An Singing Orna/Mentor's Performance or Ir/rational Practice


        Elisabeth Belgrano

                  PhD in Performance in Theatre and Music Drama


Inter Arts Center, Malmö/Lund University, Sweden




 is inviting you to curiously move along Into      an    other reality. Into a score,handwritten

You are invited to walk into this je-ne-sais-quoi of the score...





as part of our everyday breath...


a good look

at a specific detail...


into its very centre,


to cut

and to chop

it into parts...

Searching for every possible aspect of any-thing-in-itself...

                                    Touching its surface and finding it all tremendously curious:







"the sensuality of the flesh,

and exchange of warmth,

a feeling of preasure,

a proximity of otherness

that brings the other nearly as close as oneself.

Perhaps closer. [...] and uncanny sense of the otherness of oneself.

A literal holding oneself at a distance in the sensation of contact, the greeting of a stranger. [...]

So much happens in a touch: an infinity of others - other beings, other spaces, other times - are aroused." (Barad 2012, see also)



central to

17th century vocal performance. Touching while voicing. Observing and expressing the wonders of living. It was a time when voice was considered being a symbol of NOTHINGNESS

Pointing towards a context  - far more rich that the actual score itself.

Departing from an historical source means in this research entering a limitless spacetime.

                                                                                                                       A walk without an end.

For me this score carries a longing for that-which-is-yet-to-be-known.




The ornamenting voicing keeps moving through a fluid landscape.


is an extension

of the factual and the physical.

the material, the existing,      the magical, the extreme


          as paradox and wonder








has been consciously in my mind and heart

for the past 15 year now.


Trying to understand its function

in the production of vocal expression,

in Venetian Academic mid 17th century gatherings,

in the creation of the early modern opera

around at the beginning of 1600.


Nothingness has thus informed me about here and now. That everything is now and never again. Here and then gone I a flash.

(Lambert ca. 1662)

in Paris around 1662-63. 

transcribed and performed 

Entering a(n original) line,   

(Florio 1611: Orígine; Cotgrave 1611:Origine; Barad 2017:43)

The French

at the time didn’t care much

for that kind of Nothingness.

They preferred the fluidity of a continuous touching.

A glistering ongoing ornamenting movement towards


No beginning.

No end.

But a

cultivated brilliance, shimmering,


(VoiceLab 2017)

Entering a(n original) line, making it part of an everyday breath; taking a good look at a specific detail: spiralling into its very centre, starting to cut and chop it into parts, searching for every possible aspect of the thing-in-itself, touching its surface and finding it all tremendously curious; in the midst of the sensuous experience silence rises like a bridge ahead – opening up for unknown points on the other side: points being other narratives, other imaginations, other associations. Resting at the foot of the bridge, reflecting on the situated context of being in





Starting to move upward and forward, keeping the gaze onto the wondrous encounter on the other side; leaving worries, fears and shame on the shore behind; looking around for points of interest; following these points away from the expected path; walking for days in a completely different direction; still caught by a certain-something that is about to be found and explored somewhere else (only the orna/mentor knows what and where); in the midst of it all, a light is shining strong from far away, telling something, demanding attention, telling the orna/mentor to re/turn to the original. It’s like a beaming light of a lighthouse informing the traveller about the route; the orna/mentor knows from the shining light that the original line is coming up very soon, confirming that the orna/menting has come to an end, even if it’s only for a short while. Soon it will start all over again.


The orna/mentor’s path is irrational, allowing curiosity to guide. What’s left in the orna/mentor’s footsteps is a trace being crystallised and clearly visible. The dots that were ahead, they have become a firm line behind. The orna (read as: urn, pot or thing-in-itself) has been cared for by a mentor’s mind and DOINGS. The orna/mentoring hand. The caring has created endless variations of things-in-themselves: ornamented versions of the original. The DOINGS of the orna/mentor are original and can never be made the same. The effect can be read as a translation of one DOING to another DOING to another DOING. Creating multiple understandings/narratives/fabulations/doings based on a simple original (DOING).



An orna/mentor’s acts are: to follow and to divert, to oppose and to compose, to complement and to confuse, to clarify and to reassure. The performances by an orna/mentor are things/materialisations in multiple versions. The effects of an orna/mentor’s DOINGS can be observed as isolated mad scenes, or landscapes governed by wilderness; or they can create a desire to pick up an ornamented thing-in-itself and to continue an irrational performance of ornamented translations on the original (DOING) again and again.

You are invited to walk into this je-ne-sais-quoi of the score xploring it as part of our everyday breath



"And rather than offering a straight narrative, a linear unfolding of a particular storyline, it experiments with montage and fragmentary writing, diffractively reading insights through one another, allowing the reader to explore various cristalline structures that solidify, if only momentarily in the breaking of continuity."


For me this score carries a longing for that-which-is-yet-to-be-known.


The ornamenting voicing keeps moving through a fluid landscape. Pointing towards a context  - more rich than the actual score itself


Taking a good look at a specific detail:


(Barad 2017:42)

Spiralling into its very centre, 

starting to cut and chop it into parts,


Searching for every possible aspect of any thing-in-itself, 

Departing from an historical source means in this research entering a limitless spacetime


Touching its surface and finding it all tremendously curious; 

(Cotegrave 1611)


This score tells

about pain

and sorrow.

About the fall

of a city.

about suffering and madness.

a lamentation.

a meditation.

a lesson in the shadows of death

a walk without an end

leçons de ténebres.

(Nishida 1958)

"The true self, the self in its most concrete immediacy, then, is an acting self (kōiteki jiko) partaking in the world's poiēsis (production). Instead of being de-worlded subjects observing the world from without, we are radically implaced within the world's dynamism."


"We are both spectators and actors in the unfolding of the great play of life"


"Thinking already means acting"


"We see things by acting on them, creating them, giving them form."

"Intuition or seeing is never just the passivity or pure perception. Instead it entails the dynamism of our acting in the world, our active engagement with our surrounding. seeing things, that is, understanding them in view of what they are, aleardy implies our acting on them, giving them form, within the context of the given historical world. It involves the active structuring of what we see, rendering it into forms."

"We act on things while being acted on by them. We determine the things that are determining us; we shape the things around us as we ourselves are being shaped. So we see by acting and act by seeing; they generate eachother"



 (Krummel 2015:86)


Now, let us diffract the score through the words of Barad

                                                    who continues to write

                                                    about the very point of encounter:

(VoiceLab 2017)

While trying to get deeper into the wonders of VOCAL Nothingness I learned about the Japanese Philosopher Kitaro Nishida and the Kyoto School. I learned about a common interest in theorizing/practicing the art of Nothingness. In my research I am currently engaging with Nothinda's theory as a means and a tool for translating abstract vocality into meaning-making material(Uehara 2017).

“Many voices speak here in the interstices, a cacophony of always already reiteratively intra-acting voices. These are entangled tales. Each is diffractively threaded through and enfolded in the other.” (Barad 2012)

In this work we are invited to approach words and sounds diffractively. Words spelled out but also words imagined through thinking. Cut together apart in every curiosity encountered(Barad 2014


Practicing and theorizing becomes a diffracted way of touching the otherness of the self.

A continuum of doings:

entering, making, taking,

spiralling, starting, searching,

finding, opening, resting,

reflecting, movng, keeping,

leaving, flowing, walking,

exploring, shining, telling, demanding, beaming, informing, coming, confirming, caring, allowing,


(Cotegrave 1611: Former; Traduire)

"Language and speech, as a medium of expression, are a performance and as such entails gestures and bodily actions, which in turn imply interaction with others."

"One might even think of the practice of translating as a kind of self-cultivation or spiritual excercise in which one need to empty oneself in order to give voice to an otherness speaking through the words of another."


"Translation may be said to be an occasion for developing one's identity to incorporate the 'other'"

"Every utterance has the potential to be regarded as an experience of translating feelings into images, emotions into words, the ineffable into an open-ended and nonrestrictive kind of speech"

"The role of language in the experience was perhaps  still clearer  to them in the case of poetry, with its freedom to articulate reality in the double sense of expressing it verbally and being joined to it. The literal meaning of the Latin root translatio captures this well: in the creative process of articulation one is transported from one place to another"

"This kind of 'thinking through translation' runs the risk of mistakes, misunderstandings, and oversigh [...] But rather than shrink from the dangers, keeping them in mind can lead us to look at the text with fresh eyes [...]insofar as translation offers a paradigm for intercultural praxis it can take on 'ethical dimensions'". It obliges us to rethink our own linguistic categories, to reflect on ourselves at the same time as we reflect on others". The existential-philosophical paths of Nishitani and Ueda shows us how reason and sentiment, experience and comprehensions, philosophy and religion, and even Eastern and Western languages and worldviews can be made to illumine one another."


This moment while being part of this score means we are diffractively intra-acting with Nothingness and that-which-is-yet-to-be-known.

(Bouso 2017:112-114)

[...] to no longer regard ourselves as ontologically independent of and separete from our natural environment, but rather as parttaking in its dynamic ecology. [...] to comport with nature in mindfulness of our finitude, with our debt in mind, our origination in the source of our being, The result would engender a more wholesome and healtier ecological co-existence with beings of the earth, both alive and inanimate. Yet we must admit that to open the world as a world-of-worlds in intimacy with nature is no easy task. It is an on-going responsibility that invilves working for dialogue, conversation, and cooperative interactivity with our others, both human and non-human."

(Krummel 2015:224-225)


Fearful to make too much sound,

A sound that mingles with bodies. 

Piled up all around inside the acoustics. 


Difficult to find air. 

Impossible to get enough.

Impossible to grasp.

Real is real and not real.


Here and now all is clean.

Hear and now all is death.

No life. No peace. No thing to trust.

Only Death.

White walls.

Bended ceilings.

Like in a sacred place.

But this is hell.

Sacred hell. 

Hell and Death.

All there is to know is death. 

Death and hope.

Hope since time is now.




(VoiceLab 2018)


"Mind, body and world are interwoven within the forms of our embodied agency."

"for Nishida, the embedded, world-engaged human body is not simply the sum of its biological parts or even its physical capacities. Rather, it is a fluid and an 'open-ended' functional structure', as he puts it, which both penetrates and is penetrated by the world in which it moves and acts. This 'world' includes both the body's immediate biological environments as well as the more encompassing cultural and historical contexts that contour our actions and self-understanding. 'Acting-intuition' for Nishida thus captures the active-passive circuit of relatedness through which the body both enters into and receives its world. Importantly, it can be cultivated such that we realize a nondual or 'pure' (Nishida 1990) experience of the world."

Let me conclude (and repeat):

in this exposition I have written

The singing orna/mentor's path is irrational, allowing curiosity to guide. What's left in the orna/mentor's footsteps is a trace being crystallized and clearly visible. The dots that were ahead, they have become a firm line behind. The orna (read as: urn, pot or thing-in-itself) has been cared for by a mentor's mind and doings. The orna/mentoring hand. The vocal caring has created endless variations of sounds-in-themselves: ornamented versions of the original. The doings of the orna/mentor are original and can never be made the same. The effect can be read as a translation of one doing of another doing of another doing. Creating multiple understandings/narratives/fabulations/doings based on a simple original doing.

(Krueger 2008:214)

Knowing goes beyond here, now and then. It is the moment when two pair of eyes meet. Trust is there. Even if only for a minute. Sound is visually translated into touch and into meaning. It might for some be a moment of forever. A moment to care for and to bring out in hard times. When two pair of eyes meet, they know. Doubt doesn't exist. To pay attention to the moment between two pair of eyes "is to catch the world in the act, like riding the cusp of a wave ever on the point of breaking"1. It is to experience yet another body growing out of a gaze. A structure that holds all eyes and all bodies within and eternally spilling it all out. It is a body claiming any paradox to be real and filled with life-force. It is a poetic materiality, a poem, a song. This moment is an extention of life and all realtions there could ever be.


As a singing academic I am departing with a score in my hand and my voice ready to lead.  Practice-led or performative research might be the identification of this artistic practice.  In my work I conscious about trying to keep the sensuous experience that I always strive for as a singer. My intention is to touch and to be touched – as a singer / as an artistic researcher / as a caring being.I place my work in diffractive and artistic methodologies. I search for ways to translate the movement from silence to voicing to existential meaning-making. I turn to whatever idea, fragment, theories, figures coming in my way. Staying with the situatedness of making sense out of nonsense. May it be poetic...


A performance act in itself.

A poetics of singing as knowing.

A feeling of having overcome fears and boundaries that previously interfered with me vocal  doings.

Ornamentation as a practice has allowed me to investigate ways of arriving at a deeper understandings of meaning making.


me to encounter




halfway,and fully relating to the 







Arlander, A. (2014). “From interaction to intra-action in performing landscape”. In: Beatriz REVELLES BENAVENTE, Ana M. GONZÁLEZ RAMOS, Krizia NARDINI (coord.). “New feminist materialism: engendering an ethic-onto-epistemological methodology.” Artnodes. No. 14:26-34. [accessed 10/08/2018]


Barad, K. (2012/2017) ‘When two hands touch, how close are they? On Touching – The Inhuman That Therefore I Am’ in Stakemeier, K. and Witzgall, S. (eds.) Power of Material/ Politics of Materiality, Zurich: Diaphanes: 153-164.


Barad, K. (2014) “Diffracting Diffraction: Cutting Together-Apart”, Parallax, 20, 3:168-187.


Barad, K. (2017) 'What flashes up: Theological-Political-Scientific Fragments.' In: Keller, C. (ed.) (2017) Entangled Worlds. Religion, Science, and New Materialism. Fordham University Press.Pp. 21-88


Barad, K. (2018) On Touching: The Alterity Within (on-line lecture)

STUDIUM GENERALE RIETVELD ACADEMIE: “Hold Me Now – Feel and Touch in an Unreal World Was a conference-festival organized by the Gerrit Rietveld Academie at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam on March 21, 22, 23, 24 2018 (Published on Jun 27, 2018. Accessed 10/8/2018)


Belgrano, Elisabeth (2011). “Lasciatemi morire” o faro “La FintaPazza”: Embodying Vocal Nothingness on Stage in 17th Century Italian and French Operatic Laments and Mad Scenes, ArtMonitor, doctoral diss. Gothenburg, 2011 [accessed 10/08/2018]


Belgrano, E. (2014) ‘Ornamentation based upon More-Than-Human-References: Moving Towards an Ecology of Trust‘,  CARPA4, Colloquium on Artistic Research in Performing Arts, The Impact of Performance as Research, hosted by the Theatre Academy Helsinki, 11-13 June, Proceeding: [accessed 10/08/2018]


Belgrano, E. (2014-ongoing) Lessons in the Shadows of Death: an artistic research project oon French vocal ornamentation, voicing, intra-acting and how to perform TRUST. (Musical point of departure: Leçons de Ténèbres, Michel Lambert, 1610-1696) Research Catalogue [accessed 10/08/2018]

Belgrano, E. (2016) ‘Vocalizing Nothingness: (Re) configuring vocality inside the spacetime of Ottavia’, Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies,Vol. 1 Number 2, pp. 183-195 [accessed 10/08/2018]

Belgrano, E. (2018) Ornamenting Vocality. Intra-Acting for Vocal Meaning-Making. Ruukku. Studies in Artistic Research,  Nr. 9, AESTHETIC INTRA-ACTIONS, Practicing New Materialisms in the Arts, Kontturi, K. et al. (eds) [accessed 10/08/2018]

Bouso, R (2017) Thinking through Translation. Nishitani and Ueda on Words, Concepts and Images. In: Uehara, M (ed) Philosopher la Tranduction. Philosophizing Translation.  Frontiers in Japanese Philosophy. Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture, Nagoya

Bohler, A (2010) On touching. Transcription of video-lecture presented at Score #1, Touché, 21 April, Tantzquartier, Vienna [accessed 10/08/2018]

Derrida, J. (2005) On Touching – Jean-Luc Nancy, Standford Univ. Press


Ingold, T. (2018) Tim Ingold on Taking Others Seriously, Royal Anthropological Institutes Review, Conference Edition, p. 2


Kleinmann, A. (2012) Intra-actions. Interview with Karen Barad. Mousse #34:76-81 

Krueger, J. W. (2008) Nishida, Agency and the Self-Contradictory' Body, Asian Philosophy, 18:3, 213-229

Krummel, J. W. M.(2015) Nishida Kitarō's Chismatic Chorology. Place of Dialectic. Dialectic of Place. Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis.


Lambert, M. (ca. 1660-1680) Leçons de Ténèbres, Bibl. Nat. Paris.

Nishida, K (1958) Intelligibility and the Philosophy of Nothingness. Three Philosophical Essays. Translated with an introduction by Robert Schinzinger, East-West Center Press, Honolulu

Uehara, Mayuko (2015) Philosopher la Traduction/Philosophizing Translation, Frontiers of Japanese Philosophy 9, Chisokudō, Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture, Chisokudō, Publications, Nagoya, Japan

On-line dictionaries:

Florio 1611 [accessed 10/08/2018]

Cotgrave 1611 [accessed 10/08/2018]

VoiceLab, Hagkyrkan, Gothenburg, Sweden, 3 Nov. 2017

VoiceLab, Sachsenhausen, Oranienburg, 29 May 2018

Shadows, Photos: Belgrano, E., 2018