Mid Term Activity Report (September 2015)

The ‘Experimentation versus Interpretation: Exploring New Paths in Music Performance in the Twenty-First Century’ (ME21) research programme involves a group of researchers studying and proposing transformations of concepts and practices in the musical performance of Western notated art music. ME21 attempts to found a new transdisciplinary practice of and discourse on how to relate to past musical objects, proposing a different and original model for musical performance – a model that takes into account older modes of performance (execution, Vortrag, interpretation, performance, a.o.) but which, crucially, is based upon ‘experimentation’. Integrating material that goes beyond the score (such as sketches, texts, concepts, images, videos, new commissions) into performances, this project offers a broader contextualisation of the works within a transdisciplinary horizon. To achieve this, the project has a multidisciplinary structure, with specific research strands on artistic practice, musicology, philosophy, and epistemology, which generates a network of aesthetic-epistemic references that emerge at different professional stages (including doctoral and post-doctoral researchers), as well as in the context of leading international projects and music ensembles (in Austria, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Finland, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Turkey, the USA, and Canada).

Content-wise, the achievements of the project can be divided into two main types: ‘general’ and ‘specific’. Among the first category (‘general’), ME21 is developing: (1) a new ontology of musical works, which are seen as multiplicities made of innumerable constitutive parts (things) that are brought together in particular contexts and combinations (historically, geographically, socially, and aesthetically situated); (2) new methodologies based on a tripartite modus operandi (archaeology – genealogy – problematisation) and on the practice of ‘assemblage theory’, which allow for critical reconfigurations of the available materials and to the generation of future knowledge; (3) a fusion of ‘composition’ and ‘performance’ grounded in a new understanding of the musical practitioner as an ‘operator’ rather than an ‘interpreter’ or a ‘performer’; and (4) a ‘radical epistemology’ that fosters the openness and plurality of experimental practices. In relation to the specific subprojects (case studies), the following results are particularly relevant: a new edition, including a new tape, for Luigi Nono’s composition ‘…..sofferte onde serene…’ (1977); a ‘materials edition’ of Robert Schumann’s Kreisleriana (1837) (in advanced stage of preparation); new compositional commissions that follow the mathematical notion of ‘derived functions’ to generate derivate pieces from Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations (1823); and, ‘technologically’, the invention of a new lighting system for piano keyboards, which was built and then tested in performance. Conceptually, ME21 has appropriated many non-musical terms, which lead potentially to a new musical language more adequate to its practices; these include the notions of assemblage, complexity, exposition, haecceity, manifold, modularity, multiplicity, operator, things, transduction, and somatheme. An innovative use of web resources (based upon the Research Catalogue) is successfully being tested in the form of modular research ‘expositions’, which are web-based collections of different materials that, crucially, link and refer to the real world (where they concretely appear as ‘performances’). The main cross-disciplinary developments include major expansions toward philosophy (Deleuze studies, particularly in its relation to artistic research), epistemology (STS and the ‘experimental systems’ of H.-J. Rheinberger – in relation to which Experimental Systems: Future Knowledge in Artistic Research, edited by Michael Schwab, was published), theatre studies (Carmelo Bene), and aesthetics (new ontologies, new methodologies for artistic practices – in relation to which Artistic Experimentation in Music: An Anthology, edited by Darla Crispin and Bob Gilmore, was published). As proof of the project’s impact, ME21 team members have been invited to a number of international juries and advisory boards in Europe, South Africa, and North and South America.

The core researchers of ME21 are: Dr. Paulo de Assis (Principal Investigator), Dr. Michael Schwab (Orpheus Institute, Ghent / Royal College of Arts, London / University of Applied Arts, Vienna), Dr. Juan Parra C. (Orpheus Institute, Ghent), and PhD student Lucia D’Errico (Orpheus Institute, Ghent; from month 20). In the first period (months 1–30), ME21 published 4 books (two partly and two wholly resulting from the project), 14 chapters, and 3 articles, presented in 24 conferences, and presented ca. 30 experimental performances. Its team members participated in artistic or academic events in Europe (Austria, Belgium, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, UK), Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Japan, and Turkey.