Yves Knockaert


Yves Knockaert is professor of philosophy of music and contemporary music at the Lemmens Institute in Leuven. He was director of the Institute for Practice based Research in the Arts at the KULeuven Association (2006-2010). He made many programs on 20th-century music for the Belgian Radio. He has contributed to several specialized journals, wrote the book Wendingen (Turns), about drastic changes in 20th-century music, Muziek uit de voorbije eeuw (Music from the past century, with Boudewijn Buckinx) and Systemlessness in Music (in Order and Disorder, Collected Writings of the Orpheus Institute). Recently he published several contributions on research in the arts, in Blood Sweat and Theory: Research Through Practice in Performance (ed. John Freeman, 2009) en Itamar, Revista de Investigación Musical (Universidad de Valencia, 2010, nr. 3). He is peer reviewer for the e-journal Music and Practice. In 2011 he started a PhD in Musicology: analysis of Wolfgang Rihm’s instrumental music.


Exposition: Moving to Become Better: The Embodied Performance of Musical Groove (01/01/2011) by Vincent Meelberg
Yves Knockaert 21/11/2011 at 17:38

The submission is interesting because of the focus on one example (the groove through the composition Moving to Become Better) and the large amount of approaches to the subject. It is interesting to learn how the ‘groove’ can be explained with arguments found in the theories of many authors, and Meelberg achieves this, staying very close to the subject and not fading into generalities. However, in my personal opinion, the ‘ethical’ dimension is not so interesting or important, and less convincingly argued here. That said, I respect that it is important for the author as a musician: the concept of ‘becoming better’ is already in the title of the composition, he pays attention to this in the quoting Dewey and, later in the text, in the mention of Deleuze. The author is also very careful and aware of counter-arguments, and shows a consciousness of the ‘weakness’ of proof-based arguments in the field of ‘feeling’ the music.


I have, of course, some remarks.


The musical or artistic part could be more elaborated (I mean: going deeper in the ‘groove’ experience of the composition Moving…) with not only the meaning and the experience of the author/composer, but also the experience of the other performers. Currently these are only mentioned to confirm the ideas of the author/composer. A more elaborated artistic part would also be more balanced with the theoretical part. This would address a certain overbalance of philosophical, psychological and theoretical approaches in the text, as if there is a strong need for hard argumentation of the experiences of the experimental performance of the composition.


Some items are not elaborated. For example: why is it a composition and not an exercise? At a certain moment in the text, it is called an ‘investigation’, what exactly is meant by that?. What happens if played before an audience without ‘warning’ that the groove will come and go, start and stop? The disappearance of the groove could be seen as a mistake or a ‘bad’ moment in the perception of the public. Leaving the groove or playing out of the groove must be as ‘convincing’ as what the public expects: uninterrupted groove.


This is a case of practice-based research, where composition, performance, improvisation, playing in and out of the groove and the ‘art’ of performing together (with and without groove) go hand in hand. It is a real experiment, because of the non-predictability of the performance: how will the groove be, how long, how strong, how will the performers influence each other, etc.


The whole experiment is connected to theory, even proved in some aspects, which means that the academic level of the exposition is high. There is a research question (the groove), a method (the making of the composition and the performance). There is the openness to other artists to discuss the question through the performance or as listeners, and there is new knowledge here concerning groove-performance and groove-experience.


The idea is challenging, the research is experimental and the text invites the reader to do the same experiment and to listen to the piece. The embodied knowledge is made explicit through a lot of sources and theoretical material. This all makes the exposition a good example of writing about practice-based research in a clear, comprehensive, artistic and academic way at the same time.