Dancing and Twirling - Doctors in Performance Conference 2018
I just returned to Finland after my first conference presentation at the Doctors in Performance Artistic Research festival/conference in Vilnius, Lithuania. I had the opportunity to hear a very inspiring key note from Professor John Rink, as well as listen to lecture recitals and paper presentations from my peers.
My own lecture recital was a case study of Dancing Solo by Libby Larsen and Twirl by Markku Klami, and the artistic approach I have taken to preparing and performing these works. I believe that I will soon have a video of my presentation, but until then, I wanted to share my slides and some written commentary from my presentation.
I then played the first movement of Dancing Solo, 'With Shadows', followed by the first half of Markku Klami's Twirl.
From a performer’s perspective, I have found that recognizing the motives of each work and how each composer uses them, has been very helpful to my artistic approach. Unaccompanied works, in my opinion, are very challenging to ‘make sense of’, especially for instruments, like the clarinet, that cannot play multiple musical lines at once. In an unaccompanied work, the player has to do ‘all the musical work’ oneself, and getting a ‘big picture’ view of the work can be difficult. What helped me organize the musical structure and figure out the artistic intent of each work was to identify what I felt each composer was using to express and progress through the piece. And it happened that in both these pieces, the figurative motive was very important.
Likewise, establishing pulse in an unaccompanied piece can be challenging. Both Larsen and Klami set pulse very deliberately through short repetitive 2- or 3- note cells and through very specific tempo markings. Only once they have established tempo, can they prolong the musical phrase and elongate time.
I continued the presentation by playing the 2nd movement of Libby Larsen’s Dancing Solo, entitled “Eight to the Bar”, and the 2nd half of Markku Klami’s Twirl. I asked that the audience listen in both works for how each composer uses motivic material towards either structural or harmonic/melodic aims, and how each composer uses his and her method of motivic development to establish a distinct musical voice.
My musical approach to performing these works has been influenced greatly by the analysis I did into motivic development and how both Klami and Larsen approach pulse and rhythmic stability in their works. As I already said, contemporary unaccompanied works can be difficult to view holistically. I found that taking a small element like a figurative motive, or a repeated 2-3 note cell, and seeing how it develops helped me connect musical ideas that seemed unrelated when I first approached the piece.
Larsen is known for recycling a minimum number of rhythmic, harmonic and melodic motives, and understanding how she did so in Dancing Solo helped me understand how she establishes the polyglot style that she is known for.
When I first started working on Twirl, I had difficulty understanding the musical intension of the rapidly changing styles in the piece. It was only when I realized how the styles where connected that I could better understand the expressive nature of the music, and also how to pace and connect different passages together.
I finished the presentation by playing the last movement of Dancing Solo, ‘Flat Out’.
My presentation was 40 minutes long, followed by 10 minutes of discussion. In the discussion, a question was asked regarding the topic of Professor Rink's key note, the constructed/pluralistic nature of performance and what we consider 'interpretation' in a score when enacting a performance. Upon reflection, I felt that my analytical approach was not in contrary to the musical intension of either composer. I made decisions based on my analysis that I believe enabled me to perform the work in the best possible way. While my interpretation, I believe, stands in contrast to elements of Professor Caroline Hartig's great recording and past performances (to whom to the work was composed for), it does not contradict Larsen's intentions.
This conference was a tremendous learning experience, for me, and I look forward to more in the future!