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Artistic Research and the Musician’s Vulnerability Dr. Darla Crispin, Senior Research Fellow, Orpheus Research Centre in Music This article is drawn from The Artistic Turn, co-authored by Darla Crispin, Kathleen Coessens and Anne Douglas, to be published by Leuven University Press in September 2009. he place and importance given by a culture or her art and the aspirations of the public. little; what is beginning to change, however, is T to creative, original and aesthetic acts, points to the great expectations such a culture Artworks offer glimpses into the experience of being human. They hold up a mirror to the questioning consciousness with which per- formers themselves enter into that experience. has about its artists. An audience expects from humanness – its good and its bad sides – and Through this, the discipline of ‘research in- art ‘that it be art’, that it should exceed in some penetrate what is normally hidden behind the and-through practice’, or artistic research, has sense the everyday experience, the usual reflective plate glass of human society. The artistic been developing apace. perceptions, and the limits of reality. Art has an gesture opens an inner world of undreamed Any attempt at candid exploration of these important place and function in society, offe- dreams, of unrealised events, of unspoken questions requires courage. It demands that we ring a possible means of constructing identity, sentences, of unimagined shapes, forms, content question our attachment to what Theodor W. of negotiating internal strivings and external and colours, and of unprecedented connections. Adorno called ‘phantasmagoria’, the ‘illusions’ prescriptions and of channelling frustration and For performers involved in mainstream associated with art production, and engage rebellion. It is no accident that during times of concert life in the tradition of Western Art instead in a search for ‘truth content’, for the economic hardship (as we are currently exper- Music, the artistic act as presented in the public imprint of the ‘real’ upon the materials of iencing) attention turns to the arts as means of sphere has remained remarkably unchanged artworks. This aim may be laudable, but it also remedy. The weight resting on the shoulders of since its underlying paradigms became estab- opens up for scrutiny the ideological battlefield the artist is therefore high and the expectations lished in the nineteenth century. Key to these between music scholars and practitioners, one can be extreme. The artist must, in some sense, paradigms, and in contradistinction to earlier of the sources of doubt and vulnerability. While project the illusion of being a physical, intell- concert- or opera-going traditions, is the doubt may be an important driver for develop- ectual, aesthetic and embodied hero. Schooled notion that the artistic act is witnessed in more- ing a sense of inquiry and recognising the open- in virtuosity, catapulted into stardom, and or-less silent, rapt attentiveness by an audience ended nature of many questions, it can also considered as a role model, he or she is not that holds its emotional responses in check have a devastating impact upon certain performers. permitted to fail because failure might mean until, following signals that the boundaries of Nevertheless, this vulnerability is actually at the forfeiting, in the eyes of the public, the right to the ‘frame’ of performance have been exited, core of many questions about music making, so be an artist. they can be released. The musician, whether it is fitting that contemporary musical thinkers But who is this artist, this performer, this solitary, performing in a small ensemble or con- should ask us to open this hidden world. maker, now admired, now criticised; sometimes tributing to a larger one, proceeds onto a public deceiving us through their artfulness, at others platform of some kind, observed and heard by Secret of interpretation: controlling fulfilling all our hopes through their artistry? Is an audience that sits – or stands (and this usually oneself, yet not making music against this artist to be regarded as superhuman, or rather depending upon economic circumstances) – oneself. One’s own impulse must live on as personifying ‘humanity’, both in its fragility and attempts to communicate a ‘whole and even in its negation. This is precisely and in its fleeting transcendence of this fragility entire’ conception of the musical work. where the performer’s strength lies. through individual acts of heroism? The answer There are many ways that this can be done, Theodor Adorno, Towards a Theory of must surely be that the artist, as a human being, and artists of a more experimental bent have Musical Reproduction, 2006, p. 127. reflects and illuminates humanity. Artists create attempted to interrogate this ‘frame of the per- in solitude as well as being sought out by a formance’ experience through such processes as Performer-researchers, and those who work public, but are compelled to leave this realm of enabling audience participation, speaking to with them, need to develop a reasoned app- anonymity if they are to make creative audiences, using the recording studio as a creat- roach to the emotive aspects of this dilemma. exchanges ‘in the world’. The artist is a human ive space and making public the creative collab- The synthesis involves an understanding of being who has to strive to meet the demands of orations between performer and composer. But personal narratives, but we need to go beyond his or her own aspirations, the aspirations of his the basic paradigm of the ‘concert’ has changed reading these within the carapace of the ▼ M U S I C A L O P I N I O N S E P T E M B E R - O C TO B E R 2 0 0 9 25 phantasmagorical. This is difficult, and can enormous amount of effort over a period of materialized, but part of the experience of the lead to a retreat into the mastery of surfaces. years; yet each field exacts from its participants performer, involving
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