premise of interventionist

17 Mar 2011
Dr Valerie Preston-Dunlop (Trinity Laban)

Process and Product: Addressing the Ephemerality of the Dance Heritage

Lesley Anne Sayers and Valerie Preston-Dunlop drafted a paper for Dance Chronicle just before Lesley died.  With Anne Day’s help with Lesley’s section, the paper was accepted and will appear in this year’s Spring Edition.  It raises questions for the contemporary practice of artists, archivists and researchers particularly pertinent in a time when the future of the works of such significant figures as Merce Cunningham and Pina Bausch are a current topic.

23 Mar 2011
Stephen Preston

Ecosonics – improvisation inspired by birdsong and gossip

The sounds birds, human beings and other animals make when communicating amongst themselves provide ideal models for improvisation.  They offer models for a music of intentions and feelings expressed through dialogues of pitch, timbre, intensity, attack, tempo, volume and above all, timing.  And they provide an approach to improvisation, the meaning of sound, and attitudes to technique, that are of equal value to trained musicians (particularly those with no experience of improvising) as they are to those without any musical training at all.

30 Mar 2011
Patricia Holmes (Trinity Laban)

The sound in my head

A psychological and philosophical exploration of the effectiveness and implications of timbre (or tone colour) in elite performance, illustrated through the playing and reflections of an elite classical guitarist.

30 Mar 2011
Rosemary Butcher (Trinity Laban), in conversation with Dr Jonathan Clark (Trinity Laban)

Topics of discussion and showings will include Rosemary’s latest work,Lapped Translated Lines, premiered at Sadler’s Wells in 2010. Rosemary will also speak on her recent usage of film as an extension of movement-based practice.


Banner image: Paul Hampartsoumian