“Here and Now provides a snapshot of the impressive research-informed creative and performance work being carried out at the Queensland Conservatorium by staff, research affiliates and graduate students.”
The editors have done an excellent job in assembling a broad range of artistic research projects (10 in total) under three headings “Sounds through space and time”, “Playing the subject” and “Finding the New”.
Artistic research in Australia emerged in the early 1990s after the merger of tertiary colleges (such as conservatoria and visual art schools) with universities. Universities and research funding organisations have been slow to recognise the artistic outputs of academic staff and research students within the research framework, leading to the development of the discipline of artistic research where the research value and significance of artistic work is justified by papers explaining how the work is informed by rigorous research processes.
Of course there is a long history of research informing performance and composition in music that predates this movement: the fields of historical performance practice and electronic music come to mind.
While it may appear unfair that artists working in universities are expected to produce their artistic work and also write academically about it, it is also very informative for other artist/academics and indeed for anyone interested in understanding what’s behind the music or art they admire when artistic research papers like those in Here and Now are published.
The papers presented demonstrate a range of engagement with theories of music practice and critical reflective practice but all were interesting to me as a performer, composer and researcher. One of my favourite reads was arguably the least formal in academic presentation: Louise Denson’s “Music at the end of my street”. This essay charts a particular source of inspiration for this jazz composer/songwriter/improviser: the local cemetery where she takes a daily walk. Denson explains eloquently how the trees and shrubs, the calls of specific birds, and the gravestone inscriptions all inform her creative work.
Two papers by Stephen Emmerson are very impressive from an historical musicological perspective. One is on writing cadenzas for Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 4 and the other on arranging and performing a two-piano version of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. In the former, Emmerson critically engages with all the extant notated cadenzas and the criticism surrounding them in an intellectual/artistic conversation with himself about how best to approach new cadenzas for a particular planned performance. In the latter his arranging choices and performance preparations with his collaborator are brilliantly explicated.
Because of my own extended piano techniques performance practice, I was particularly drawn to Erik Griswold’s account of his prepared piano practice, “Prepared to explore”. As a background to critically analysing his considerable contribution to the prepared piano repertoire, Griswold details the history and performance issues in this specialised performance and composition practice.
Vanessa Tomlinson’s “The Listening Museum” project also intrigued me. This explored a range of different ways of engaging an audience to listen in a multi-roomed performance space where the audience was free to roam. The various music and sound events of the project are outlined within historical and theoretical frameworks. From an artist/academic perspective this paper is perhaps the most satisfying of the collection, but, as previously stated, all the contributions are artistically interesting and academically valid.