travail, arbete, arbeit, opera, operare, werk, werkligkeit, workingly, tra-through, trans-, directed, from one to an other, exchange, merging, unknown-until-made...
"When you look closer, nothing goes away. It changes you see, like night becomes a day, and day the night, but even that's not true, its really all about your point of view, depending where you're standing on the earth. [...] I think I guess a no does not exist, it's only yes."
(Potter, S. 2004, Philosophical cleaner's utterance, freely transcribed from theatrical trailer,
Note by note.
Letter by letter.
The score arises as a corridor. Walls covered in letters.
Shadows. At first narrow. Closing eyes. Holding
on to breath as if something would
break the very next moment. Momentum
is growing. A slide leaps out all of a sudden.
Its face is not any longer making (her) fear.
Instead it embraces (her) on all sides
and the choreography resides behind her back.
Around the L1 vertebra the leap finds a refuge,
and in a window the light linen curtain expands
along with (her) expiration.
Air has found a new direction. Silence cannot find any free seat
and sound must make space
inside the basket by (his) feet.
Darkness comes with the wind. Clouds covering (her) body,
telling (her) to rest.
Rest and sleep. Death is close now. Death keeps sounding.
the darkness of the sun.
Performing a “process of ornamenting”
through music as a way of creating existential resilience in everyday living
This part of the project description can be read while listening to one or more audio files (possibly simultaneously) in the RC exposition VOICES of NOTHINGNESS.
(Poetic) breathing as a way of moving through the vocal score: ornamenting-as-reflection
This short narrative is a sample and a result of a creative reading of the seventeenth century score and its ornaments. The narrative becomes an ornamented variation of the original ornamentation. By placing myself as an artistic researcher inside an historical score, a journey begins into the unknown landscapes of musical imagination. Every sigh, slide, suspension provides an eternity of new possible patterns, joyful apophenic encounters and enlightening vocal sound experiences.
Philosophy begins with a sense of wonder (Plato, Theaetetus, 155-c-d) and wonder is the vocal explorer's first travel companion. There are profound resonances between a note and a note. Between a letter and a letter. And voice keeps navigating through lived aesthetic space-times. It is a non/sense-making process, where judgment depends on the creative reading in relation to the world and its over-abundance. Algis Mickunas suggests in his reading of Alphonso Lingis philosophy: “That the subject, that everything has a cosmic connection, that everything is worldly and moves with the force of the world. […] the human is a being-in-the-world” (Mickunas 1978).
An ornamented vocal melody might initially look simple and easy for a performer to decode, but the spaces in-between notes are not so simple to reconfigure. These are complex spaces demanding of the performer to open up for an infinity of possible not-yet-determined patterns hiding in the shadows of the score. There are certainly some alluring clues and suggestions in the musical context. Decoding emergent attractions is an individual journey into past experiences, narratives and memories. The situation demands a sieving process, moving backwards and forwards through time, from memories to making aesthetic selections concerning 'that-which-is-yet-to-be-sensed'. Breathing is of course central to the act of voicing and singing. What is challenging and can only be learned somatically is allowing the breath to move and live freely in the entire body. This calls for the sensitive awareness of not wanting to judge the acts prior to their existential being.
Moving towards ‘Ornamenting as a shared reflective praxis in relation to the Other’
This project is an artistic exploration of ornamenting as over-spilling, over-abundance and over-vocalization; it is driven by a desire to investigate the relation between two simple notes and a space-in-between; it is also a study between what is known and unknown, sensed and non-sensed, between reason and imagination, between self and other. A group of performing artists/philosophers have been invited to join in the explorative laboratories as co-creative ‘readers/performers’ and dialogue partners.
Finally, this praxis-led project is not only meant to shed light on artistic music research as a way of making art. It also attempts to open new possibilities for trans-disciplinary explorations. Techniques for the production of meaningful connections at the level of vocal performance must of course go beyond the subjective realm of the performer and be tested in the arena of the micro-sociology of audiences. As such this is not a matter of theory, but empirical research. Taking a strong hint from the 'hard sciences' it is reasonable to assume that with the aid of inference and inductive reasoning, apophenic techniques of connectivity might be used to connect a variety of fields. The guiding hope of the research is twofold. Firstly, to set aside 'theory' and instead develop a reliable toolkit for exploring ornamentation as a way of meaning-making. And secondly, to investigate whether such tools might be useful in enriching dialogues between zones which are separated by subject-specialism in the realms of education, therapeutic practice, science, and how we make meaning in the art of everyday living.
Existential resilience through music performance research: two phases
Being existentially ‘thrown’ into the loop of a historical manuscript is an adventure on all levels, though even more so if the singer/performer is ready, curious, alert and open enough to decode and “sifting through the masses of associated material to find meaningful patterns” (ibid). A first explorative phase demands that all senses are able to tune into any mental, aesthetic, ethical, existential, philosophical and psychological inquiries. When signs and impulses begin to settle, a second phase begins which involves testing, sieving, reflecting, contemplating and meditating through vocal action. Existential resilience becomes the key idea in this second phase. Which way will one choose? What will make the very best sound? What choices will make a difference in future relations or encounters? What becomes curious in this study is to understand if there is any specific meaning/purpose/reason, for movement and (e)motions to stagnate, stiffen, suffocate and collapse. It will particularly be of interest to observe if resilience at all can be conceived through music which in itself embodies a very meditative and slow mood, despite an active movement through the score.
Creating vocal meaning, force and expression through external intuitive sensitivity
A singer’s vocal sound is transmitted via the body, but the source of such vocal flow must find its location outside the body through their intuitive sensitivity toward an external encounter. Interactions of sensations, thoughts, and somatic events while reading the score will affect vocal expression, colors of timbre, vocal onset, dynamics of volume, which themselves change the singer's awareness of psycho-physical functions of the body etc. Basically, the whole human instrument-as-a-living-breathing-being will be awakened. This awakening could well be described as an embodied experience of Nothingness (Belgrano 2011). In the practice of vocalizing, this deeper existential awareness of being in motion is often not recognized for what it is. Rather the phenomena is often taken for granted as a sensation of flow. It is therefore highly relevant in this project to consider this internal process of continuous voicing, including an external intuitive sensitivity activated through relating with the Other.
A singer knows that memories and imaginings are powerful tools for working on the physical properties of their sound. For example, imagining the space of a tall cylinder or a large cathedral inside a body in order to let the human vocal instrument expand; or a string attached to the top of the head in order to grow long and wide throughout the body. Both experiences happen within the body-mind and beyond. A memory can be encountered anywhere and in any situation the singer finds him/her/self. In this study I am focusing on the encounter with an over-abundant and over-vocalized (ornamented) score from the mid-seventeenth century composed by Michel Lambert (1610-1696). I aim to explore changes in musical (and vocal) expression when images emerge through the score or the text, or through any gesture created in a situated space-time connected to the reading of the score. I wish to explore the art of ornamenting through “a state of apophenia, a form of ‘creative reading‘” of the vocal score, an existential dialogue of artistic encounters and beyond, provoking “developments in the organization of memories” (Price 2016). Price's work draws on the 'memory theater' of Giulio Camilo (circa 1520), utilizing a performatively induced apophenia to create new and meaningful connections between people, feelings, and fields of knowledge.
While departing from a seventeenth century music manuscript performed as a research-meditation-through-action, the following questions need to be reflected upon: What in any encounter causes acts to change direction and transform? To what extent does apophenia play a significant role in the process of ornamenting? The term 'apophenia' is most often deployed as a psychiatric concept for the abnormal heightening of significant connections: this research aims to explore how such a heightening of sensed connectivity is both necessary and desirable in musical performance. It aims to show how this process may contribute to the harmonious development of inter-disciplinary research in general.
Moving through any performance – may it be conscious or unconscious – often involves a specific intuitive sensitivity towards the Other. In artistic research methodology this kind of sensitivity involves both attentive curiosity and openness for unexpected and paradoxical details on both micro and macro levels. Ornamenting through musical practice include such intuitive sensitivity in order to touch the hearts and souls of an audience (which was a conscious intention acknowledged in the seventeenth century), but also of the performing self. This project is striving to connect the universal practice of performing every-day-living-in-action with the art of ornamenting as a process of reflecting-through-action.
MICKUNAS, A. (1978) Two philosophers of Lituanian origins: Emanuel Levinas and Alphonso Lingis, Lituanus, Lithuanian Quarterly Journal of Arts and Sciences, Volume 24, No.1 - Spring 1978. (accessed 2023-02-28)
PRICE, M. (2016) Form and Force in Poesis and Apophenia, Doctoral Diss., Manchester, MMU