Saverio Mercadante and the Neapolitan flute school of the early 19th century. A dramma buffo on the historically informed approach
Mercadante’s flute works are among the most beloved 19th-century Italian compositions for this instrument. So far, no study has been undertaken to develop a specific historically informed performance practice for them.
In order to do so, I first analysed the Italian flute history in the first half of the 19th century, which revealed a great influence of foreign instruments and methods on local flute makers and players; secondly, I studied the Neapolitan flute school during Mercadante’s lifetime (1795-1870) and discovered which instruments were in use, which methods were kept at the Conservatory Library, and who were the most successful contemporary players. Finally, I focused on Mercadante’s biography and created a detailed catalogue of his flute works, which includes bibliographical indications of manuscripts and editions, musicological details and historical notes (when available). This process revealed that the greatest part of such pieces was composed between 1813 and 1820, that is, while he was studying at the Neapolitan Conservatory.
Once my theoretical investigations were completed, I approached the practical part of my research by following the performance practice instructions of Hugot-Wunderlich’s flute method, whose French original edition is kept in the Conservatory library since Mercadante’s study years. However, an important detail that I discovered at this research stage forced me at once to discard my entire methodological process. This true operatic plot twist - dramatic and yet funny - turned my thesis into a dramma buffo. It forced me to completely rethink my methodology and even what the concept of “historically informed” means to me.
HÉR! An Exploration of Artistic Agency - Media Repository
Halla Steinunn Stefánsdóttir
Media repository published as part of Halla Steinunn Stefánsdóttir's doctoral thesis 'HÉR! An Exploration of Artistic Agency' (2023). See here: https://bit.ly/LUResearchPortal
This doctoral thesis is concerned with agency in the work of a performer, curator, and composer, and how these agencies are socio-culturally constructed. Grounded in creative practice as primary research methodology, the project builds on feedback loops between creation, analysis, and interpretation. The aim is to better understand the conventional norms that define the roles of composer and performer and, further, to explore more dynamic approaches to these agencies through the perspectives of a composer, performer, and curator active in the fields of contemporary music and sound art. The project responds to the following research questions:
o How can ecological-enactive and post-phenomenological perspectives on musical practice within Western classical music challenge current understandings of the roles of performer and composer?
o What artistic methods can be employed to provide a more robust understanding of the fluidity of these roles, to uncover their potential for artistic renewal in the creation and performance of contemporary music?
The research was designed as a series of micro-laboratories to look at agency through artistic collaboration in situations set in the concert hall, the recording studio, the virtual domain, and ecological sound art. This resulted in electroacoustic compositions, multi-channel installations, and site-specific work, including performances within a sonic hologram and with artificial intelligence. The analytical approach was built on autoethnography, and audio and video analysis through stimulated recall.
The findings outline how the technological, non-human, and human agencies of environments affect and shape processual work. The analysis highlights how co-relation between theory and practice may both serve to unpack the pre-conditioning of agency, while the artistic experimentation in the laboratories seeks to explore other agential relations. Here, the intentionality of the technologies used in the lab have unfolded new perspectives on the conventional roles of composer and performer, while enabling the development of more dynamic practices. Through a study of the author’s curatorial practice, the role of a curator is understood not as defined by prescribed methods, but rather as dependent on the negotiation of the many agencies at play in artistic practice. The method development of the project has implications for the design of artistic research through the model of the laboratory. Herein, the use of audio and video technologies, particularly their application within stimulated recall methods, are integrated parts of analysis and artistic creation. The artistic research laboratory is proposed as a framework through which the potential of artistic research in music—as a vehicle for the development of new practices in professional contexts and in teaching environments—is substantiated and facilitated.
Assembling a Praxis: Choreographic Thinking and Curatorial Agency - Open House: A Portrait of Collecting
“Open House: A Portrait of Collecting,” a curatorial project held at the Lamont Gallery at Phillips Exeter Academy in 2015, is part of my doctoral research on “Assembling a Praxis: Choreographic Thinking and Curatorial Agency.” The "Open House" exhibition was initially about collecting and caring for objects, a traditional function of museums. Curating with a choreographic mindset encouraged me to address other questions, including how objects and collections foster emotional connections. My initial question for the project, “How to do things with objects?” soon became “How do objects arrange spaces of relation between people and ideas?” Themes include community, memory, identity, taxonomy, preservation, accumulation, value, story, exchange, and display.
[This exposition corresponds to Section Five: Arranging Spaces of Relation(s): What Can Objects Do? in the printed dissertation.]