[Edited and updated on Dec 19]
Yesterday I defended a part of my dissertation (at what is here called a 75% seminar). The opponent was British composer and academic Simon Emmerson, whose new book Living Electronic MusicEmmerson, 2007 seems really interesting. It’s difficult for me at this point to get a sense of what really happened, I simply don’t have the perspective, but I have feeling it went well. Simon brought up a few issues that are really important for me to think more closely about though he primarily spoke about the musical works and not about the text. This was actually quite unexpected. The concept of artistic research, or of doing a PhD in composition, is very new in Scandinavia (in the UK it has been possible for 25 years) so we don’t have an established form for the defense, nor for the content. The problem in my project is it hadn’t occured to me that one could look at it from only the point of view of the compositions. IOW, I wasn’t prepared for the kind of questions I was getting, nor for the discussions that followed from these questions.
The seminar brought some issues to my attention that I need to consider for the final defense in May, but I was also provided with the solution to a problem I’ve had difficulties with: The role of the Integra project in my PhD. The issues or questions that Simon brought up were (as I remember it now) mainly concerned with the notation of the music and I feel that most of his concerns would be resolved by documenting my pieces, improvised as well as notated, using the Integra database and the libIntegra backend.
Finally, to more clearly contextualize all of my artistic activities (improvising, composing, sound design, programming, performing, etc) I should write more explicitly about these roles and their relation to my artistic practice. I should examine the composer/performer split of “the musician” that Wishart writes about in his book On Sonic Art Wishart, 1985. In the seminar I am afraid that I came across as a control freak that wouldn’t let anyone perform my music without my own participation which is not true at all. It is however true that I’m less interested in this aspect of music making (writing music for others to perform independently of my active participation) because music to me is listening. Writing a score for someone to perform without me hearing it is less interesting to me than working with a performer, writing a score and perform it with the performer (in this context my ‘performing’ may be limited to sound design or even just listening). Now, and this is the important lesson that I learned, this does not mean that the descritive/prescriptive aspects of the scores are un-important. In particular, the way the instrumental parts in some of my pieces are notated, I can see it is confusing if the electronic part is as lacking of detail as it often is and this is an inconsistency that I need to resolve.