Free (Performance) Paper presented at
The 20th Quinquennial Congress of the International Musicological Society,
Tokyo University of the Arts, Tokyo, Japan
March 19-23, 2017
Ornamenting Words – Vocalising Meaning:
Artistic vocal performance research as a field ’in between’
First of all I would like to thank you Wendy for your introduction,
and then the program committee and the organisers of the conference for inviting me to present my (performance) paper here today.
I would like to start in the following way:
(Eli singing the opening of Lambert’s Leçons de Tenebres’)
With these words, ornaments and sound I begin.
Performing this paper based on an artistic research study through
Michel Lambert’s Leçons de Tenebres dated from around 1662-63.
I am very grateful to Dr. Cathrine Massip who’s work on Michel Lambert,
has inspired me along the way and who very kindly
guided me in an early stage of the project.
When I had decided which of the two cycles of Lamberts Lecons to work with
Because Lambert wrote two complete cycles of his Leçons d T
Of which Teodor Käser, according to Dr. Massip described as
”the irrational ” and ”the rational” .
It didn’t take me that long to decide which of the two I came to prefer.
In my paper here today I intend to propose
That a vocal score and a vocal ornament,
can become agents and actors - just like any one of us -
in an entangled process of building new knowledge
and a deeper understanding on musical performance practice,
but also contributing with new knowledge on the art of being open
to unexpected encounters emerging in life.
To the meaning-making process of ’je-ne-sais-quoi’.
Or that-which-we-don’t know-anything-about-yet…
But before ’we’ - meaning us together – will step into the music
I will tell you a little about artistic research, since I think some of you might wonder that actually is.
Performative Research- Artistic Research
Some of you might have heard of this rather new emerging research field
called Artistic Research. I will not make a long explanation of the field here today, but I like to give you some words that hopefully will help you to understand how one might approach a topic as an artistic researcher.
The field can be explained in more than one way – there is a jungle of definitions, and just to mention a few for ex. ’practice-and-research’, ’research-as-practice’, ’reflective practice-based research’, ’practice-led research’, ’performative research’.
Some of us try to fit our artistic sensuous practice into more traditional scholarly methodologies using terminologies and theories fromfor ex hermenutics and phenomenology. This means that one steps in and out of different roles – sometimes I am the performer, but then when I step out of this role I need to become the critical reflective scholar who takes an objective look at the performance from a distance. Though this is quite a problematic way of working for some of in the arts, and in short I will try explain.
I place my research within the category of practice-led and performative research.
Here I refer to Brad Haseman who in the article “A Manifesto for Performative Research” from 2006 examines “the dynamics and significance of practice-led research and argues for it to be understood as a research strategy within an entirely new research paradigm - Performative Research”, placing it as an alternative to quantitative and qualitative research paradigms. Haseman points out that performative research do insist on different approaches to designing, conducting and reporting research which when fully theorized and understood “the performative research paradigm will have applications beyond the arts and across the creative and cultural industries generally.”
Haseman also points out that practice-led researchers may be led by what is best described as ‘an enthusiasm of practice’: something which is exciting, something which may be unruly. […] Practice-led researchers construct experiential starting points from which practice follows. They tend to ‘dive in’, to commence practising in order to see what emerges.
This means that practice-led researchers often move beyond the more traditional way of mainly describing their research results as common in reflective practice-based research. This means that one might search to leave the making and producing of binaries and discursive practices about practice and theory. Rather than using a reflective analysis we might apply performative and situated methodologies based on posthuman and new materialist theories proposed by scholars such prof. Donna Haraway and prof. Karen Barad both from gender and science studies (Barad 2007, 2010, 2014). I won’t go into details on these quite complex theories but there is a reason why some artist researchers do find themselves more comfortable with performative theories. Finnish AR prof. Annette Arlander points out in a paper from 2014 that for a researching artist for ex new materialist theory "means, on one hand, responsibility in terms of what to focus on and what to point at, and also to consider the material, affective and discursive effects of the artwork [...] but, on the other hand, it also means responsibility for the doing, for the process, i.e., attending to what takes place during practice, including the unwelcome side-effects." (Arlander 2014:30).
As a singer my performing practice is very much about touching the senses of my listeners. It is about shaping the content I wish to express. It is about making-meaning. One of my tools is the way I apply vocal ornaments to a melody.
As an artistic researcher I strive for the sensuous experience to be as important as in any performance situation, also in academic encounters such as this one.
Let us turn to the ornament animer.
Singing teacher Bertrand (prev. Benigne) de Bacilly describe Animer as an ornament ordinarily never printed in the score but performed as a “certain almost imperceptible repetition of a note done with the throat”
By turning to Cotgraves on-line dictionary from 1611 of the French and English Tongues I read the following translation of the French word animer:
“To quicken, give life unto; inspire breath, infuse a spirit into; also, to animate, incourage, hearten, imboulden; incite, incense.”
Rather than allowing Lambert’s music to reflectively act as a mirror of my own embodied vocal acts, I allow the musical manuscript and the word animer to become actors and an agents of an entangled event. The reflective binary methodology is enhanced and enriched by the intra-active diffractive methodology which allows for a performance to evolve far beyond the framework of the musical manuscript. The artistic unruly and non-linear search for emergent indeterminacies within Lambert’s ”irrational” music continuously lead to intra-active encounters with the unexpected. With that which we don’t know anything about. With je-ne-sai-quoi. Perhaps with the same chaos that yesterday was mentioned by the keynote speaker Toshio Hoshokawa
The event here and now, which we are all part of, from now evolves as a poetic performative narration rather than a description of an event. Through lesson nr two you are invited to perceive yourself as actor part of the performance event. This participation is allowing you to follow your own thinking as an appropriation of the ornaments proposed by Michel Lambert. Your might find your own thinking ornaments. Allowing yourself to engage in a speculative meditation beyond the shadows of life and death, beyond Leçons de Tenebres.
Animer leads us to a fallen city,
Through lessons in the shadows of death,
Animer leads us to Je-ne-sais-quoi
Oxford scholar Richard Scholar refers to Je-ne-sais-quoi
(a term with root in the 17th century)
in the style of a dictionary definition:
”a certain something with powerful effects
that cannot be explained.
Encountered in experience by a subject (je)
Otherwise capable of knowledge,
this something frustrates all positive attempts
to explain or fully know what it is,
and forces the subject to confess his or her nescience.
It (je-ne-sais-quoi) designates
a force of sympathy and antipathy
in individual relations,
something that passes between two people,
a secret link;
this force may also define
the subject’s relation to a place, a thing, a creature,
a work of art and so on.
This recognition draws the two parties into sympathy or anthipathy, but what it also does is confirms the identities: the two parties remain distinctly themselves within a living relation. In its most intense form, the je-ne-sais-quoi falls with the imperceptible stealth and violent effects of a disaster, This draws the subject and the other into a process of fusion which alters both beyond recognition: the subject of the je-ne-sais-quoi finds him or herself not only in a state of unknowing,
but unable even to say ’I’.” (Scholar 2006)
Every dot in the musical manuscript
represents to the somatic voice
The actual search for this unknown,
becomes a game and ritual. A curious obsession.
Despite a strong fear for entering a violent situation in the fallen city
Voice makes no attempt to hide or to withdraw.
There is only on way and that is to follow the signs,
Decoding the possibilities hidden
behind the handwritten lines and dots on the paper.
Inspiring and animating breath into the silent figures.
Reconfiguring sound of the future rather than the past.
Plorans ploravit in nocte….
”We wish you a good stay”, were the last words spoken by the pilot before we were about the descend.
How could any one of us know how things would evolve.
Would I be forced to hide in a shelter?
Would I have the courage to walk alone through the old city?
Would I be able to make sound in the places I was planning for?
The fact of Not knowing
Could sensuously not be avoided,
not even in the departure hall in the airport.
The force trapped in Lambert’s music
carried a significant meaning, a je-ne-sais-quoi.
A driving force leading me to decode and perform
certain imperceptible repetions
throughout my ritual of overcoming my own fear.
Fear for dying. Fear for being alone. Fear for now knowing.
Every note caused me to become familiar with the situation.
I made every vocal twist and turn entangle with the situation,
As suggested by Deleuze ”pushing them to infinity, fold over fold, one opon the other.” (Deleuze 2006)
Every repetion encouraged me to move even more eagerly into the score.
Animating the dead strokes of ink.
A taxi took me to the other side of town.
To the side I had been told to avoid, by some.
By others told that I should not worry at all.
But just be aware, they said.
The ride through town passed a court house.
There where demonstrations.
We passed ’in-between’
Demontrators on one side of the road. The court on the other.
Always ending up ’in-between’.
I knew the town from before.
I had walked the streets in a different time,
when the tension was less evident.
Now, I was alone. The city was empty. Because of fear.
People had cancled their visits.
Walking down the mountain
I could sense that I was watched.
I saw the defensive walls protecting insiders from intruders.
Instead of making me turn around and leave
I entered the tiny chapel namned Dominus flevit.
A place where tears had falled for the sake of the city.
So shining from a distance,
I observed the city from the window.
So hurt and so divided in categories, cultures and separate intities.
Can this place ever heal?
Musicologist Abigail Wood suggest that an auditory turn can help to understand ”how the politics of presence, proximity and voice[…] are not only built into the physical location of the space, but also creatively enacted and contested by individuals and groups”…
So I sing inside the patters place on the ground in the chapel. Finding the score and stones to co-exist, diffract through one another, making sense in an irrational way, encouraging me to live. I place myself in Karen Barads verbal contextualisation of the situation: ”A cacophany of whispered screams, gasps, and cries, an infinite multitude of indetermiante beings diffracted through different spacetimes, The nothingness, is always within us, or rather, it lives through us […] Indeterminacy is not a lack, a loss, but an affirmation, a celebration of the plentitude of nothingness.”
There is a sense of hope lingering despite both fear and pain.
A chaotic situation in the Middle East –
could that enhance an understanding of a 17th century musical manuscript
performed in front of a king and his court.
At L’Eglise de Feuillants in Paris.
Your thougths are accepted,
and I can only claim that what brought me to Jerusalem
with Lambert’s Leçons de Ténèbres,
was a longing to allow the score to encounter
its own history and future through vocal sounding.
I had to let the score turn back and see for itself,
To make sound become its own agent in the most chaotic situation.
I had to make myself sensuously aware of being in-between,
As a Fold always being between two folds, ”and because the between-two-folds seem to move about everywhere”, as told by Deleuze.
Leaving the mount of Olives behind, I stepped inside the old walls of the city.
Through the lions gate, leading me into the road of pain – La via Dolorosa.
In Saint Anne’s Church I had been permitted to practice my lessons.
I had been hesitant to make my way into the old part of town,
but in the end, again I saw myself crossing over my own fears.
Inside the crusader building voice echoed and merged with itself and all other voices having sounded through different spacetimes.
I had turned myself inside out to overcome my fears.
Allowed encounter after encounter with unexpeted situations.
No hesitation to remain in silence, but making a certain imperceptible repetition of notes over and over and over…
Elisabeth Yanagisawa writes: ”It was there, the floating transgression, and amorphous feeling of raw space: hollows, empty spaces that embodied potentiality, the emerging, yet not born.” (Yanagisawa 2015)
In the moment of singing the hopeful final phrase, repeted after each lesson ”Jerusalem, convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum” touch evidently occured between myself, space and time. It was a realization that was as Yanagisawa suggests, both emotional and affective.
Diffractive Intra-active methodology
I turn to Yanagisawas words:
”I create athmospheres to emphasies unique moods that invite the viewer to act in a new way. […] how to become more attentive to subtle nuances, small scales and ephemeral moments. […] They emerge from real life, not from the realm of art. They emerge as intensities in the midst of a chaotic mingling of material, of high and low, of ugly and beautiful things.”
But you might of course ask, for what reason are all these words needed? What do they do to the music?
In my opinion, as trained in the field of artistic research through music, there is much to be told and discovered in a performance event. If scholars and performers together refuse to look away, and refuse to be fearful of what to claim about the ephemeral of the performance event (I think through the voice of Carolyn Abbate) there is still plenty for us to discover.
Words might not be needed to explain music, but words might make sense of ones own’s thoughts. And when one make sense of oneself, expression might come easier.
I started this paper by describing the field of artistic research as a field guided by unrulyness, experiential and experimental practices. I used the structure from the object of my study to shape this paper as three Lessons in the shadows of uncertainties. Meaning life and death. I use my references in a more traditional manner, but also as agents in an entangled poetic dialogue. I made a mapping of an emergent unknown- a mapping of an artistic practice triggered by a rather complex 17th century manuscript.
Finish musicologist Milla Tianinen proposes a wider methodological guidline for music, performance and sound studies through the notion of Deleuze and Guattaries concept of Assembleges, urging us to find ways to ”begin in the middle”. She tells us that following such new methodologies will encourage ”a shift of focus from supposedly discrete terms that only secondarily interact to their very encounters and relational co-reconfigurings. It is from within such encounters that both the various elements of musical and performative instances and what we can understand by music and performance repeatedly emerge anew.”
Connecting to Tianinen statement I conclude by claiming that artistic research and musicology - on equal terms based on a love and desire for understanding details in music, in history, in presence and in the future, - that we can contribute with new knowledge by bringing forth enhanced methodologies allowing for fruitful encounters as a new methodological field ’in-between’.