Programme for Autumn 2014 Music Research Seminar Series

2014 Autumn MRSS Poster

18 September

Professor David Smith

(University of Aberdeen)

Editorial Reconstruction and Composition: Two Case Studies in Editing the Consort Music of Peter Philips and Richard Dering


Peter Philips (1561-1628) and Richard Dering (c.1580-1630) were both English Catholic composers who emigrated to the continent. Dering was born twenty years after Philips, so belonged to a different generation: unlike Philips, Dering was able to return to his homeland when Charles married the Catholic princess, Henrietta Maria, and he became organist in her private chapel.

Both composers wrote consort music which was most likely to have been performed by consorts of viols. Philips belonged to a generation which expressed itself through stylized instrumental dance music; Dering belonged to a later generation that had a renewed interest in the polyphonic fantasia, influenced greatly by the Italian madrigal. David Smith was invited to edit the consort music of both composers for the scholarly series Musica Britannica, and the two case studies illuminate just some of the challenges involved in this work.

The first case study involves Philips’s 1580 Pavan. This was one of the most popular of his works, featuring in both manuscript and printed sources from all over Europe in versions for keyboard, lute, lute duet, mixed consort and other combinations of instruments. However, only the one for keyboard in Fitzwilliam Virginal Book is definitely by Philips; the rest represent arrangements by other scribes and composers. Given that most of Philips’s keyboard dances involve intabulation of pre-existing instrumental music, it is likely that the 1580 Pavan also had its genesis in a consort version which has not survived. I have previously suggested that the reason we do not have the ‘original’ consort piece is tied up with its being scored for four rather than five parts. The first part of the seminar explores the procedure involved in reconstructing a hypothetical four-part original from the surviving material: this is a process of reconstruction from the surviving evidence.

Dering was best known for his fantasias in five and six parts, which survive in a high number of sources. His dances fare less well, and occur in relatively few sources. Some of them remain incomplete: only the middle three parts survive of a five-part texture. In order to include these works in an edition, the editor becomes composer, working within an environment constrained by the surviving parts which may not always provide an accurate text.

02 October

Dr Imogene Newland

(Interdisciplinary artist, choreographer and independent researcher)

Choreomusical Encounters: Performative Approaches to Understanding Corporeal Expressivity in Music

Current debate surrounding the expressive role of musicians’ body movements in Western art music performance has prompted a rapid expansion in research methodologies that attempt to qualify the relationship between sound and movement. In an age where a musician's physical gestures have been brought under close scrutiny, it is thus necessary to ask what function such expressive gestures bring to the live event of performance and whether such elements might be employed to spurn new creative departures in interdisciplinary practice.  

This discussion explores a range of performance-based research methodologies for the cross-fertilization of recent studies in instrumental gesture and their application within visual and choreographic practices. Drawing upon a number of examples from my own practice-led research, I offer an alternative modality for re-comprehending the musical body that resists generalized or fixed interpretations. The talk begins with an overview of current research into the expressive role of instrumental gestures and expands to illustrate how such approaches might be interwoven with gesture-based research methodologies within postmodern dance practices. This cross-application of approaches, I argue, paves the way for a new kind of choreomusical research. This kind of research may help to open up original insights into the phenomenological and crucially kinesthetic interaction between spectator, performer and instrument, leading to new possibilities for creative practice.  It is my hope that such work may help to reinstate the physical presence of the musician’s body as an intrinsic and indispensable aspect of live performance.

Biography: Dr Imogene Newland is a British interdisciplinary artist, choreographer, director and creator of experimental performance. Originally trained as a pianist specialising in contemporary repertoire, Imogene became interested in the overlap between choreographic practices and gestural analysis in music performance in 2003. She has subsequently formed a series of practice-led works that address the intimate and intensely physical relation between music and the body. She has presented her original performance works at, amongst others, the Arnolfini, Bristol, the Klankkleur Festival, Amsterdam and Ars Electronica, Linz. Imogene completed her practice-led Ph.D. at the Sonic Arts Research Centre, Queen's University Belfast in 2011. Imogene has since written for a number of academic journals including Activate and Somatechnics as well as co-authoring a book chapter for Sandra Reeve’s Ways of Seeing a Body: Body and Performance (2013) with saxophonist Franziska Schroeder. She is currently sub-editor for the journal Body, Space and Technology and Associate Editor of Performing Arts for HARTS & Minds.

16 October

Ronnie Gibson

(University of Aberdeen)

Aspects of Eighteenth-Century Performing Practice Retained in the Transmission of Scottish Fiddle Music from Then to Now

Unlike many traditional instrumental music which had either gone dormant until or were invented in the course of the British folk music revival, Scottish fiddle music has been in continuous transmission since the violin arrived in the country at some time in the seventeenth century. Alburger goes so far as to argue for continuity with a pre-violin fiddle tradition which extends back considerably further. This paper will consider the implications of continuous transmission for the performance of the music in the present by examining its links with the past and the various mechanisms of its transmission.

30 October

Michael Berkeley, CBE

(Composer and Broadcaster)

Music in Society - Its Role and Power

Michael Berkeley is one of the country’s leading composers; the son of Sir Lennox Berkeley and the godson of Benjamin Britten, he has written for many of the world’s leading orchestras and ensembles. In 2012 he was made life peer (as Baron Berkeley of Knighton) and entered the House of Lords as a crossbencher with a particular remit to discuss music and the wider arts. He is also well-known as a broadcaster with his hugely popular Private Passions a mainstay on BBC Radio 3. We are greatly honoured to welcome Michael to Aberdeen University.

13 November

Professor Pete Stollery

(University of Aberdeen)

Placing Sound: How a notion of place has informed recent compositional work

Over a thirty five year career of composing using technology I have become more and more fascinated by a notion of place and how it affects my approaches to and the methodologies used in my work. Tracing a path from the soundscape piece ABZ/A in 1998 to the recent From Aberdeen, to the hamlets of the Argentine for saxophone and digital sound, I will discuss these approaches and methodologies using examples from my work and pose a few questions about the links between sound and place.

27 November

Kristin Elisabeth Borgehed

(Elphinstone Institutione; University of Aberdeen)

Reconsidering the Tonality Concept by Increasing the Understanding of Intonation and Tonal Variations in Folk Singing - Challenging Thoughts on Music and Aesthetics

The study of singing has for centuries greatly emphasized the importance of ”staying in pitch”, from a listener’s perspective. When using the analysis method ”singing as a bodily experience” it became impossible to neglect some obvious shortcomings related to this. The musical logic did in fact seem to include variabel intonation as well as changes of the tonal frameworks without reducing them to be either aesthetic effects, or a question of  technique or a matter of the ear.

Since singers without formal training rarely compensate for the timbral differencies implied in the production of language sounds, the pattern of intonation is interconnected to her sound production. Thereby the intonaton mutually effects the songs in terms of melody, text and musical form structure. The tone production seems to be reciprocally dependant on the pattern of intonation references and thereby the melody created in every performance.   

Listeners experience one acoustic room, the singer relates to two; one shared with the listeners and one exclusive for herself, consisting of inner vibrations. With a certain type of tone production the listeners might get the impression that the melody is created in small fragments. At the same time the singer is unaware of this, since her experience in the inner acoustic room is logic and consonant. This opens up for challenging thoughts and interesting ”new” aesthetic playgrounds beyond semitones and, moreover, stabile reference frequencies.

The potential aesthetic and communicative power in broadening the tonality concept and leaning more on embodied responses made in each performance than trying to adapt to  an already set pattern of intonations is illustrated through a number of case studies and examples. This includes old archive recordings, contemporary singers from northern Europe as well as with me and all of the participants singing and experimenting with sounds and expressions together.