Powers of Divergence – PhD Thesis












This dissertation is an integral part of the five-year research programme Experimentation vs Interpretation – Exploring New Paths in Music Performance in the Twenty-First Century or MusicExperiment21, funded by the European Research Council, hosted at the Orpheus Institute of Ghent (BE), and led by Paulo de Assis. The programme has explored and developed notions of “experimentation” in order to propose new performance practices of Western notated art music.

This research project proposes a move beyond commonly accepted codes and conventions of musical interpretation. Crucially based on a strong creative and practical component, it presents a new approach to the performance of Western notated art music. In this new approach, corresponding to an artistic practice supported by reflections and research, the performance of past musical works is not regarded in its reiterative, reconstructive, or reproductive function. This new practice instead insists on performance as a locus of experimentation, where “what we know” about a given musical work is problematised. The performative moment becomes both a creative and a critical act, through which new epistemic and aesthetic properties of the musical work emerge. This new practice insists on the unbridgeable divergence between codification (score) and materiality (sounds, gestures). Rather than being minimised, this divergence is amplified, so that performance happens through sounds and gestures unrecognisable as belonging to the original work as an interpreter would approach it. Instead of relying on the culturally constructed system through which symbolic categories are biunivocally connected to material events, this practice exposes the arbitrariness of such a system, together with the boundaries of its epistemic implications. The activity of interpreters and executants focuses on the balance between objectivity (the instructions contained in the score, the “facts” accumulated around the musical work, etc.) and subjectivity (the performer’s freedom, his/her expressivity, etc.). This new practice goes beyond both objectivity and subjectivity, embracing an experimental approach to music performance that challenges traditional notions of interpretation. Whereas execution and interpretation relate to an ideal and aprioristic sonic image of the musical work (as Platonic copies), the performance practice proposed here posits itself as production of simulacra: thus performance becomes a sonic “image” that relates to what is different from it (the score) by means of difference, and not by attempting to construct a (supposed) identity. In this process, internal resemblance is negated, together with the idea of composition as origin and performance as its telos.

PDF of the full thesis available here:

Lucia D’Errico – PhD Dissertation – Powers of Divergence (1)

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