The above described workshop method may be integrated into a larger over-arching concept of calibration. In different ways the examples given have illustrated this process of calibration towards the work, involving the artistic team (composer included) and the receiving institution. In addition to calibration towards the work, calibration may also be housed as a principle within the final work, functioning almost like an amplifier of core elements, directed at the relationship towards the audience. At the end of this section thoughts on this will be introduced in brief.
Calibration is a notion I use for the harmonisation process where pre-compositional ideas and concepts are explored: tested, rejected or refined, as well as sanctioned. When I say ideas and concepts, I encompass the sharing of an experience related to the work to be. This emphasises an important facet of calibration, namely that the embodied knowledge brought along into the workshops and study visits by each participant is made part of the process through acts involving reflection, action, sensing and decision-making. This entails that calibration is not only a means to an end but part of an ongoing development of existing embodied knowledge, transformed through the material and the shared experiences in the workshop-process. A vital part of this embodied way of knowing stems from feelings, approaching or estranging material and other beings, human or non-human. As Mark Johnson puts it, “[…] we must recognize the role of the body, especially sensori-motor processes and our emotions and feelings, in our capacity for understanding and knowing”(Johnson, 2010, p. 145).
With calibration the aim is not to level out the authorship of the composer, but to allow for a more dynamic stance, less concerned with guarding ideas in their embryonic stage –something which indeed demands a certain amount of bravery - and with more reflective input from participants in the workshop. Issues arising during workshops that directly or indirectly have impact on the music are left for the composer to decide upon, with the artistic director having the final say in the case of differences in opinions between parties in the collaboration. Hayden and Windsor (2007) define three different collaborative positions for the composer: one end being the approach of the directive composer, which simply put resembles the traditional way to proceed on a commission; in the middle the interactive composer, the approach closest to the approach contained within calibration; and the other end the collaborative composer, where it can not be made clear who has contributed with what towards the new work.The interactive composer’s approach is where “the composer is involved more directly in negotiation with musicians and/or technicians [than the directive composer’s approach]. The process is more interactive, discursive and reflective, with more input from collaborators than in the directive category, but ultimately, the composer is still the author”(2007, p.33).
My concept of calibration bears some resemblance to what Carter describes as a “discursive momentum”(Carter, 2009, p. 22). A discursive momentum results from a situation he calls “the forming situation”, which he proposes could be a commission. The discursive momentum is according to Carter what “provides an interest impelling the invention”(ibid, p. 22), invention pointing towards a new work. Though as I read Carter, the discursive momentum he refers to is a much looser condition than calibration; more of a state (he also refers to Sigmund Freud’s description of the state prior to dreaming), and as Carter describes it, an “anything-goes mode”(ibid) of invention, where usual logic is suspended.
Carter has a key concept denoted “material thinking”, where it is the handling of material in practice that provides a way of knowing the world. Carter mainly puts emphasis on a process that “issues from, and folds back into, a social relation”(ibid, p. 19). Barbara Bolt (2009, p.30) differentiates her understanding of Carter’s concept of material thinking to “material productivity”, with the necessity of relations being between the material and the artist, not merely the social relations, talking about one’s practice. I would say that this is an important aspect of the concept of calibration; talking only does not suffice. Nevertheless neither do the social relations simply form background to the relation between material and artist. Together the two kinds of relations serve as equally important and intertwined constituents of calibration.
Calibration Within the Final Work
Having elaborated on my use of the notion calibration, I will also briefly outline what calibration within the work could purport. In Ps! there was a sort of calibration also taking place within the final work, in relation to the particular use of interactive technology.
In one of the five scenes of Ps! described in the section Unorthodox phenomena (Example 2.2), the audience themselves were invited to interact with objects eliciting sound when acted upon. Moreover the spatialisation of sounds in the space was arranged in order to invite aural exploration, providing the listener with a different mix of sound depending on where they positioned themselves in the concert space. Taken together these experiences were thought to resonate with, and enhance, the apprehension of the interactivity between performers and sounding electronics encompassed in the work; perhaps even facilitating the formation of inferred relationships between musicians and electronics, even where there were no such composed relationships at hand (composed in terms of cause and effect), by directing the attention towards certain elements (i.e. relationships) in the work.
In this exposition, I have shown how advantages of a workshop-process towards a new work include: a) establishing a common frame of reference and platform for dialogue; b) introducing and experiencing unorthodox phenomena in the situation at hand; c) defining the playing field in regard to potential challenges. Hence it is a process that lays the foundation for oscillation between reflection and practice, exploring, experiencing and evaluating. I have argued that the workshop-process can be accounted for in a larger concept of calibration, which may be applied in at least two different layers: calibration towards the work and calibration within the work.
The concept has also been applied in a just recently finished work, Metamorphoses (Einarsson, 2015), and preliminary findings from these experiences emphasise that working in this vein brings about a particular work-specific embodied way of knowing that facilitates the collaborators’ apprehension for example of the technologies at hand and the artistic intentions of the composer.
Importantly, this is not to say that there is but one way to experience a work of music; rather this idea should be seen as related to the concept of subject position, where a frame for possible interpretations is assumed (Clarke, 2005). This concept, originally from film theory, is part of musicologist Eric Clarke’s effort to place an ecological approach to the perception of musical meaning. The almost infinite plurality of ways an individual is shaped by his or her preconceptions when listening is limited by characteristics of the musical work.
A prerequisite for a creative and explorative stance during workshops is - of course - a secure working environment, which may emerge in the encounter between participants of a workshop, through adherence to the task at hand, and openness toward the development of the on-going process. Elaborating on the notion of being secure, it is very important that the work at this stage is allowed to be inclusive and explorative rather than questioning and instrumental, but sad to say, many times being uncertain is equated with unknowing (Molander, 1996).
Furthermore, Vera John-Steiner in her book Creative Collaboration brings forward cognitive and emotional aspects of collaborations among artists and scientists and she describes how: ”[I] integrative collaboration requires a prolonged period of committed activity, and thrives on dialogue, risk taking and a shared vision to transform existing knowledge, thought styles or artistic approaches into new visions”(John-Steiner, 2000, p. 203). Ideally, this is what a workshop-method would provide grounds for.
The claim that composers would be less suited for collaboration needs to be responded to. Hayden and Windsor (2007) do not go further into any underlying mechanisms, but mention the (self-) stereotype of the composer as solitary genius. They refer to Donald Schön who notes that “professions (music included) tend to build a repertoire of technical knowledge which are only questionable by individuals from within that profession”[…] ”resulting in defensive and controlling behaviour rather than a focus on mutually beneficial goals”(Schön in Hayden & Windsor, 2007, p. 30). Turning to John-Steiner, she underlines how productive collaboration demands “sustained time and effort”as well as “the shaping of a shared language, the pleasures and risks of honest dialogue, and the search for a common ground”(John-Steiner, p. 204). The risk-taking, according to her, includes both intellectual and emotional risks. Indeed this unveils a possible conflict that needs bridging, and I believe a keystone is articulating the roles of the participants when deciding upon the workshop-structure.
Yet another clarification is at hand; the situation accounted for here is where a commission has already been made. I want to emphasise that I am not advocating workshop as a competition in disguise. A workshop method is by no means a quick fix and as Hayden and Windsor (2007, p.37) warn, collaboration may be an ideology that by itself does not warrant a good outcome. “However strongly the collaborative model is valued, it can only operate when all parties are prepared to enter into collaboration”. Neither is the message that an author must decline his or her artistic intention in order to attract a broader category of visitors.
In conclusion, the calibrations in Ps! took place in the context of the making of a musical drama. This may not immediately translate into other contexts, but my hope for the future is that this may inspire others, and nurture a discussion about the conditions for commissioning new music as well as what practical tools are needed for framing this process. There is much yet to explore in order to deepen the knowledge about how different parts couple in the endeavours towards new artistic works.
I wish to express my gratitude towards MalmöOpera for permission to use the images, to all participants in workshops and performances, and to the artistic team at MalmöOperaverkstad for a valuable collaboration. The full final work can be accessed through MalmöOperas channel at you tube.
Trailer, Part one, Part two, Part three
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