Dialogic Forms of Research in Interactive Workshops (DR)

PETAL - Dialogic Forms of Research in Interactive Workshops (DR)

Despite the recent rapprochements between performers and scholars, it remains a difficult task to integrate the basic rationalization of methods inherent to any kind of research activity with the spontaneous and often unconscious dimensions of performing practice without degrading the latter into a merely “supplementary” position – and, indeed, without mystifying it as an “inexplicable” and “irreversible” experience unamenable to any research activity – an obvious trend in many recent studies departing from Carolyn Abbate’s rigorous criticism of text-based musicology (2004). Until very recently, performers’ thoughts and conceptualizations of performance have rarely been at the centre of performance-related research. Since the 2000s, however, ethnographical approaches have considerably increased in number and substance, although analytical or structural aspects usually play a minor role here. In a rare case, performers were asked to make their views on a specific piece explicit in the form of a written analysis: 16 professional organists’ performances of Bach’s “dorian” fugue differed from the performers’ own analyses of the piece’s sectional structure, “suggesting that written analysis may not be the optimal strategy to determine the performer’s analytical reading of a piece” (Gingras et al 2010, 305). Indeed “paradoxes” or “ineluctable tensions” (Swinkin 2016, 95) between performers’ and theorists’ perspectives often remain even in the most sensitive methodological settings and should not be wiped away by a seemingly conflict-free model of dialogue.

This does not mean that dialogues between performers and theorists are meaningless. The PETAL project therefore aims to create an environment in which PETAL researchers can interact with musicologists, performers and other (experienced and non-expert) listeners to expand the scholarly research and apply it to performance and listening practices, complementing and confronting previous findings. In order not to perpetuate the traditional separation between theorists and performers (Schmalfeldt 1985; see 
Doğantan Dack 2008, 300), it seems important to invite participants with a basic knowledge of the other respective domain (i.e., performers who have basic insight into musicology and musicologists who have experience in musical performance).

The workshops will require careful preparation and a guided framework that on the one hand will allow for connection of its discussions and results to the other two areas of the PETAL project while also leaving enough space for all participants to articulate their ideas and contributions.

Each workshop will focus on one work from the project corpus – or a maximum of two or three works in the cases of shorter cycles. Participants will consist of two different professional and experienced performers who have studied and prepared this specific piece (four performers if lieder cycles are chosen), three musicologists (one theorist, one psychologist, one historian), two experienced listeners (knowledge of the standard classical repertoire but no professional background) and two non-expert listeners (no substantial knowledge of classical repertoire). One important facet of the workshops will be to find out whether and in what ways the PETAL research might indeed enrich performance and perception strategies of macroform. Therefore selected participants will be provided with material in preparation for the workshop: succinctly summarized findings from the HR- and PR-components including a (partly graphical) CTPSO-based macroformal analysis as well as selected audio recordings. The other participants will not receive this detailed preliminary information on the PETAL research findings, so that the impact of the PETAL research on the participants can be estimated later. Both performers will prepare a lecture-recital and a complete performance of the studied work and also perform the entire work in two evening concerts during the workshop; the musicologists will also prepare a presentation on the same work, and they will be asked to draw direct conclusions for performance which one of the performers should exemplify during the workshop. All participants will be asked to document their listening experience of the complete performances in a listening protocol, noting large-scale cues and their relative salience. The performances will be recorded and the recordings will be distributed to all participants who will then be asked to refine their protocol with the help of the recording. Communication of listening and performing strategies will substantiate the ideas of performative listening and “realtime analysis” by performers. To that end, along with dimensions of historically informed performance and listening, recent research into “experimental performance” (Assis 2015) and “radical interpretation” (Doğantan Dack 2015, 37f.) that aims “to make legitimate space for non-conforming performances that still make artistic-musical sense” (ibid., 38) will also be included, for example by radically departing from established tempo, articulation or dynamic conventions.