Talk at HARP

Next week, I shall deliver a lecture at the 1st International conference for artistic research in performance – run by HARP at the Royal Northern College of Music, in Manchester. My abstract is listed below…

The Electronic Performer
Dr. Adam Stanović

In describing their actions as a form of research, performers of electronic music face a particularly daunting challenge. Like all performing musicians, the electronic performer operates in an age where practice-led research all too often requires explanation, even justification, before it may achieve credibility otherwise reserved for long-established forms of research. For the electronic musician, however, the on-going struggle associated with practice-led research is coupled with an additional challenge; the apparent need to further explain, and even justify, their use of the term performance relative to the field at large. Such a need is, at least in part, due to the widely-held view that electronic music is “not for performance” (Godlovitch 1998; Davies 2004; Goehr 1997; Kania 2005) as most succinctly, and boldly, stated by Andrew Kania: “[…] if electronic works are not counter-examples to a theory of Western classical music as a tradition of works for performance, you might wonder what would qualify as a counter-example” (Kania 2005, p.34). If their performances are to be accepted and understood as a form of research, therefore, it would seem that electronic performers must first succeed in assimilating their practice(s) with notions of performance found elsewhere.

With the above in mind, this paper considers the performance of electronic music in relation to forms of performance practice found elsewhere. It starts by highlighting a range of ontological similarities that hold between all forms of performance, drawing particular attention to their fundamentally fleeting nature; performances, of all kinds, not only cease to exist the very moment that they have sounded, but may never be repeated, in quite the same way, again. Curiously, this observation holds for electronic music; although often associated with a fixed medium, pieces of electronic music differ each and every time that they are performed. The paper goes on to discuss some of these differences, drawing attention to: the medium, the listening space, the placement of technologies and loudspeakers, the choices of musicians during performance, acts of interpretation, score-reading, among others. Concluding comments highlight some of the various ways in which electronic performers engage in their practice, thus revealing some of the key methods associated with research in the field. That such conclusions clearly apply to other forms of performance, however, suggests that we might best understand performance-based research by adopting a broad and inclusive view of music-making across the many musical fields.