Fragile sounds, robust text and the mediating potential of mutually-attentive listening
One aspect of artistic research’s often uneasy dialogue with musicology is its relatively greater emphasis upon sound as opposed to text. This sometimes puts it at a disadvantage – one which might be erroneously characterised as a dichotomy between ‘feminine’ listening and ‘masculine’ reading. But for a sonorous medium such as music, expert listening should surely be a source of strength and authority. Crucially, though, it is a more elusively transient, subjective and autobiographical act than the nominally more objective one of interpreting a concrete text.
This lecture is offered as a complementary discourse to the project, ‘On the Fragility of Sounds’. It proposes a remaking of the frequently fraught relationship between artistic and scientific approaches to understanding the arts. It suggests that a reflective, more mutually-attentive fusion of the embodied, autoethnographic slant of artistic research and the skilled, detached reasoning that characterises musicology may lead us to a different space within which we may each make our respective claims and expect a fair hearing. In such a space, the aggressively territorialising “I” would give way to a more inclusive, yet potentially risk-embracing, “We”.
A more plural environment of this kind allows not just for different voices but also for different modes of communication. Among other consequences, it brings to the fore the ‘soft power’ of listening as a vibrant force for the reclaiming of humane discourse. This ‘listening to the background noises of human interaction’, as the project description puts it, is something that is currently sorely need, whether in the arts, in arts-based scholarship or elsewhere.
Professor Darla Crispin is Vice Rector for Research & Artistic Development and Director of the Arne Nordheim Centre for Artistic Research (NordART) at the Norwegian Academy of Music (NMH), Oslo. A Canadian pianist and scholar with a Concert Recital Diploma from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and a PhD from King’s College, London, Darla specialises in musical modernity, especially the works of the Second Viennese School. She is an acknowledged expert in the field of artistic research, advising, supervising, presenting and writing on the subject. Among her publications is one of artistic research’s seminal texts, co-authored with Kathleen Coessens and Anne Douglas, The Artistic Turn: A Manifesto (Leuven University Press/Orpheus Institute 2009).